Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Searching For Meaning in Nomadic Studio

W. Keith Brown
Art Educator / Scholar / Writer
Stockyard Institute

The Nomadic Studio can be described as four months of rotating and fluctuating artistic and pedagogical actions that seek to celebrate, inform, and shape divergent cultures within the realms of art and education. The exhibition is timely in that it engages contemporary strategies in not only the city of Chicago, but across the globe. In urban and rural communities, people are inventing, conceptualizing, documenting, and collecting new materials that help them navigate personal knowledge and unique environments. Nomadic studio seeks to make visual and material connections to these people, places, and practices, thus showcasing productions of the maker and their efforts to create meaning.


On the Art
Contemporary artists are constantly developing new strategies to produce and distribute culture. The artworks displayed throughout nomadic studio are a direct result of these scattered modes of production and represent the outcomes of the latest conditions under which art is made. Over time, art studio, like culture, has undergone radical shifts in its location, square footage, and conceptual orientation. Today art studio can be just about anything or anywhere: a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, garage, basement, storage unit, abandoned building, storefront, neighbor’s house, backyard, shared space such as home/office/studio/recording studio/editing suite, etc. Nomadic studio as an exhibition space is investigating artistic and educational practices that operate within these transitional areas and structures that affect all of us. Situations and circumstances force locations and thinking to change course sharply, which then compels the maker to adapt and respond to such abrupt movement.


How humans view and interact with space is evolving, we no longer declare certain spaces unsuitable, possibilities surround us. What was once viewed as non-resource for many has emerged as a vital mode of production for some. The variety of materials being used to make art for the opening of nomadic studio was a testament to the conceptually useful, Dayton Castleman recently used layers of cardboard to produce a large-scale sculptural installation of a fighter jet playing “Chicken” with a bird. Ian Bennett created an aerosol installation using homemade stencil patterns applying each one onto various panels and found forms to create a stimulating yet relaxing lounge nook for guests. Mobilization is a spatial tactic being explored, art strategies used in Mike Slattery’s “Mobile Silkscreen Cart” (courtesy of Ed Marzewski) and Brandon Alvendia’s “Portable Bookmaking Studio” are examples of sharing processes and resources via an abandonment of fixed location.


Other artists featured over the next few months use traditional media mixed with found objects, recycled materials, cultural fragments, digital debris, and discursive media to communicate thoughts and ideas. This mode of making is not something that nomadic studio is discovering or setting out to find, it is what people are showing us. For nomadic studio, the studio aspects of the space are taken seriously, the programs and exhibitions are interactive places of play as well as mini-social settlements, visitors will not find art that looks like a studio nor will they find hodgepodge versions of workspace. Artists are presenting work that was made under a certain physical condition unique to the artist and the piece on view.



On the Pedagogy
The educational aspects of the nomadic studio are less obvious if a visitor misses an opening or one of the many monthly programs. As mentioned above, the materials, use of spaces, and strategies of the artists are educational in and of themselves. The work is providing new ideas and perspectives on making that heretofore seemed obscure. The level of transparency for knowledge sharing is evident in the programs, zine/publication collection, art materials, SITE office, nomadic library, and the nomadic center for public research (ncpr).


Nomadic studio is following exhibition protocol by showing artwork, but it breaks with tradition by showing the viewer how to make the art she/he is encountering. Programming is a way for audiences to access new knowledge by interacting with speakers, panels, and workshops. They provide opportunities to learn from others, which is how education should be—a knowledge exchange. The zine/publication collection, nomadic library, and nomadic center for public research are all little places for guests to read, take notes, and learn. The nomadic center for public research (ncpr) has over 100 PDFs on art, education, artists, and theory all made available for public consumption via a 1999 red G3 imac. The policy for ncpr is bringing your own flash drive or (BYOFD). Other features for learning are the nomadic studio and the stockyard institute web sites. Each has resources about projects and participating artists and educators.

The SITE office is a legitimate office space in the gallery for Stockyard Institute Teaching Experiments (SITE), which is a multi-media publication effort dedicated to teaching and learning and sharing common resources through the lived experiences of educators. During SITE month in November, we will have an open office that will be reflecting, organizing, and documenting the previous month’s programs for the purposes of galvanizing future efforts for the publication. Feedback and participation is highly encouraged during that time and beyond.

In August, nomadic studio will be transforming into the Bird Sanctuary. The main gallery space will be turned into a replica of the former Chicago loft space, A\V Aerie. The Opening on 8/12 features work by: Rob Funderburk, Susan Hall, Nikki Jarecki, Christophe Roberts, Jay Ryan, Tom Stack, Erik Stenberg, and Diana Sudyka. On 8/19 come see AndrewandAndrea. On Saturday 8/21 see, Baby Teeth, Tim Kinsella and Willis P Jenkins perform on the newly constructed A\V Aerie stage. On 8/26 see Mary Mattingly and Mockhouse. 8/28 Bird Building zine release.


W. Keith Brown is a Chicago-based art educator, researcher, and writer. Aside from being an art history teacher at ChiArts, Brown is also a member of the artist-pedagogical collective, Stockyard Institute, founder of the Critical Visual Art Education (CVAE) Club, art critic for Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art’s Chicago division, contributor to Proximity Magazine, and editor for the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA). 

The views and opinions expressed on this blog by W. Keith Brown do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those organizations with whom he associates.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Kelsey Moher



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