Project Stream: How Artists Work

Judith full sequence

Judith Leemann process sequence 2013/14: 1. Interview notes excerpt 2. Sketches (on vitreous enamel preprinted blanks) 3. Prints (Inkjet and Vitreous Enamel on Steel)

This project could also be called “How artists speak”.  Initially, I was just listening to other artists voices as we discussed our work, noting how the creative process is reflected, and how this reflection is part of advancing one’s practice. I later pegged it more formally to the type of discourse critique engenders. Throughout, I have found attention to these conversations crucially important, as a counterpoint to art market and art history inflected, typically object oriented observations. My work moves in between the works of others.

This stream started to take shape in 2008, when I participated in a residency, “Making Artistic Inquiry Visible”,  at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. There I was prompted to conduct studio visits with individual artists while simultaneously diagramming our conversations. The diagrams felt like intimate products, and were only shared with the artists. I later requested permission to publish the first one.

Over the next years, I experimented with diagram responses to conversations about their art practices with a number of my students.

In 2011,  conversations with 8 artists were conducted with the intention that the ensuing diagrams were to be contributed to an exhibition, Mutualisms. During the roughly hourlong conversations I took longhand notes, and later created a set of diagrams based on my notes and recollections. Diagrams were worked out first on paper, then in Illustrator. Exhibited were prints of digital files that merged both forms.

Boardman sequence

Deborah Boardman discusses her diagram, created on site on a preprinted vitreous enamel sheet at the Chicago Cultural Center – Enter the Matrix Exhibition, 2014

During a sabbatical in 2012, I spent 4 weeks at the IKM (Institute for Cultural Management) at the University of Music and Performing Arts  in Vienna, followed by another month at AIR Krems, Austria. Early in 2013, I returned to Vienna to participate in a conference on Research in Art and Science, co-organized by Doris Ingrisch, Professor for Gender Studies at IKM. During these visits I spoke with visual artists, performing artists, musicians, sound artists and scholars in the humanities and social sciences about how they work. Also in 2013, artist Georgia Kotretsos asked me to contribute audio files to a program she was curating in Mulhouse, France. I asked many of the artists I had interviewed since 2008 to respond to the diagrams of our conversations. Various narrative-based manners of response were chosen, while Andrea Sodomka, sound artist in Vienna, contributed an audio file of an original composition.

Pleased with having found one way to create a feedback loop, something long desired, I asked two more artists to create audio responses to their diagrams for an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, in 2014. For “Enter the Matrix”, Maria Gstättner (Vienna) composed and performed music, while Judith Leemann (Boston) poetically interpreted all artists’ diagrams in the exhibition, recording her readings. Also included was Andrea Sodomka’s previous response. (A brief mention of this exhibition is included here: Grabner, Michelle, “Atlas Chicago: The People’s Palace,” Art in America, October 2014, pp. 67-69.)

free-form diagrams

Diagrams Andrea Sodomka (sound artist), Nikolaus Gansterer (visual artist), Maria Gstättner (musician), Tasos Zembylas (sociologist), inkjet and vitreous enamel on steel, Vienna, 2012/13

As I was preparing this show, Doris Ingrisch invited me back to Vienna for an extended interview project in late 2014. This time, all artists I interviewed were sound artists, composers and musicians, some who live in Vienna and vicinity, others there for residencies or events. At the outset, we agreed that the artists were to respond to the diagrams I was to create. In addition, Doris Ingrisch will reflect on the process in writing. This project is currently underway. As it progresses, I will update the Vienna tab on this blog.

I intend to continue this work with musicians, initially  in Chicago. Early explorations are underway.


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