Talking Whiteboards – week 1

For three weeks, I am inviting visitors to my studio, to talk out loud what any one (or several) of seven diagrams  inspire them to consider. I am posting this at the end of the first week. The diagrams are presented on rolling Whiteboard easels. They can be annotated, and wheeled into any desired configuration. The seven boards are:

  • Creativity (after Duchamp and Torrance);
  • Hairy Blob (notations about time);
  • a summary of Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that focuses not on the aura, but on political aesthetics;
  • Flexible Art Worlds (also a course I teach during this same, three week period);
  • Flusser’s Exile and Creativity (from Writings),
  • a Studio Critique Template, and
  • The Braid (discussed earlier in this blog)

Mostly, The Braid was engaged, at times supplemented by Studio Critique, Creativity (after Duchamp and Torrance) and Flusser’s Exile and Creativity. Thanks go to all who have already participated and are still scheduled to join me, to Asha Veal Brisebois, who is facilitating this project, to Jared Larson for recording, and to DCASE for contributing funds.

Video excerpts are posted as they become available.

Week 1

Day 1

Erik Brown and Gibran Villalobos: The Braid

Having not met before, Gibran and Erik visited on Monday. This led to a reading of The Braid that alternated between Arts Administration and Art Making perspectives, determining considerable overlap, noting blind spots in each approach, and provoking thoughts if and how it might be desirable to open those up. Brown_VillalobosBraid Day 1

Day 2

Mike Nourse, Gerald Brown, Michelle Jacobsen, Mi-yeon Kwon: The Braid, Studio Critique, and Creativity (Duchamp/Torrance).

Two art students, two arts administrators, non-profit and for-profit.  Michelle stayed over after class, Mike arrive from the Hyde Park Art Center with Gerald, and Mi-yeon joined their ongoing conversation after about 45 minutes. Diving first into making and related metaphor, the conversation moved from The Braid to the Creativity board, explored positions  performed in mediating through the Critique Template, and then back to The Braid and aspects of managing. Mi-yeon shared art fair experience from her perspective as a gallerist.

FB_P1010803FB_P1010798Critique_Day 2

Day 3

Nell Taylor and Allison Yasukawa: The Braid

Like Erik and Gibran on Monday, Nell and Allison had not previously met. Accidental pairings appear to be a powerful facilitation setting, as the participants explore each others interests and  adjust focus on their own knowledge. As Nell used The Braid to think through organizational development of the non-profit she leads, including struggles around the demand for measurement, Allison reciprocated with thoughts about her early proximity to scientific process, her art practice and her work in education. Nell TaylorFBP1010817.jpg

Day 4 Part 1

Alessia Petrolito and Asha Veal Brisebois: The Braid

A few weeks ago, just before she moved back to Italy, Alessia had come to my studio and spoken about Exile and Creativity, a text we had talked about when she was a student. Now she returned by Skype, to share thoughts about the Braid she had prepared. Asha volunteered to take notes, as her Chicago surrogate, but the two pretty quickly moved toward a conversation. It culminated in Alessia proposing a funnel, both into and from the managing area of the braid, as the receptor and focussing device of  the language and meaning  created in the corresponding areas.

Asha_Alessia Braid.png

Day 4 Part 2

Kirsten Leenaars: Exile and Creativity and The Braid

A visual artist, Kirsten arranged a stage with two boards, Flusser’s Exile and Creativity and The Braid, moving from left to right. Kirsten’s most recent art project was to engage American and recently immigrated youth in a summer camp around the meanings of home. She considered the impact it had on the youth to be tacitly aware of her European origin. Situating the growth of this particular project in The Braid, she noted the primacy of her artistic intent that can come to fruition with the valued support of curators’ trust, and is her guidance in negotiations with institutional representatives to access and shape appropriate settings.Screenshot 2016-07-14 23.16.01

Day 4 Part 3

Olivia Junell and Asha Veal Brisebois: The Braid

Asha introduced Olivia to The Braid board. A consummate Arts Administrator, Olivia spoke about her journey to embrace development as her calling, and spoke about ‘riding the braid together’ with artists in the implementation of the projects she chooses to be part of.Screenshot 2016-07-14 23.16.41

Day 5

Sade Ragsdale and Dorota Biczel: Exile and Creativity

I met Sade in 2014, when she walked into my residency at the Cultural Center and read The Hairy Blob board cold, requesting no introduction. I asked her then to be part of this project, which I was beginning to envision. She was paired with Dorota, who just arrived from the airport for a short stay in Chicago to teach a workshop in the Flexible Art Worlds class. Sade selected Flusser’s Exile and Creativity to engage, and Dorota, knowing the underlying text well, joined into the conversation. Sade spoke of her own development, from a young adult to an emerging professional, linking the questions she asks and choices she makes to the stages Flusser indicates. Dorota then proposed not a linear reading, but the creation of a Venn diagram, in which stages are no longer successive, but states are thought to coexist. This  session concluded with a discussion of individual thought scapes, or personal epistemic models, a theme I am exploring through the 3-Line Matrix. Sade envisioned a cloud and the movement of droplets, and Dorota discussed her proclivity for molecular structures.



week 2

Posted in art, events, facilitating, The Braid

The Braid v.2


Posted in art, The Braid

Performativity – focus on practice

This week’s reading: Karen Barad’s “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter”

Excerpt: “The point is not merely that there are important material factors in addition to discursive ones; rather, the issue is the conjoined material-discursive nature of constraints, conditions, and practices. The fact that material and discursive constraints and exclusions are intertwined points to the limited validity of analyses that attempt to determine individual effects of material or discursive factors.”


diagram pdf

While Barad posits two intra-acting components, abbreviated  above as ‘matter’ and ‘apparatus’, I decided to display the trefoil knot I am using in the attempt to diagram her relational onto-epistem-ology as showing three loops, in reference to the tripartite representationalist system she is proposing to replace. I am imagining the now vacated bottom loop to rise up and cradle the ‘agential cut’. In future versions of the above, which are doubtlessly needed, I want to indicate more mobility. Keeping that in mind while looking at the current diagram, examples of this image and this GIF offer a direction.

Clearly, I am interested in this text because it offers an intriguing model for the making/mediating/managing braid. Where Barad brings performativity into science studies, the same focus on practice will benefit ‘art studies’, or art as research about art.

Posted in remarks, The Braid

How artists work: The Braid

My understanding is that artist’s workflows – making, mediating and managing – are tightly embraided and cannot be observed in isolation from each other. This is complicated by the fact that each strand of the braid is embedded in a separate discourse. That impacts how artists are able to integrate all three, necessary activities into their practices. Here is a first stab at describing each strand. More is to follow.

I imagine the braid as embedded in a torus, a donut that shape-shifts topologically, depending on which activity is dominant at the moment.

The predominant, public and academic understanding of artists as makers [while bracketing the making process itself] is but a hangover from philosophic thought, still deployed to benefit market rhetorics. This is how I both experience and see the making process in a nutshell. What artists train themselves in and collegially compare notes about in studio visits and critiques is how to attend: to their own attractions and refusals, their observations, the world they find themselves in, to the constraints they tease out and to the objects they create through those constraints. Knowledges thus developed are deeply personal. Formal principles are developed in that manner. Akin to Eco’s ‘epistemological metaphor’, I believe that ‘content’ is but a magnet for attention.

Instead of working towards evolving a theory of attention, which can be derived from witnessing artist’s ways of working, mediating has recently been admitted into the explicitly accepted artistic skillset. Mediating includes at minimum the framing and presenting of talks, but also much more extensive writing and what in borrowing from scientific vocabulary is called research. Indeed, the academization of art has led to a fraternization with science that has sold the arts short. What creates confusion here is an apparent unawareness of the reverse flow of narrative processes in art making. Scientists mobilize perception analytically, to make it available to language (hypotheses) and then formalize this language to make it available to data through material experimentation, resulting in strictly formalized language as theories. Artists, on the other hand, observe their attention, materialize it in objects, assess objects in critique, where making processes then partially emerge into language. They finally narrate this evolution in retrospect. This is an ancillary process, as the result of the work consists of strictly formalized objects (performances, etc.). Properly respected, this workflow from attention into narration is a beneficial one. If attempted in the ‘scientific’ order, attention cannot come to fruition towards object creation.

While mediation skills might be perceived as residing in the academic vicinity of the studio (framed as various forms of criticality), it is only a natural outgrowth of accepting those narrative capacities as part and parcel of artwork production that occurs at sites of professional application. These are sites that demand managerial engagement: grant writing for increasingly project based support, an understanding of institutional and political discourses to create/make use of production, exhibition, performance, publication and other opportunities, curating/editing and forming artist run organizations to gain control of discourse, with that creating and managing teams, creating budgets, accounting for choices and expenses. As settings, these sites may be brief interactions with organized framework or variously framed organizations in their own right. In these settings, criticality and pragmatism meet. While often being competent managers indeed, artists in many instances have no access to vocabularies to aid them in  reflecting on the implications of their managerial choices, abilities and activities. With that, the impact of opportunities on the creation of constraints may be underestimated. On the other hand, those that do engage all strands consciously tend to call the entire operation their artwork.

The above is coming into focus as I am in conversations with artist colleagues. I use modalities of studio critique (slow observation, description, joint reflection) to elicit what is often, but not always tacit knowledge. In doing this, I am working in the artistic mode: I am attending to my attention, use drawings and diagrams to capture what resonates, talk with colleagues to allow an emergence into language, and am now beginning to narrate the evolving piece. In the process of knitting the narrative, writing by others will be drawn upon in support. I would be willing to call this artistic research. [material, more material]

Process diagram copy




Posted in remarks, The Braid

Straw Star

straw star text.JPG

Here are the recent finds from the 1960’s. Properly framed now, in the snapshot.jpg_L1070175.JPG

3_Line Letter.JPG

And a few current studio moments:

Eric Leonardsen.jpgduignan_composite copy.pngFalzone composite2 sm.jpg

Klement composite2_flat copy


Thanks to Rachel Harper for creating this show:

Posted in 3Line_Matrix, exhibitions

The Gap begets Two-space – a conversation with Lou Mallozzi

Lou Mallozzi

Lou and I met in my office at SAIC, a late afternoon in December of 2015, on a day when we both taught. We have known each other for many years, I’ve attended presentations he gave about his work and over time have seen and heard quite a few as well. Lou calls himself an audio artist. He speaks 3 languages, and while he does so no longer, has played bass for 20 years, until 1990. He just stepped down from the position of executive director of the non-profit he founded in 1986, the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS).

How do you work?

It’s impossible to conduct a regular studio practice, Lou brought up first. Everything is channeled through projects. He then cited a conversation with Iñigo Manglano Ovalle, agreeing that “the best pieces come from jokes, non sequiturs – a single image, idea or moment.” These images might arise suddenly, in response to things, to places, and to social relationships. Next came: “I don’t really write music.” What he emphasized instead was listening, attending to cues, and permitting parameters to emerge from bodily interactions and relationships with instruments, collaborators and social settings. He calls these behaviors “virtuosic listening strategies.”

All relationships are seen as containing built-in ruptures. Examples of early works include often bi-furcated, process based drawings that are the residue of physical acts. Pushing that notion further and continuing to cite Process Art as a frame, his work thus comes out of interaction with productive impediments, a testing of limits, a struggle to accomplish something that actually, physically, cannot be done. Lou values the humility this meeting of limits induces, and likens it to the productive ignorance experienced when speaking a foreign language.

Language is the through-line for all of Lou’s work. With that, it does revolve around sound, including improvised music and sound, but not exclusively so. He works individually, collaborates and directs. Work is conceptualized for radio, theater and architectural settings, as intervention, performance, installation or hybrids of the above. Text based sound work came out of literary experiments, process based approaches and performances. At its inception, there was little theorization of sound art. Resisting the umbrella of musical discourse, Lou, also through founding ESS as a platform, worked towards a position that contained musical aspects, but would not frame the work as composition, instead setting it up as sound poetry or more broadly, sonic/linguistic work.

Language to Lou is a space, not a tool. It is established between interlocutors, weaving dynamic relationships that are continuously reconstructed. Visualized, language is a sphere, made up of meaningful, poetic utterances, before it becomes a technology of communication, or a stream. Roland Barthes’ notion of conjured references, Heidegger’s perception of language as somewhat autonomous entity ring true.

Lou initiated ‘Projects Against’, in support of the sphere and subverting the stream. In one of these projects he deployed existing terms, using alternate suffixes, moving from    -ology (knowledge) to -agnia (avoidance). Spatial metaphor is deployed as well when Lou sites voice as operating in a gap, neither interior nor exterior to anything else. He asks: “What if the gap comes first, with borders constructed after the fact?”


Fractal 3-Line Matrix

Grasping the central themes of the conversation, the three axes of the Matrix are Meaning (horizontal), the Body (top left to bottom right), and the Social (bottom left to top right). Meaning’s outliers are Two-space (left) and Gap (right). This axis takes hold of Lou’s question: “What if the gap comes first, with borders constructed after the fact?” It loops back to his opening remark, grounding good works in jokes, or non-sequiturs. A non-sequitur comes from nothing. A joke ruptures expectations. The gap precedes boundaries. From it rise utterances, conjured images that, when related to the already bounded can become jokes. The already-bounded is called two-space, in reference to Lou’s mention of his often bi-furcated drawings. In it reside models, armatures and borders into which non-sequiturs have been condensed. Here one can be in charge, contain meaning, but also dissolve it again.

The Body’s Actual Being (left), its innate, physical and valuable resistance as it brushes up against limits and struggles with impediments, is made fruitful with Discipline (right). Virtuosic Listening attends to the sonic and the linguistic, through tactile, improvised, collaborative and performative avenues.

Traveling along the Social axis, the sphere of Poetic Language (right), with its dynamic constellations, which are also the forms of works of art take and find themselves in, begets the stream of Communication (left), where linear discourse attempts to know, translate, understand.

Thus, on the left side of the matrix are stacked, from bottom to top, -Agnia, Model and      -Ology. These are the relations to certainty Lou has elaborated. -Agnia foundationally refuses it, Model, in the middle, mediating, works it. At the top, -Ology owns it. The stack on the right speaks to attention, to attending. Virtuosic Listening is ever-ready for arising non-sequiturs. Constellations carefully align what Virtuosic Listening grasps, in temporary, public settings that can be deployed to melt the entire stack on the left, right back into the gap.



The scenario then takes hold of a cycle: The Gap begets Two-space. Two-space must preserve its origin, precisely in being bifurcated, marked by a linear navel. It then forgets the Gap. Lou Mallozzi’s work, reaching into the Gap, melts bits of Two-space back into it, less to forge a new iteration (although it can’t be done without that), but to humbly show up the process. Beget. Forget. Beget.

This conversation is part of a larger cycle of ongoing interactions with musicians, composers and experimental sound artists. They were mostly led in Chicago and Vienna. A video of a performance Lou staged in response to the above is posted on the Chicago page.

Posted in 3Line_Matrix

Thinking in Threes – a conversation with Deborah Boardman

Part I

July 18, 2014, I talked with Deborah Boardman, who had come to the Chicago Cultural Center so I could ask her about how she works, as I’ve been asking other artists since summer 2008. We sat at a table off to the side, along the east wall of the expansive public space on the first floor, outside my exhibition of diagrams, which we had walked through for a bit first. The municipal AC was blasting.

I took notes. Deborah said: “I think in threes, always.” She explained. There’s actively painting. There’s an intermediary stage, and there’s grunt work. The intermediary stage was elaborated first. It is characterized by free-flowing thought and serendipity. Things overheard are captured in sketchbooks, as lists and in open-ended image making. The grunt work, in contrast, is intentional. It presents an intellectual anchor. Research and readings on current topics, and also meetings and conversations with people, strangers as well, provide excitement and inspiration. Concept and substance are assigned to this realm. What is acquired or considered here cannot just be executed, though. It contrasts with the flow of making form, as experienced in actively painting, which is laden with an unbearable anxiety – is it the right form? Thus, there is great tension between actively painting and intentional research, full of frustration and perceived misfirings.

The activity of painting first of all requires physical movement. Thus, it can be initiated by moving in the studio. Sweeping. Dancing. Singing. Those preparations ease anxiety, the fear of the empty space. They promote doing it anyways, in iterations, in the face of not liking the results. Throughout, unanticipated convergences occur, components find each other. The sketchbook helps here, too. Actively painting also hooks back into the grunt work. In connecting to the research stream, what becomes apparent is that liking or not liking ‘it’, which is form, is superseded by presence. Ego is suspended in tying into a larger truth, being part of something larger, being present for it.

The larger truth coincides with the larger collective, the unique circumstance of being human. The individual expression by an artist then creates space and movement, may encourage others to do likewise, weave a larger pattern of communal expression. Deborah wondered if this could be likened to social sculpture.

I asked how she selected her materials, the medium. Painting had seemed like the default. Childhood excitement was met with praise, and even though she tried other things, she always returned to a deep, physical satisfaction evoked by brush and paint. Those ignited primordial feelings.

When I inquired about themes, Deborah emphasized ‘humans as part of nature’, framing nature to include the built environment and institutions. A first iteration of that she cited contending with were Mary’s stations of the cross as female suffering, asking what lies beyond a male hierarchy. Looking later at flooring and what is underneath the floor in churches, older ones in Europe and even older settings in India, Deborah said she sought evidence of encompassing systemic understanding, so deeply complex that it might be holistic. In India she felt that artifacts of daily life embodied that systemic presence, something absent in the US. Returning to painting, she described the canvas as a surface that opens up, that dissolves into understanding, standing under.

 Boardman composite.jpg

Part II

Entering the notes into the Fractal 3-Line Matrix diagram template

We took the notes from our conversation across the hallway into the gallery. There was no need to parse them for three prevalent premises, as the template requires, since Deborah had already framed her way of working through three headings. We entered each on one of the intersecting lines:

Horizontally, we wrote: Actively painting. Terminal points of this axis (each axis understood as a gradation between the end points) were Anxiety and Flow. Elaborating on the conversation, Anxiety was further broken down into Void, Judgment and Right Form. It appeared that each of those terms had a negative connotation we collectively named Blocks, consisting of Comparing, Fear and Resistance, which then merged into the positive poles of Knowing, Intuition and Doing it anyways. That was mirrored in the clarification of Flow, specified through Movement, Singing and Tactile Experience, carrying the Enablers,  Pleasure, extending to work with Tools; joined through the newly introducedKundalini (replacing initially noted Masturbation) to Walking/Dancing/Sweeping, which is related to work with Paint; and Improv, exemplified through work as Singing Along.

Sloping left to right: Sketchbook: Serendipity [Attention to Emergence], was flanked by Overhearing and Thinking. The Sketchbook axis served to join an exterior realm connected to overhearing to an interior realm containing thinking.

Rising left to right we entered: Research, bracketed by Concept and Substance. Deborah saw Concept as rigid, framed and structured, marked by Ego containing both Liking and again, Knowing. Shape could be arrived at by Mapping or Uncovering. Moving towards Substance, the communal realm was emphasized with Relation (Personal to encompassing all of Humanity), Larger Truth (Incarnate and Unknowable) and Witnessing (actively through Searching and passively through Allowing).

Using the matrix helped to clarify, in fact dissipate the ‘great tension between actively painting and intentional research’. When stepping back to take in the picture we had arrived at, the Concept terminus of Research was hinged with the Thinking terminus of Sketchbook: Serendipity [Attention to Emergence] by an overarching reference to Tension, thereby linking interiority to a tensile form of strengthas in a muscle contracting, while exteriority offers release into connectivitywhen the opposite points, Overhearing on Sketchbook: Serendipity [Attention to Emergence] and Substance on Research are joined by Expression – sandwiching Actively Painting in between.

free form_Deborah Boardman.jpg

Part III

sketching a scenario

Scenarios are prompted by image cues. Here it was the picture Deborah had evoked, of the canvas opening up, giving way to systemic humanity:

A floor tile tilted up, becoming paper or canvas, while ground support, a raw clay, was still clinging to it, forming a slab. Not wanting to appear like a tombstone (seems only men’s graves are ever said to give birth; well, re-birth – nod to Bowie), this tile/slab/canvas grew into a grid, warped into a wall, architecture (arkhi – chief, tekton – builder). The surfaces opened, albeit not as windows out, but passages in.

Birth (systemic stability) contains death (individual certainty). Painting, Deborah knew dangerous business, and dangerous business knew her. To join them into grids, as installations, buffers individual images, now made exemplars; the suffering of privation is offered a communal respite, relief, even abundance. 

Posted in 3Line_Matrix, art