Thursday, August 12, 2010

You Are Here

Adia Millett
Artist In Residence

To discuss the physical needs of an artist is close to impossible, simply because it varies for each one of us. Some of us need privacy, some us need 24 hour access to our space, some of us need controlled lighting or sound, and some of us will take whatever we can get. Whatever the circumstances, artists have no problem finding ways to produce art, as indicated by the variety of alternative, artist-run spaces in Chicago.

What is so intriguing to me is that we love to analyze everything, for example: Do artists need studios? The classic way to understand this is to examine what artist did in the past and how it is different from what we’re doing now. And there is always someone (like Kerry James Marshall) who makes it their duty to point out that everything has already been done before (by black people)… which is pretty much true.

Yes, artists desperately need space to work in if they’re making objects or they need an office, or a darkroom. But for many artists, the creative process begins from the moment we wake up. Every conscious act can find it’s way into our visual expression and the spaces we work in are simply extensions of that expression.

What if rather than investigating an artist’s space, we put an artist’s daily practices up for everyone to see and even participate in. “Where” then becomes dictated by “what”. This is not suggested for the purpose of making some comparison between the happenings of the 1960’s or intervention art with something occurring today, but to invite viewers, artists, curators, writers, or collectors into the most valuable space an artist occupies, their mind.

New York based artist Stephanie Diamond and I began exploring this conversation about seven months ago when we decided to design a project entitled, You Are Here in order to heighten our awareness of our routines as well as the peculiar oddities that artist so often engage in. Through daily tasks, given to each other, we began to express our personal and professional vulnerabilities, in order to heighten our awareness of ourselves and the world around us. We then invited gallery/museum staff and visitors from various institutions to participate in tasks ranging from something as simple as eating with your hands to something as significant as creating an alter for someone who has passed away.

You Are Here Alters, Adia Millett & Stephanie Diamond

Like the processes that occur in one’s “studio”, actions suggested in You Are Here require being present, critical, and creative anywhere, at anytime. Whether we’re writing a grant proposal, updating our website, drawing intricate patterns, or calling our mother to say “I love you”, in some ways we are always in our studio.

Blood, Sweat, & Tears, at Sullivan Studios, Adia Millett

ADIA MILLETT received her BFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997 and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2000. Millett has been an artist in resident at the Whitney Museum’s ISP program, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Headlands Center for the Arts, the University of California in Santa Cruz, Columbia College in Chicago, and Cooper Union in New York to name a few. She is a 2003 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship recipient. Millett’s work has been exhibited in such institutions as The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta, The New Museum in New York, The Craft and Folk Museum in Los Angeles, The California African American Museum in Los Angeles, Smith College Museum of Art in North Hampton, and The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia.

Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist

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