Madelyn – with a “y”

Week One

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?

  • The thought and planning that goes into the piece is more important than the final product. The idea is what drives the piece, it’s what makes the ‘machine’ produce
  • The artist’s actual hand wasn’t technically in the final execution, but he didn’t need to be because his hand was in everything else leading up to it: the planning, the concept, and the decisions
  • Because it was conceptual art, it’s the idea that carries the piece, not just the final product

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.

  • These artworks seem to be very interactive with viewers and friends. I think the only boundaries are ensuring the safety of others so no one gets hurt in the process of creating the pieces. They all seem to be fairly harmless though so I don’t think that would be an issue 
  • The artworks are interactive, and cause you to either engage with other people, or the earth. They’re pieces that have to do with shadows, the sun, footprints, or shaking hands, sending letters to your friends
  • To challenge the viewers, Ono is encouraging them to interact with other people or the world around them which is often something people avoid. Often us humans get caught up in our busy lives that we forget to engage with others or forget to appreciate the beauty of our planet. Ono’s pieces may put people out of their comfort zone and challenge them to be more attentive to what’s occurring around them.
  • I like the artwork where you make a numbered list of times you’ve felt sad and get a pile of rocks that correspond with that number. Then she says to burn the list and appreciate the beauty of the pile of rocks. I think this piece is amazing because it allows someone to acknowledge their sorrows, but not live in them, and encourages the person to look at the beauty in their sorrows at the same time. Not only is this art, but it is an opportunity for someone to pay attention to their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way

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?

  1. Double Poke in the Eye


I think this piece is hilarious. It is a simple (and very random) action of two people poking each other in the eyes, yet it is framed in a way to make it art. The fact that it is captured in neon, the banal act is glorified and exaggerated. You simply cannot miss this piece due to its bright colours and flashy performance.

2) Walking in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square


In this piece, Nauman did exactly as it was titled; he walked in an exaggerated manner around the perimeter of a square. He took the most banal act ever (walking) and made it into art. To frame this action as art, Nauman created this piece like how Sol Lewitt created his. The art is in the process, in Nauman’s planning, in the painting of the square on the ground, in the thought process behind his movements, and in the setting up of the camera. It’s not just Nauman’s final performance that is considered art, it is all of the leading up to it as well. 

Kilometer Assignment

keeping a strong friendship,

is harder than it seems.

like a plant that needs some water,

our relationship, it needs:

memories to hold on to, and

experiences to gain.

to keep this union going, to

each other we must


This is an acrostic poem spelling out the word “kilometer”. When you think about a kilometer, your first thought is usually distance. I reflected on that and I began thinking about what distance looks like nowadays, during a pandemic when you feel so close yet so far from all your friends and family. When there’s physical distance separating a relationship, it’s important to remember to continue making memories, putting effort into reconnecting, and encouraging one another as you maintain your bond. This poem is a reminder that distance is okay, but we can’t forget to reach out to one another if we want to keep growing alongside each other.

Week Two

Marina Abramovic:

Art must be beautiful:

  • What I appreciate most about this piece is her devotion to her craft. She put 100% of her effort into the artwork to ensure her performance was as moving as it was. The vigorous brushing of her hair was a statement that not only emphasized the meaning of the piece, but also shows that she is willing to sacrifice her body, and the health of her hair, to achieve the performance she was intending to portray.
  • My overall impression: being completely honest, this made me very uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy it at all. At one point in my life after I bleached my hair many times, some pieces started to fall out so hearing her hair ripping as she brushed through it, made me very uncomfortable. 

Relation in time:

  • I found it fascinating how they did 16 hours leading up to the final performance and the last hour was the section they allowed viewers to experience it
  • The visual of the effect of this action over time was very powerful; you could see their hair loosening, their posture becoming more relaxed, and their eyes closing. This shows her dedication, no matter how sore their backs are, or tired they are, they still pushed through to fulfill the performance

Breathing in/Breathing Out:

  • This piece seemed to be the most dangerous of all of them. It’s almost as if they were signing up to be slowly suffocated. 
  • I think the overall message is really powerful – relationships that are so dependent on the other person, leaves you getting hurt. In a relationship, both people must be whole themselves and know how to live on their own without needing the other person. 
  • The piece called “Rest Energy” also has the same effect – it is portraying the potential damage that can occur when there is a lot of trust in a relationship

The Artist is Present:

  • I love how she says there’s 3 different types of Marinas – one is the product of two national heroes and she can do anything she puts her mind to, another is a child whose mother didn’t love her enough, and the last is a person who is able to tap into more spiritual levels
  • The artist “bootcamp” that she did seemed to be very fascinating. All of the exercises they did focused on experiencing earth in new ways and paying attention to the little things. They sat outside with a blindfold on, they counted different colours of grains of rice, and they stared at each other in the eyes
  • “The hardest thing to do is next to nothing” you have to rely on your own energy and nothing else
  • It takes a lot of physical strength do do all of her performances, especially ro do nothing for such a long period of time
  • A lot of her performances required fasting, silence, and no motion. Completely avoiding all distractions
  • The relation projects – the more successful the performance was, the worse their relationship got in private
  • “I feel like I’m Marie Antoinette going to get her head cut off” she says as she’s walking to begin her exhibit Artist is Present
  • My Takeaways on her final performance “Artist is Present”: 
    • The most touching part for me was when Ulay sat in front of her and she broke the idea of sitting still
    • The act of her reaching out to him and showing the emotion on her face reminded the viewers that she is a human being and not just a motionless, lifeless machine 
    • “Without Ulay, the audience is her lover”
    • Talking about her looking down before looking at the new person in front of her “everyone gets a clean and personal contact with Marina”
    • “She’s treating each person with the same amount of contact and attention”
    • “There’s so many reasons why people come to sit in front of me. Some are angry, some are curious… and you feel incredible pain… When they’re sitting in front of me, it’s not about me anymore. Soon I’m just the mirror of their own self.” – Marina
    • “For most masterpieces, people sit in front of it for around 30 second. Most people sit in front of Marina for a whole day”
    • My final thoughts: it was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be. When you think about the concept or even talk about it with others, sitting and staring at people every single day for months seems absurd. The thought of people having such an emotional and spiritual response also seemed to be a little extreme, but once I saw the documentary I grew more of an appreciation and understanding of Marina’s work. I found it so fascinating how dedicated she was to the execution of the “Artist Is Present”, and how she ensured that each encounter got the same amount of attention from her. 

One Hour Photo

In my attic, there is a torn apart old chair wedged up into this ‘window nook’. It is a very sad corner because we didn’t know what we should do with the nook, and we had no other place to put the deteriorating chair. Even though I forget about this corner all the time, there is one creature who doesn’t; my roommates cat. She loves this chair. She climbs on it, sleeps on it, sits on it and stares out the window. She can spend hours on that chair. So that got me thinking, if a cat can spend so much time on this chair, can I sit on it for an hour?

I was up for the challenge. I set a timer and tried to find the most comfortable position (leaning my head and knees on the window like in the photo). Going into this task, I honestly thought it would be easy for me since I’m the type of person who naturally can do nothing for hours on end. The first (what I think was) 15 minutes were easy, I people watched and thought a lot. I wasn’t feeling antsy at all because I was able to occupy myself with my own thoughts. What I think was halfway, was when my back started to hurt and my butt became numb. That wasn’t fun, but I still wasn’t bored at all because I kept myself busy by looking at people outside and guessing their lives. Then I remembered got really cold towards the end of it and I kept hearing my roommates downstairs so I got a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). I tried to listen to the muffled conversation to figure out what they’re talking about, which kept me busy for another while. The timer went off sooner than I anticipated, however as I was sitting there, I was eager for the time to be up since I was cold and a little sore.

Overall, this task was a little bit more challenging than I thought it would be for me. It is surprising how physically demanding it is to simply do nothing. As I was sitting there for only an hour, I reflected on the countless days and months Marina Abramovic sat in the exact same position on a rigid wooden chair. Since she faced many new people every day, I can see how she could keep her mind busy and entertained, but it is how long she did that for, and the sacrifices she had to do for her artwork that really impressed me. She fasted every single day, she probably had to train her body, and I am sure she suffered from pain and bodily harm after each day of sitting. After getting a little sore from just one hour, I have so much respect for Abramovic and I admire her so much more for her dedication to her art.

Week 3

Video 1 – Move and manipulate other people’s objects without causing a great disturbance.

Video 2 – Sit right next to a stranger like you know them, while ignoring all the other places you could have sat.

Video 3 –  try climbing a free standing ladder.

Video 4 – Try turning a big van around in a very tight space.

Video 5 – As a parent, see how far you can let her child aimlessly wander away without following them.

Video 6 – Not available

For this assignment I don’t have a window that can open completely, so I threw an object off my balcony. In deciding what object I wanted to throw, I was thinking about finding something light that can be carried and pushed around by the wind. I thought a feather or bubbles would be interesting but then I went to blow my nose, and I thought of just throwing a tissue instead (a clean tissue of course). When I threw it off the balcony, I loved how the action didn’t come from me throwing the tissue. It came from the wind that immediately swooped in to toss it around in the street. I didn’t even have to be there for the movement to occur, I could’ve just let the wind do its thing. I also found it interesting how it moved like how I would imagine a snowflake would move because they’re both flat and light objects. It was funny how the tissue blended into the white snow, to the point where my roommate who was taking pictures for me couldn’t keep track of where the tissue was. As it landed it folded itself neatly into a little square, seeming as though it was preparing to tuck itself back into a tissue box.

Week 4

This video is a one minute “quarantine” portrait of my mother. She is a teacher and is currently back in the classrooms for in person learning after several weeks of online school. My mom has found quarantine challenging, but the most difficult part has been teaching and guiding her young students through online platforms. To escape from the stress of it all, she loves to go for walks on trails nearby. This one is her favourite and she especially loves the many routes it can go. For this video, she chose to be looking at the map of the conservation area to capture the many possibilities the trails can take you. “I just love coming here and going for walks right as the sun is setting. The tops of the trees glow and the sun shines through the cracks of the trees. It’s so beautiful, it helps me calm down after a busy day at work” she says.

One thought on “Madelyn – with a “y”

  1. Hi Madelyne,
    W1: Notes on Sol Lewitt, Yoko Ono, Nauman complete, Kilometre image and description good – using language/text to express kilometre in a surprising way
    W2: Image of Abramovic/Stillness gesture, and description – excellent and thorough notes, and engagement with this material, and I like how you put yourself somewhere unusual, with the logic of the cat – good experimentation where you didn’t know what would happen – makes for an interesting video
    W3: 6 Good conceptual sentences, Defenestration image and description complete – perhaps not super exciting? But glad you did something safe! And I appreciate the subtle range of exploration.
    W4: 1 Distancing video portrait, and description – very good, shows understanding of Hannah’s portraits, wish we could see your mom from the front though – as a protrait where she shows herself -as in Hannah’s, and to make us relate to her and her voice – consider adding a quote from her to illustrate the portrait.

    Overall, good evidence of curiosity and full engagement with material, and very good level of understanding of critical ideas at play, keep improving technical investment and effort,
    and keep seeing how far you might go with experimentation and adventurousness.

    Thank you for the attendance and engagement in class, and if you would like to talk with me about your work in progress, readings, exercises, one-on-one comments on your work, and grades – send me an email in the morning to book a 15 minute appointment during the optional contact hours: Thursdays 11:30-2:30.

    And you can show up to a zoom meeting with Nathan anytime during these hours to ask your questions, and get tech support for using software and finishing your projects:
    Mondays and Thursdays 11:30-4pm.

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