1.Look at all the material and watch the videos below.
2. Defenestration Assignment: Make an image of your action and post the image on the blog.
Conceptual Video Art:
WATCH: If conceptually informed artworks are ones in which an idea determines the work. You can think of some of the works below as a response to a simple, one sentence instruction.
Watch this video by Lee Walton below.
If you had to sum up this action in one instructional sentence or formula it would be something like:
Use your hands to feel a diverse range of things in the city.
Notice he takes the common expression “Getting a Feel for Things” literally in this work, and feels things. See how he uses common expressions, and simple instructions as a formula for creating in the following videos.
If conceptually informed artworks are ones in which an idea determines the work, as opposed to the artist’s masterful technique, or the perfect handling of materials. In fact, when you follow directions, things might even turn out badly, things can break down, fail, fall apart. There is tremendous tension in this – when we really don’t know how things are going to go. Watch Jon Sasaki play with attempting to do something, and the possibility (and sometimes the reality) of failing, falling, or otherwise destroying everything.
“This is first in a series of four films – People In Order – commissioned by the UK’s Channel 4 in 2006. The concept behind our films was simple: we asked ourselves if you can reveal something about life by simply arranging people according to scales. Three minutes is a very short time to communicate something – perhaps too short to tell a story, or to get to know a character – so we wanted to make this series by setting ourselves some very straightforward rules, and then following them through over a long trip. The rules had to be simple so it would take the audience virtually no time to understand them. We established what scales we’d look at, and then chose how each film would be framed. Then it was a case of getting in a campervan and driving round Britain, filming as many people as we could over 4 weeks in February, coping with microphones crackling and our camera refusing to work.
The experience was exhausting but also life affirming. In our whole trip we were struck by how happy people were to help. Only a handful of our shoots were arranged in advance. We relied instead on the kindness of strangers – and we found that everywhere, from deprived urban estates to rural aristocrats.
The resulting films are like a list of government statistics where the citizens they are referring to have broken out from behind the figures on the page. The people on the screen stop us from seeing them as numbers. Even in single second bursts there are worlds of personality stretching out in front of us. The films are really about our awe at how big life is, infinite in its variety, even when it seems just normal to each of us living it.” Lenka Clayton and James Price – 2006
Here are some John Baldessari instruction pieces – used as assignments for students at Cal Arts from 1970. Notice how they sometimes play with language, or satirize artistic tropes. They sometimes read like eccentric proposals for science experiments, and suggest game like systems for working.
MAKE: You will follow an instruction developed by John Baldessari (1970) – as the system for generating a work. This is one of my favourites:
Defenestrate objects. Photograph them in mid-air.*
This means throw something out the window, and photograph it in the air. Post your image on the blog, with a short description.
Do tests of various objects, and see when the results are most interesting. Consider how floating or falling or being subjected to weather affects your material. What new meanings do the gesture, and the conditions bring to your object? Think of this as an eccentric experiment. Photograph your results. Post some work in progress and tests.
Finally, select the best of your many test shots – as a unique work. It may be an individual image, or a pair, or a grid. Choose what you must – to evoke the clearest, most concise sense of your meaning. Include a short description of why you chose this image. Use the highest resolution image possible, you may want to print the work in the future.
*YOU MUST BE SAFE – Do not throw something out of a high rise balcony – even a coin can be dangerous when it hits the ground – or risks hitting a passing person/animal/vehicle/property. Only do this in a situation where you are CERTAIN you can throw a benign object SAFELY out of a window with no danger to anyone or anything below. Make sure the scene is clear. Try to solve the health and safety constraints in the most creative way you can. If you don’t have access to a low window – throw something feather light. Or – simply throw something into the air from the ground, and photograph it. Solve the instruction SAFELY even if it isn’t exactly a real “defenstration”.
We will discuss a few good examples of your work in the next class huddle.
In an endeavor to transmit the presence of the artist and make her historical performances accessible to a larger audience, the exhibition includes the first live re-performances of Abramović’s works by other people ever to be undertaken in a museum setting. In addition, a new, original work performed by Abramović will mark the longest duration of time that she has performed a single solo piece.Source
3. POST A PHOTO and SHORT DESCRIPTION:
For one hour.
Set a timer and stick with the task, being as still and focused as possible. Have someone else take a few snapshots of you in your 1 hour performance of stillness. If you can’t get anyone to take the picture – set up a camera and re-perform your stillness later to show it with as much honest as possible.
Choose a location – indoors, or outdoors, in private or in public.* Push yourself to choose a surprising, or unusual location. Even if it’s a strange place to be in your house – like under the coffee table or pressed hard against the window looking out.
Use the time to meditate, to breathe, to rest, or enjoy some quiet. Or you may push yourself to hold a position that is challenging. In the description of your image, discuss how it felt to be still, and how the experience and your insights about the gesture may have developed over the course of an hour. Why did you choose the particular location and position? How did the gesture help you relate to any of the works of Abramovic? Write a paragraph or two to describe your action.
*Remember everything we do must be safe, for yourself and for others, and allowed within the public health guidelines.
I decided to use the 50 bottles of nail polish I’ve collected over a few years as my conceptual portrait. This collection includes all the bottles I’ve bought, as well as many I’ve received as gifts from friends.I always buy individual bottles as I’m picky about colors, but some are from packs that my friends gave me. I think this represents some of my preferences and I also think it would be interesting to know the total cost.
I painted one brushstroke of every single color onto a piece of paper (even the clear coats). I was going to leave it like this, but I decided to experiment by cutting each square out, and I thought this looked better. I do think a better way to present this would be to take a picture of my nails after I’ve painted them, as this would also include combinations of colours and designs, but that would have had to be done overtime. This also makes me wish I still had at least the bottles of my old nail polish that I either finished or threw out.
I was initially inspired by On Kawara and the way he displays the concept of time through his works. As I said earlier, I would have liked to have taken pictures of how I painted my nails over around ten years and see how I improved and how my preferences changed as I got older. The pictures I took don’t really show all the details or how metallic or matte the polishes are, or how sparkly. Here is the final image I chose:
WEEK 9: EXERCISE
I usually have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning (especially these past few months), as I am more of a night owl, so I set around 10 alarms on my phone, my alarm clock, and tell my entire family to wake me up if I don’t wake up for something important. One alarm doesn’t work for me because I start to sleep through it after a couple of times.
I liked the idea of making something ‘useful’ and after hearing The Clock by Christian Marclay and Listening to the ‘C’ by Lee Walton I wanted to do something similar with the ticking of clocks in my house, before realizing I don’t have any analog clocks! I only have a one digital clock and my phone, so I decided to use them in the only way I could, with their alarms to create one horrendous mixture of sound, something that could wake up a hibernating bear.
I recorded all the different alarm sounds from my clock and my phone for a minute and layered them all on top of each other, in a specific order, going from calmer to more startling alarms. I then added voices and scarier, louder alarms. This includes my mom yelling at me to get up, and car alarms and fire alarms. I made some of the noises come from different directions as well, such as the car alarm, and my moms voice.
I found this extremely unpleasant to listen to, but it would probably work great as an alarm!
(It might be loud, please be careful if you’re using headphones!)
WEEK 7: NOTES
Janet Cardiff’s Alter Banhof walk was my favorite out of the works I listened to. It was very immersive and I almost felt like I was playing a video game or watching a movie because of the merging of reality and fiction, as well as the binaural audio. I think the audio really affects how the place is viewed, and adds to it with information and experiences of the speaker. She interjects her narrative every few moments with a direction the viewer should follow, and I think this is one of the things that would keep the audience focussed on the work while listening to it. There is also so much going on at once that we are not able to dwell on any one sentence; it moves on too quickly. I really like that it does this because it prevents me from overthinking one thing too much and losing what happens after. The fact that her work is able to be listened to by anyone and that she can provide everyone with her own experience without having to be there in person makes this piece intriguing to me.
I found I Really Should, by Kelly Mark very interesting. It was as though a burden was being unloaded. It reminded me almost of a to-do list, except somewhat more stressful, because so many things were being remembered but not written down. It was like remembering something that needs to get done, then immediately checking it off without doing it and moving onto the next thing. It also could be seen as a collection of things that need to be done – and they are being said as if they are objectives that should be completed immediately but many of the things listed can only be done over time with dedication; they are very difficult. Her audio was somewhat repetitive, but as soon as you got used to it, Mark would say something unexpected and trigger thought again. Overall I think this work is very easy to relate to, as we all have things we want to do or finish but are unable to.
I really loved the concept of The Clock, by Christian Marclay. I could definitely see myself watching all 24 hours of this. I noticed that some of the clips contained the ticking of the clock, and some didn’t. The movies that were used are from a large range of timelines, and movies usually sound different depending on time frame (especially old movies) and since they are all the authentic sounds from the movies, it would be very interesting to just listen to this without the visuals. Also interesting to note is that the artist was relying on visual imagery for this, as some of the eclipse do not have any audio cue of the time; it is more of a combination of visual and audio that makes this work what it is.
WEEK 6: NOTES
In the article Steinke says: When I look at masked people my brain still feels like its malfunctioning, a skipping sensation, a tenuous connection is reached for and missed.” Describe a situation from your recent experience where not seeing faces has caused significant misunderstanding, confusion, or grief.
I work in childcare, and the kids having masks on makes it very hard for me to see and understand their facial expressions. It even makes it hard to tell if they are crying or laughing, and sometimes hard to tell what they’re saying since you cannot read their lips or faces. It is significantly easier when they don’t have masks on. One time when I was working in a new classroom, one of the kids asked me if they could use glitter. I asked them if their usual teacher allows them to use the glitter, and they said yes. It’s usually easy to tell when most children are lying, and I’ve had to decode their facial expressions many times in the past to prevent disasters. But in this case, they were wearing a mask and I couldn’t tell if they were telling the truth at all. I had to basically interrogate the poor child, and in the end, I found out they in fact were not allowed to use glitter.
Who are you without your face? How is your experience different without your face in public? Can you imagine new ways to face the world?
I find that I smile a lot, and since I’m really quiet in real life, I rely on smiling to convey appreciation. When I was younger, I would speak so quietly that whenever I would say “thank you” to a store employee, or hello to a passing stranger on the sidewalk, they would never hear me, so I’ve gotten used to just smiling. I’m not that quiet anymore but I still find it difficult to convey expressions with a mask and am always nervous that the other person didn’t hear me and probably thought I was impolite. Other than this, I personally don’t mind wearing a mask in public as much, it makes me feel less self conscious.
The use of masks also makes it hard to work in a childcare setting. Many children rely on facial expressions to make connections and wearing masks completely destroys this. Many places allow using clear face shields instead of masks because of the psychological harm the prolonged use of masks by adults may cause. This should especially be considered for children on the autism spectrum. I worked with a nonverbal child with autism who relies a lot on sign language and lip reading, and masks made it very difficult for them.
WEEK 6: EXERCISE
1. With this image I was thinking of how people online can usually say and do things without facing the consequences, and they say things they would never say in real life, as though they are wearing a mask.
2. For the second image I used aluminum foil and sort of wrapped my head in aluminum foil. I think it looks like a creepy sculpture or a very futuristic robot.
3. For my last image I used an old glass fruit bowl. I noticed the clear parts of the glass heavily distort things behind it, and wanted to see how it would look over my face.
WEEK 4: EXERCISE
I figured that the prompt Adad Hannah gave to his subjects was: “how did the pandemic change your routine?” I decided to ask my mom to hold a pose for one minute while I filmed her.
“The pandemic has changed things for my whole family. Everyone is at home, and a lot of our plans have been delayed. I’ve been spending lots of time in the backyard now…I started gardening. I’m hoping I can enjoy the outdoors for a few more weeks until it is winter and there is nowhere to go.
WEEK 3: EXERCISE
For this exercise, I decided to throw a bunch of nickels, dimes, and quarters into the air. I wasn’t able to take the screen off my window, and even then, I didn’t want to lose any coins in the grass and have an animal eat one!
I was sitting by my window, and it had just rained, so there were still raindrops on the glass. The sun was setting, and the angle of its light made the raindrops sparkle strikingly. This is what initially made me want to throw something shiny in the air on a sunny day for this exercise. I wanted something very reflective, almost enough so that it would look bright white and the object would not be able to be made out. First, I thought of glass (broken glass), but that would have been much too dangerous, and I didn’t know where I would get any. That reminded me of these small crystals we had from an old chandelier, but I couldn’t find those.
In the end I picked out the shiniest coins I had and used those. I really liked the effect they had in the sunlight. I found it interesting that when I threw it the first time (I was using one hand), the coins clumped together, but they did have the reflective look that I was going for. The second time I threw them, I used both hands, and after a few takes, I managed to catch the coins in the air with my camera.
WEEK 3: NOTES
A lot of these video artworks are challenging societal norms to pique the interests of the viewer. They are interesting because, since the artist is interacting with the public, the end result is unpredictable. In a way they also ask the viewer what they would do in this situation. I found myself continuously wondering how I would react if someone around me did something like that without context, or how I would feel doing it.
While watching each video, I wrote down words the actions were making me think of, then I used them to ultimately create a simple instructional sentence to describe the overall message of the video.
Move any object from one position to another
Change the position or form of any object in an urban area.
I noticed how he made sure to be safe with most of his changes, such as the large cylinder; he made sure it wouldn’t go onto the road. I wouldn’t be able to do anything like this since I would be too worried about bothering somebody.
Sit at an uncomfortable distance from another stranger
Sit close to a stranger who is sitting by themselves/alone
Sit at an uncomfortably close distance from a stranger who is sitting by themselves.
I find it really interesting how no one asked him to move, or moved themselves, or even said anything. The most people did was stare. I know I would have either moved or said something, but maybe that is because the video is older, and back then people may have been less concerned about safety.
Climb an unsupported ladder to the top
Repeatedly climb an unsupported ladder.
I honestly never would have thought this would be possible. When I read the title, I didn’t expect Jon Sasaki to get so high on the ladder. I was thinking he would maybe reach a maximum of two steps. I feel like I would have lots of fun trying to do this! The entire time I was watching
Drive into a dead end, then try to get out
Not in reverse, do a u-turn
A large white van
Turn the van without damage
Drive a large white van into a dead end, then do a multiple-point turn until the van is facing the opposite direction, then drive it out.
While watching Jon Sasaki do this, I was wondering whether he was trying to do it as fast as possible, because he’s going really close to the walls, but he’s not driving really fast to prevent damage. This video reminded me of how I had to do something like this once because I got myself stuck in a very small, full parking lot, except instead of walls, it was cars, and I had just started driving.
The Distance I can Be From My Son
Stay still as your son walks away from you
Until son is too far
Until you feel he is unsafe
Until you are uncomfortable with the physical distance between you and your son
Stay still as your son moves further away from you.
I decided to not include “until you are uncomfortable with the physical distance between you and your son” at the end of the sentence because I felt the instruction should not include the reaction of the person, as that is what the piece depends on (how far she will let her son go).
I also found it very interesting how her son kept looking back at her, yet kept walking away. It shows how dependent he is on his mother, and how this much of a distance is not normal, but also that the son does not feel held back by the fact that his mother is so far away the same way she does.
Interact with random objects
Interact with random objects by observing, touching, bending, and moving them.
I found this video differed from the others. It was not something that goes against societal norms, rather ASMR has become very popular.
WEEK 2: EXERCISE
I decided to stand outside in the rain for an hour. I’ve always loved the rain, but never had the opportunity to actually stand outside and enjoy it. Near the beginning the rain was almost a mist, it was very light, and kind of annoying. I could barely keep my eyes open (not that there was much to see at night). I kept hearing quiet noises of things moving in the grass pretty close to me. We have so many animals in our backyard – especially at night — (including skunks, possums, toads, mice, rabbits, snakes, and cats!) that the noise could have been anything and it was too dark to see. After a while the rain got very heavy, and then I couldn’t hear anything either (except rain).
Marina Abramovic was able to put herself in much more uncomfortable, difficult and even painful positions. Me standing in the rain does not even compare to what she has trained herself to do, although I was pretty uncomfortable by the end of the hour. It was already cold outside, and the rain had made me even colder.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how privileged we are to be able to take rain for granted. So many countries don’t get enough rain, and some countries’ economies even depend on it. I thought of how many people collect rainwater because they don’t have any, or to save water for the environment. I somehow felt like I was wasting water by standing there, though it’s hard to explain why. It may have stemmed from thinking about people and animals suffering from annual droughts, and I was there with all the water I could ever want and wasn’t doing anything about it. All in all, it was an interesting experience and I would do it again for sure!
A few days later, there was a very foggy night, and I really wished I could’ve done another hour in it, just to see what it would’ve been like. I’ve heard fog muffles sounds, and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. It would’ve been very interesting, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to go out and do it.
WEEK 1: NOTES
WRITE: How does Sol Lewitt express the notion that “the idea is the machine that makes the art” in his work? What does the artist’s actual hand have to do with the final work in a conceptual art context?
Sol Lewitt comes up with a detailed and well thought out idea or plan and has other artists execute it. By this he expresses that without an idea there would be no art and that ideas are the basis of conceptual art. He provides the methods and diagrams of what he wants the artwork to look like, and trusts that it will be followed, and this process even adds to the artwork; all the experiences of the artists that have worked on it and the personal interpretations they contributed are now part of it. This gives other artists a way to participate in a large project and learn, and also lets Sol Lewitt execute such a large and detailed plan according to his exact wishes and without limitations of skill, age, or ability.
WRITE: Where do you draw the boundaries around the artworks in this video? What are the artworks? What strategies and tools does Ono use to challenge the viewer? Do you like any of these concept-works? Discuss.
Yoko Ono begins each of her pieces with a related title; some have subsections which add onto the original. Many of the pieces are connected to each other and most seem to promote living in the moment and enjoying life as it is. She encourages using things that are already accessible to create happiness and intrigue, instead of pursuing something beyond reach. This lifestyle stimulates spontaneous actions and feelings, as well as nurtures the urge to explore without worrying about consequences.
I really liked Yoko Ono’s concept of choosing a spot and declaring ownership of it. I think with it she inspires the idea of being confident with your existence; as if she is saying “you belong on this planet and deserve what you want”. I also appreciate End Piece, her conclusion, where she tells her audience to watch other people enjoy their own lives too.
Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit pressures viewers to think of their lives and how they could be having positive influences on themselves and others with only ideas and concepts.
WRITE: Describe two works by Bruce Nauman (include images) where he frames every day actions (non-heroic, banal) as art. How are they “framed” as art, and what does the framing do to our understanding and experience of the actions?
Bruce Nauman’s Bouncing in the Corner is framed from unusual orientations, and his face isn’t shown. His body is still framed in the center of both walls, and the camera angle also changes in Bouncing in the Corner No.2: Upside Down. Colours are plain and any unnecessary details are left out. It is said in the video that he would rather have his art speak for itself, instead of injecting his personality into it, which might be the reason for the ordinary colours and why he didn’t show his face.
This framing causes the audience to study the piece for a little longer to try and make sense of the movements and proportions of the individual, especially Bouncing in the Corner No.2. I actually had to watch it very carefully to understand which direction he was moving in and how he was oriented.
In Raw Materials, Bruce Nauman uses normal speech repeated over and over so many times that its sounds distorted and unfamiliar. He also uses longer recordings of himself speaking. He then arranges these phrases in corridors, and although we are used to hearing sounds from all directions, the combination of noises and phrases that Nauman uses and the way they are arranged sounds unnatural; sounds are arranged so that when the audience walks through the corridor, they walk through noise, then silence, then noise again. The specific order and distances between the sounds all contribute to how the artwork is perceived and interpreted.
WEEK 1: EXERCISE
I was watching a TED talk by Rodney Mullen, a renowned street skater:
He is so passionate about his work that he started doing tricks on the stage! The noises from the skateboard as it was hitting the floor echoed nicely and reminded me of how much I like the sound of the wheels on a skateboard. I’ve always noticed that the noise it makes is really loud, and sounds almost like thunder, so I thought it would be an interesting way to document a kilometer.
I skated down the street that I live on for a kilometer and recorded it. My phone was in my pocket recording, since I only wanted the audio. I decided to do it at night so there would be fewer cars and the noise of the skateboard wouldn’t be drowned out.
When I played back the video, it wasn’t pitch black like I expected; sometimes the street lights would shine through, and this tempted me to keep the video. In the end I decided to get rid of it since originally wanted no visuals in the video, and the lights weren’t necessary.
The video includes the sounds of skateboard wheels on asphalt, cars passing me, and me stopping at stop signs for cars (and for a cat!).
Welcome back to school everyone, I’m very happy to have a way to come together to learn about contemporary experimental art practices. During the pandemic, we will engage in weekly exercises, demos, readings and videos to learn some of the historic, theoretical, and technical aspects of working in experimental media forms.
Our virtual course will emphasize ideas, research, regular exercises and practices, as opposed to more developed and resolved artworks.
Students will perform and create studio exercises at home and in the world – within strict adherence to public health guidelines at all times – using materials and situations at hand. Together we will practice being resourceful and creative within the limits of any given situation. We will explore how to be an artist now – using aspects of performance, snapshot photography, video, audio, and artist multiples – in this unique and challenging historical moment.
Every week we will have Monday class meetings – and then you will do the week’s homework (things to read, write and create) posted under Weekly Assignments.
All work is due for the following Tuesday class. If you are finished your work many of you will have an opportunity to share and get feedback. You will need approximately 4-6 hours to complete your work for this course every week in addition to class meeting time.
Schedule your work and you will be able to keep up with your assignments!
All your notes, images and videos must be on the class BLOG – under your name. ONLY edit your own page – do not edit anything else on the blog. I will periodically read and evaluate your work on the BLOG and we will occasionally look at examples of works by students together in our class HUDDLE.
1. Lecture: Intro to Key Figures in Western Conceptual Art
“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman.” SL from Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.
“Incomplete Open Cubes demonstrates an artistic technique integral to the art of the 1960s: seriality. Generally speaking, serial art is generated through the application of premeditated rules or plans. In this case, LeWitt systematically explored the 122 ways of “not making a cube, all the ways of the cube not being complete,” per the artist. LeWitt might have taken all the necessary steps to realize each of the 122 solutions to his query, as seen here, but the work can hardly be understood as finished in the conventional sense. It would be more precise to say, according to LeWitt, that Incomplete Open Cubes “[runs] its course,” ending abruptly. Moreover, to the extent that the cubes frame and, by extension, incorporate elements from the surrounding space, they muddy the boundary between art and world.” From the Met Museum
WRITE NOTES: What does Sol Lewitt mean when he says that “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art” in his work? What does the artist’s actual hand have to do with the final work in a conceptual art context?
WRITE NOTES: Where do you draw the boundaries around the artworks in this video? What are the artworks? What strategies and tools does Ono use to challenge the viewer? Do you like any of these concept-works? Discuss.
WRITE NOTES: Describe two works by Bruce Nauman (include images) where he frames every day actions (non-heroic, banal) as art. How are they “framed” as art, and what does the framing do to our understanding and experience of the actions?
DO THIS EXERCISE:
A kilometre is a concept. Make a kilometre in any medium – photo, video, found object, text etc.
Post documentation of your kilometre, and a description of your work on your blog page.
It could be a walk down the street, a path down an intestine, a line going up into the air, a kilometre’s worth of rocks. It can be a kilometre made of chewing gum. Made of telephone conversations. Made of complaints. Made of a walk with a cat. Made with light. It can be a distance between two points. It can be imagined, traced, documented, listed, performed, evidenced on the bottom of your shoe, rolled up into a ball.
Make sure to make precisely a kilometre, be prepared to prove it!
Make sure not to decorate or draw all over your kilometre – just give us what is essential. Make sure not to decorate or draw all over your kilometre – just give us what is essential. It may or may not be art. Be ready to discuss it.
Summary of WEEK 1 work due on the blog on MONDAY:
Notes on Conceptual Art icons
Kilomtre assignment, documentation and description