Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

preview of Gisela Insuaste's '157 pieces: mis montaƱitas queridas'

Thank you to Peter Clark for photographing the event and helping me all day with preparations. Doug Tyler's New Media class was in the dark screening section of the show for a good portion of our opening, so you won't see them here. Thanks to Kelley, Gisela, and Karin for traveling in, and to everyone else for sending your hellos! The show is getting lots of good feedback from the students and faculty here. I gave a talk about the show before the opening, and had about 40 students going through then and enjoying the work. Thanks to everyone at Saint Mary's College for their help.

Friday, September 7, 2007

preview of Lisa Leighton's 500 paintings about fireflies

Moving Through Medium essay by Annie Heckman

moving through medium began as the ugly stepsister of another, more tangible plan, the group animation show plus drawings. I had been trying to pull my head together on curating something with Krista Hoefle for the galleries at Saint Mary’s, and had started to contact the animation artists I knew, asking them please please to send me something. Maybe not the most organized curatorial strategy, but my requests were in earnest. And as I contacted one after another artist who seemed perfect for a contemporary animation show, I realized that they were all turning to other media, and were not so willing to send on animation to me. In some cases the files were no longer on the hard drive.

I puzzled over this lack of enthusiasm from the former animators alongside another recent set of events, conversations I was having with artists who had been working in two or three dimensions, and often without much computer involvement at all. These artists were itching to make something time-based, in some cases wanting to gain general computer skills and see what might happen if they just knew how to do it, in other cases feeling a long unwavering need to pursue filmmaking that had somehow woven its way around a career in painting.

The idea for Moving Through Medium hatched in two parts. These idea hatchings occur without any pre-knowledge on my part, when something is blurted out at an odd moment. The first blurt happened when I told Krista that we should do a show called Virgin Animators, and that it would be a kick to have all first-time animators in the same scenario we had envisioned for the animation show. The next blurt happened when I gave a fantastic video artist my information at her show, telling her I liked her work and might be interested in asking her to put a piece in a show I was curating. As I walked away from her gallery, feeling like a dork as punishment for acting confident and direct, I thought to myself, “She can’t be in this show. She already knows how to make videos.”

I realized that I was actually interested in a phenomenon my professor had once nutshelled for me about my own work. He said, “You really know how to make paintings. So now your paintings suck. It’s too bad. But you have no idea how to make sculptures, so now these are brave and meaningful.” With all the problems bound up in that remark, I still love to think that we can be revealing and truthful in a process when we just barely know how to do it, when we don’t understand the rules or the history as well as we should. But truly those sculptures were good not only because they were brave, heartfelt attempts without much heed for any technical canon, but also because they were invested with some knowledge of painting that translated interestingly to three dimensions. In this show, the first-time quality of these animation works is underscored by the years of drawing, installation, photography, and painting that informed their conception.

Before exploring the backgrounds of these six artists and the links among their projects, I think it’s important to address the many peculiarities about this show that have influenced the convergence of their work. The project dictated that they all needed to be making animation publicly for the first time as artists. Time, proximity, equipment, and program knowledge all became grand, if fruitful, hurdles. This project required some fast action on the part of all the artists involved. I knew all of these artists and their work ahead of time; they were all people I trusted to kick out an animation in fewer than four months. In many cases they also had to be people I trusted to stay up late at night in my apartment working on my computer. Kit Rosenberg and Karin Lekan both went to the same grade school as I did and lived in the Chicago area at the time of this work, just moving recently to San Francisco. They spent their last Chicago summer putting in long hours on the computer at my home. Gisela Insuaste and Kelley Schei both live in Chicago. Kelley turned the summer into an ongoing self-tutorial in digital media, and Gisela refocused her summer residency at Can Serrat in Spain to incorporate this project. Lisa Leighton has an editing set-up available in Brooklyn and a history of teaching in time-based media, with this being her first public translation of her drawings and photographs to motion. Bridget Riversmith has uprooted a prolific studio practice in Duluth to do a full animation summer camp residency with me in Chicago.

I’ve been calling the project an ‘animation summer camp’ as a joke, but this is actually what the show has become. The artists in this show have turned their studio practices upside down to explore a radically new mode of production, knowing that they were part of a group of artists experiencing the same professional shifts, often juggling the new project alongside such lifestyle factors as international travel, cross-country moves, and new babies. Having read Andy Warhol’s writings at a formative age, I join him in being cynical about crediting artists’ creative chances as ‘risks’ alongside the blood and guts work of firefighters, soldiers, and babysitters. But if ‘risk’ were a more welcome part of my critical vocabulary, I would put these artists in the category of risk-takers for the gutsy outlook it takes to tackle an alien medium, and commit to showing it publicly, within a matter of months.

So why is the show not called Virgin Animators? Besides the fact that Virgin Animators is a pretty obnoxious title, there are some reasons. The point of this project is not for these artists to become animators, or even necessarily for them to produce another animation in their professional lives. The show’s purpose started to shift from the idea of a first-time encounter in the medium to part of a longer process that happens for artists working in a transdisciplinary field. In its most basic way, this collection of pieces gives the artists the chance to shift back and forth between different ways of making images, and it gives us the occasion to see the moving work alongside the work that doesn’t move.

When I try to put an image to Moving Through Medium, I picture a person trying to swim through acrylic gloss medium, getting stuck and pushing through the goo to reach something final. At one point in our preparations, Gisela referred to the project as a process-based show, and I realized that I was hoping for something more psychological to happen than ‘these are all paintings,’ or ‘these are all on paper.’ The thematic bond these artists share immediately is that they are all doing work that references or requires movement, whether through travel, erratic dream spaces, the movement of water and pigment on paper, or the sailing of pink-filled teacups through digital marshmallow paint. They are all making things based on some imaginative translation of reality, without regard for documentary process or slick rendering. Moving Through Medium examines parallel processes: the technical process of animation alongside the thought process required to make any imagined thing become physical.

Annie Heckman
July 2007, Chicago

Monday, August 27, 2007

more animation stills

a still from Kelley Schei's 'Amala & Kamala'

a still from Gisela Insuaste's '157 pieces: mis montaƱitas queridas'

moving through medium installed

the show is all installed and ready to go. many thanks to Mr. Peter
Clark, who volunteered his skills as preparator for the project. he had a drink of water when it was all finished.