Sunday, December 29, 2013

Community Studio in the Airport, Part 2

Setting up a studio space of sorts in a public setting is a bit of a daunting task, mostly because it’s seen as a somewhat questionable endeavor – to both the community and the artist.  When we think of an artist’s studio, many images and ideas come to mind.  A light filled room with high ceilings and plenty of open space, a sanctuary of sorts full of varied materials at the ready, multiple works-in-progress scattered about, the artist dashing back and forth from one piece to another, making adjustments, standing back and pondering before making the next move, etc.  And, sometimes it does look/feel like this.  But sometimes, the studio might take the form of a modest or makeshift space out of necessity, convenience or desire, and sometimes, what goes on in the space is just plain boring.  A lot of what transpires in the studio is tedious and unremarkable.  But these small moments are essential to the work, and it’s within this space (both physically and mentally) that materials and ideas begin to come together. 

Because this project relies upon repeated visits to the airport construction site and its periphery, certain aspects of my studio practice have become somewhat transportable and it seemed feasible to set up an ad hoc space directly within the airport terminal.  I chose to work on things that didn’t require too much focus or concentration, so I would be free to quickly stop what I was doing to chat with visitors or move from one thing to another.  This primarily involved lightly editing digital files on a laptop computer, printing small work proofs on a desktop printer, sequencing and arranging prints on one of the tables and gathering new material in the form of still images and video recorded inside the airport studio.  This last aspect allowed me to begin responding to the materials of the construction site in a slightly more careful manner than is possible in the field.  I made trips to the site to gather bits of limestone, dirt and sand as well as samples of grasses and weeds.  I also found a pretty fantastic residual worker remnant in the form of a glove, caked with mud.  Using a clunky, still life method, I moved various arrangements from one place to another, responding to each iteration in their new and purposefully decontextualized field. 

Ultimately, my goal with this experiment was to see which aspects of my work would be feasible in such an environment, and to engage passersby with my process both in and out of the studio and also with larger questions of the role of art and the artist in community and public art projects.  This type of mobile, transitory studio is not an uncommon practice in contemporary art, and I was particularly inspired by Dawn Kaspar’s studio residency during the 2012 Whitney Biennial. 

Of course the response to this kind of experimental studio will certainly differ depending on whether the audience is primarily comprised of museumgoers or hurried travelers.  Certainly a studio within the context of the museum provokes a certain response, whereas the baggage claim area of the airport (particularly when situated near the Information Desk) prompts quite another.  Because of this, there were inevitably many confused responses to my presence and purpose within the space.  Though these interactions may not have seemed immediately relevant to either the traveler or myself, they too are part of the chain of small moments, experiences that may linger and inform a later action or response. 

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