Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UTSA Commencement

Up until a couple weeks ago, the last commencement I attended was an intimate and informal rite held at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design in 1999 that I took my dad to while my mom was traveling in China, and after which we shared a bottle of champagne with my teacher Joseph Grigley and his wife Amy outside behind the Art Building, then directly after that my dad dropped me off at my house where I mowed the lawn until Jason came over in his orange van and we went on our first date which was a walk in the woods with our dogs.

On December 20th, I went to the UTSA Commencement, with my third and fourth New Media undergrad students graduating from our program. Neither of them were in attendance, but it was good for me to check it out, and think about the relevance and importance of group ritual. Art students are by nature outsider, status-quo-questioning entities. I relate personally to what I interpret as an aversion to mainstream mass-ritual, and at the same time couldn't help feeling the potential of what their presence could signify-- in a positive way for both them and their peers in the rest of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, and the Business School.

"If.." is a film by Lindsay Anderson, starring Malcom McDowell, that I watched recently. Depicted in it are traditional, self-important and overbearing customs of British public school. The story takes a turn at the very end, when McDowell's character violently rebels against the oppressive and stifling circumstance of his environs. The sudden turn of events is unexpected in its extremity, is effective because of it, and cuts a deep question into the facade of brainless, empty conventions. Made in 1968, around the time of the Situationist International, the student uprisings in France, race riots in the States, and other incidents of cultural unrest, the film is a clear reflection of its zeitgeist.

In the first chapter of The Audacity of Hope, our President Elect outlines a trajectory of political and cultural energy from that period (the Sixities) to the present day, illustrating a deterioration over time of the climate in which present day politics is practiced.  Part of Obama's political platform of change is the modification or reclamation of the political process, in the name of the citizens. I'm not sure why, but I see this moment in relation to my deep-felt belief that its time for artists to take up a more meaningful role in society. When most people don't feel any relationship to the art of our moment, I must question the validity of what we, as artists, are doing. Our currency is creativity, and I hope we can use it to find a way to be more socially responsible and connected to every day people. Fortunately, there are a few artists out there who are pioneering new models.

People need aesthetic experiences-- spaces that allow them to move outside of our mediated environment, an ecology designed to amplify our proclivity to consume.  This is a topic for another day...

Only to say, the Mariachi band concluded the ceremony on a most joyful and feisty note:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seigfried and Roy

Seigfried is Margaret & Scott's new parrot, who I had the pleasure of meeting at their recent sushi party. (YUM!) Here he is on Michele Monseau's shoulder.  

The door to his cage was opened up after dinner, so he hopped onto the table and wandered around saying hello to everyone, eating little scraps, trying to eat the wasabi...  we all thought thought it wouldn't be very good for him to eat the wasabi, except for our much-loved animal authority, Montana!  She reasoned that, unlike a canine, if Seigfried ate something that disagreed with him, he wouldn't keep eating it.

The very next animal that I met was this beautiful shepherd, Roy. Here he is with my friend Bree in her backyard. She was very involved with dog-training, taking Roy to school just about every morning when I was visiting her in LA, and shooting portraits of other person+dog student teams. I even got to meet their very dignified teacher-trainer, who came over to finish up a little drywall patch-job around a window he'd fixed at their place.

While I was in LA, there were big fires on the north side of the city. Serious enough for evacuation, road closures, and many people to lose their homes. This gentleman dog-trainer has a piece of property up there with two dozen of the meanest dogs living out on it, and he had to make a trip up there to evacuate them. I can only imagine a pickup truck brimming with the baddest of dawgs, carting them into the city... I wonder where he ended up putting them all.

Back in Time: AURORA (late October)

We made two trips to Houston at the end October.  The first was for the Aurora Picture Show 10th Anniversary Gala dinner, for which we completed a new single-channel piece, "Double Thunder." A few other artists were also asked to contribute new works to this celebration for a limited edition special DVD given to the guests...  interstingly, half of us were collaborating couples: Magsaman & Hillerbrand (Mary M. and Steve H.); Be Johnny (Bree Edwards and Johnny DeKam); and PBL. John Carrithers, Kara Hearn, and Eileen Maxson are the others.

a Franco Mondini-Ruiz paining occupies a special alcove space at the Fingers' new house

The "Celestial Event" took place at the recently acquired and renovated home of Martha & Richard Finger, backing up into the Buffalo Bayou... and I mean recent--the paint was practically still wet!  I know they worked incredibly hard towards completion, and it was a truly lovely setting for this special night.

Lucky us, we got to stay in the guest room at the Aurora Library! Super-awesome to have access to all of the videos there, with two built-in screening spaces. It reminded me of when I was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I'd spend my spare time in the Video Data Bank stacks watching everything that seemed remotely interesting! At Aurora I watched documentation from past Media Archeology events like TV Sheriff, Wet Gate, Paper Rad and Cory Arcangel, and single channel works of Takeshi Murata, Joel Schlemowitz, Jackie Goss, and others.

The night after the gala we had the pleasure of seeing Bill Morrision and his work at the Aurora Theater. Bill was in town working on the "Lightning at our Feet" production, in collaboration with the University of Houston Mitchell Center. Best known for his feature-length avant-garde film "Decasia," we were fortunate to see this rare collection of works he had created over the years in cooperation with various of theatrical projects.

We made our return to Houston on Halloween to present Fortune at the Aurora Picture Show Theater, and lots of people came in costume. Aurora Picture Show fickr pix. After the show, we ended up at some nondescript-on-the-outside bar, notorious as a place bosses take their secretaries for a little undercover nookie.  The upstairs was a room filled with vinyl couch-booths. Ew. We hung out downstairs in costume. Matt Coolidge was in town, and having him in the mix was the cherry on the sundae.

The next day, we tooled around Houston bit, and were pleasantly surprised to run into our friend James Craig, who had recently relocated to Houston from San Antonio to work for Deborah Colton at her new
gallery space... he eventually sent us over to the project space (where the prior incarnation of her gallery had been) and we were treated to David Adickes presidential busts-- another truly wonderful surprise! The recent hurricane had blown Beatle Paul McCartney over-- somewhat apparent in the picture above.  

here's Jay next to one of his favorite presidents

The rest of our visit passed quickly by way of brunch with cousins, meeting Meg Poissant and her dogs at her gallery space and showing her some of my video work, breakfast with our good friend Tish Stringer and her chip-off-the-old-block daughter (sharp as her mom!), dinner with Patrick Kwaitikowski and his beautiful family, and generally paying witness to hurricane damage in the physical realm and through everyone's stories.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back In Time: ANTIMATTER (September 26)

It took two days to travel to the Antimatter Film Festival. We flew to Seattle, stayed overnight in the Moore Hotel downtown, then walked down to the pier early in the morning to catch the Victoria Clipper high-speed ferry to the island of Victoria, British Columbia, where we performed Fortune and participated in a panel discussion on Live Cinema.

Autumn weather in charming downtown Victoria was a real treat. 10,000 thank-yous go to festival director Todd Eacrett and curator Deborah De Boer, who ensured that our stay was fantastic. We were put up at Paul's Motor Inn, in a room off the secret courtyard in the back, a very cozy hideout. We could and did walk everywhere. We visited the Victoria Bug Zoo, where I held all kinds of large bugs, from the most regal and sentient praying mantis to the gigantic exotic cockroach, and saw a colony of the amazing leaf-cutter ants. We imbibed at Big Bad John's, where you can throw your peanut shells on the ground, and be startled by phony tarantulas lowered down on your table by the staff.  We ate lots of awesome asian food, and generally just celebrated with the festival folks, including lots of other visiting and local filmmakers and artists.  

photo by Steven Masuch

Here we are with artist/panel moderator John Boehme, and San Francisco filmmaker Kerry Laitala, after the Live Cinema panel. John led us through a lively discussion about filmmaking, performance with the moving image, and art making in contemporary times. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We saw some great work including Craig Baldwin's new film "Mock Up on Mu," which incorporates a lot more original film into his signature found-footage montage style, solidifying the narrative undercurrent in a positive way. It was also a treat to see "We will live to see these things, or, five pictures of what may come to pass," by Julian Metzer and David Thorne. Our friend Chris Kubick has been working on the soundtrack for many months-- what a nice surprise to see/hear this experimental documentary shot in Syria, in its finished state. "Frank & Cindy" by G.J. Echternkamp is also a very worthwhile feature-length personal documentary about the filmmaker's mother and stepfather, and active relations amongst the three of them influenced by and during the making of the film.

Antimatter is a highly respected and well funded festival due to outstanding programming. The British Columbia Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts are just two of their many sponsors. I admit that I was surprised at the size of the audience.  Quality trumped quantity, however, with the small crowds comprised of many video and film makers, professors, and students. This could be due to the smallness of Victoria, and/or the fact that there was a student-worker strike going on that took down one of the two venues with Antimatter programming, forcing lots of grueling, last-second rescheduling. Another reason may be the tiny festival staff-- it's amazing to witness how much can actually accomplished by such a small group. If they operate like I do, though, publicity is the last hat that I can manage to put on after all of the other important responsibilities.  Whatever the case may be, I wish we had been able to afford (both financially and temporally) to stay for the duration of this exceptional 10-day episode, honoring the cream of the experimental moving-image crop.

Back In Time: LANDSCAPES (September 4)

Whenever school starts, time magically evaporates, and I push to find some even keel for teaching and producing work.   Intense involvement in a project followed by some down-time to recuperate is typical, but I'd gladly trade for a more steady kind of progress.  This writing is a way for me to digest the events of my life, and it typically gets put on hold until the tranquil moment comes.

These images are from way back at the beginning of the term-- Blue Star Contemporary, September First Thursday, at my opening of new video works: LANDSCAPES.

From my press release:
Leslie Raymond's new show LANDSCAPES puts the focus on the tired and true theme of the landscape.  A primary genre in painting, landscapes generally depict views from nature.  Here, Raymond presents a contemporary take on the subject.  Broadening the vocabulary of the picture-plane through the use of the moving image, she incorporates video's inevitable language of time.  This group of landscape images embodies artifacts of the passage of time (including lapsed time, movement through time and space, and time pressure) while simultaneously considering composition, color, shape and form.  Each video loop composition in this series is displayed on its own flat-panel monitor, and each is an edition of four.

Emily Morrison expanded on these thoughts beautifully in an essay that she wrote for the show, published as a short-run brochure by Blue Star.  If you want one, get in touch with me & I'll happily pass it on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Back In Time: Collaborating With My Mom (September)

Many months ago, my mom told me about a dream she'd had. In it, I was projecting video images onto a wall of clay. More than a few years ago she described another dream in which I was coming to her, trying to balance a big, wet slab of clay. How fascinating for an artist mother to dream about her artist daughter in relation to her medium.

When she relayed her more recent dream, my mom invited me to collaborate on a something for her upcoming retrospective at the Birmingham Art Center. She is pictured below, in the middle of the extremely well-attended reception of her show, practically dead-center... though its hard to see her in this small image. My brother took these snapshots. He's the one in the family who did not pursue any kind of career in the arts, and at the same time has an amazing eye for composition. Must be the genes from our architect dad and potter mom. Could also have to do with growing up within an environment that expressed their quintessential modernist sensibilities.

So when I was up in Michigan over the summer, I made a video component for this large wall-piece (approx 55" x 68"). It was a projection of digitally manipulated, somewhat abstracted footage of my mom throwing at the wheel.

An installation-shot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

chocolate and teamwork

It's been such a busy semester. I put up the previous post while working on my materials for the Chocolate Alice fundraiser project at San Antonio Museum of Art.  This was a vjFutureWorkerGirl gig, although I can't find any mention of this online or in print, including the announcement cards. Maybe I'm some kind of egomaniac, but my own identity as an artist apart from my work in Potter-Belmar Labs is so important to me. Collaborating is wonderfully rewarding, and also incredibly challenging at times. Compromise is key. Its enables one to transcend the bounds of the ego. And, as in an any relationship, growth comes out a commitment to the Third Thing-- that thing that is the alchemical combination of the Two.

And still, my creative drive requires unfettered access to the Flow. Sometimes this can be achieved in collaboration, but I find that the negotiating process interrupts it more often than not. And I also find myself more willing more often to concede than to wage war for my ideas, but its part of the reality of our creative enterprise, and something I struggle to overcome.

Chocolate Alice was a lot of fun. When I find some images from the outdoor installations I'll post them and make some more comments. Also looking forward to updating this blog on the myriad of other gigs from these past few months...