This will probably sound ridiculous, but to a certain extent, I’ve tried to follow the example of two role models in my creative life: Studs Terkel and George Plimpton. Following Terkel’s example, I’ve tried to never pass up an opportunity to talk to someone about their story, and record it where I can. From Plimpton’s example, I’ve done my best to never pass up an opportunity to try doing something I’ve never done before, preferably while in front of people.
So it was with Plimptonian disregard for consequences or real ability that, when the great Minneapolis band Dark Dark Dark asked if I wanted to serve as foley artist for their live score to the Fritz Lang film Spies at the Walker Art Center last summer, I said “sure.” I’d only been a foley artist once, onstage, for an Electric Arc Radio Show performance. Dark Dark Dark happened to be guests on the show that evening. I think maybe they thought it was something I’d done a lot. It wasn’t.
That Electric Arc show was in front of maybe 150 people, most of whom I knew. This was an outdoor performance for 4,000 people at the Walker. I was, as I have honestly been very few times in my creative life, scared completely shitless.
It went well, though — I had a suitcase full of noise-making devices, including a train whistle that contributed nicely to the greatest scene in the film, a train crash in a tunnel. I doubt I will ever be asked the serve as a silent film foley artist again, because I really just wasn’t that great at it. But it was a lot of fun, and I’m grateful to Dark Dark Dark for the opportunity.
Bill Guzik made a film of the event, which was just posted at the Modern Times art tumblr. The video is below — you can see me in a few of the scenes:
At the end of August, Sergio Vucci and I held our final Common Room event of the year, which involved taking a group of around 30-60 people on bicycle to see four sites around the city that everyone often speaks fondly of, but that even many longtime residents have never actually experienced themselves. I’ll post the full list later. There’s some good photos.
One of these was a trip to the observation deck at the Foshay Tower, to see the city at night. Cheryl Wilgren Clyne, the curator of the museum up there, had made arrangements to let us in, and provided party hats in celebration of the building’s birthday the day before.
It was a beautiful, warm summer night, and people milled around the deck, looking out at the city lights coming on just as the sun was setting around 8 p.m. On my walk around, noted friend of S. 12th Brad Zellar stood at one of the four viewfinders on the deck, looking at some object in the distance.
“My gosh, Andy, come here, quick!” he yelled at me, voice bubbling with enthusiasm and gesturing wildly. “You will not believe this!“
“What? What is it?” I asked. Brad has a great eye for the amazing and the sublime, so I knew whatever he’d come across would be worthwhile.
“You have to see this! This…this…wow! It’s like we’re not even in Minneapolis! It’s like being…in…LONDON or something!”
“Oh my gosh, wow!”
“It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen!”
I was getting impatient. “C’mon, man, lemme see!”
He stepped aside, and I looked into the peephole, ready to have my mind blown. Here is an artist’s rendition of what I saw, perfectly lined up the center of the viewfinder:
I looked back up at Brad, with what I’m sure was an expression of bewilderment and probably mild disgust.
He had the broadest grin I’ve ever seen on his face. It was and remains my favorite joke of the 2011 calendar year.
Inexpensive, plentiful real estate opportunities will teach you how to use and manage space. The city you live in is full of abandoned factories and warehouses and old, crumbling robber baron mansions that have been divided up into small units. And it’s not just a few city blocks, but entire districts. Miles and miles. In the urban core, on the fringes of the urban core out by the interstate on-ramps, and out of urban core. Twenty miles outside town there’s even more real estate than in the city proper. Most of it’s cheap. You can work large, and there’s no physical barriers. You’ll learn to deal with space in a way artists accustomed to cramped quarters can’t begin to. You’ll also learn to deal with landlords — how to argue with them and cajole them and sweet-talk them. Buying, selling, renting and filling up huge swaths of real estate, with either your own work or the work of others, will be second nature to you.
Mastering skills outside your specific discipline are not only encouraged, but necessary for survival. You will learn to be flexible professionally: you understand that just knowing how to paint on canvas is not enough. There are not many patrons waiting around for you to finish your work and buy it. There’s not many galleries waiting to represent you. So you will learn to screenprint posters and t-shirts for rock bands to make ends meet. You will have to learn to build things, write well, use HTML, put up drywall, sew, cook, play keyboards, mix drinks, write grants, use Photoshop, and understand the basic tenants of customer service, so you have options professionally. You’ll continue to play guitar, like you did in college, because there’s still opportunities to play in bands every now and then, which you’ll do when you hit those cycles your own artistic practices slows down. You’ll learn how to write — not just about art, but about film, or music, or culture, or anything else that needs written about for small local magazines or websites for a few dollars. You’ll learn to make your own books, or figure out ways to publish on the cheap, because no one else is going to put out anything you’d done for you. You’ll learn how to deal not just with art world people, but also people in the straight world. It’s impossible to exist solely in an art world bubble, because that bubble’s just not big enough where you live. The language you’ll use to describe your work will become more utilitarian. You’ll be prepared to incorporate your knowledge of other areas into your own practice. It will make your own work more generous, more expansive, more all-encompassing.
Generally speaking, your sexual bridges will have all been burned by your mid-20s. By 25, half of everyone you know will be in a committed, long-term relationship. People pair up earlier and more seriously. By the time you’re 30, it will be 75%. Not at all these pairings will be stable, but most will. There will certainly be opportunities for sexual mischief with your peers, but not a lot of it. Much of it will be out of your system by the middle of your 20s. Chances are there will be two or three people you encounter regularly that make you nervous because of the ridiculous, hurtful things you said and did to one another when you were both younger and stupider, but rarely more than two or three. Never more than a handful, and the number continues to drop off with every passing year.
OK, I know I have been hitting you nice people up for money a few too many times lately. But watch that video (and young Ruby steal the show), and tell me this one more time is not worth it. The Dressing Room needs your assistance!
David Peterson and Crystal Quinn are two artists that both had a hand in Art Of This Gallery, which closed last year after a three-year run. They now live in a fall-over-beautiful loft on the third floor of a turn-of-the-century brick building in West Phillips, where they program shows a few times a year. Let me say it here, unequivocally: the most interesting, most adventurous place to see new work in Minneapolis was Art Of This Gallery, and now it is the Dressing Room. If you have a stake in the cultural life of these great cities, this is a good investment of your money.
Editor’s note: Coincidentally, I will be showing new work there myself on April 30 — actually, now that I think about it, it is my first solo show ever. Of all time! In thirteen years as a working, functioning adult artist, I have been so KRAZY 4 KOLLABORATING that I have never shown work by myself — always as a group, collective or partnership! Wow! Can you believe that? I am screen-printing hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous halftone artist’s photos I discovered in the venerable midcentury Minneapolis arts magazine The Potboiler, onto small, loose-leaf newsprint paper, all for you to take away and pin-up in your apartments, studios and workplaces at no charge. I didn’t know how to screen-print before this! I learned, just for you! That’s worth a few dollars, isn’t it?
Here’s some footage (not, uh, from a very flattering angle) of me reading a short piece about signed authors’ books I own, as part of a Talking Image Connection reading at The Soap Factory in response to Rosemary Williams’ awesome, 36-hour video extravaganza Belongings, up through February 20. Coincidentally, the video footage from the show behind me is all about Rosemary’s book collections. The mic kicks in around the :35 mark, and then it’s a lot easier to hear.
All you S. 12th trainspotters will note it’s based largely on this post.
No one’s claimed that damned Handler book, either.
Well, this year is shaping up to be one of the best on record. Here are some exciting bits of news from the past week-and-a-half to pass on to you. This post is a little heavy on the self-aggrandizement, but come on, I had a good month and I want to talk about it.
1. My friend and collaborative partner Anna Tsantir and I have received a planning grant from Forecast Public Art for the year. This grant will provide us with funding and support to begin planning a major project for the summer of 2012. Specifically, we’ll begin the process of creating a temporary artist’s bookstore (which is to say, a store that sells artist-made books) on one of the five or six islands in the Mississippi River between Marshall Terrace Park and Columbia Heights. The store will be open for one weekend in the summer, and will be accessible only by boat. We’ll have boats set up between the shore and the island to ferry people back and forth. The grant will help us lay out the (considerable!) logistical planning that will need done before then: water licenses, rental fees, permissions from the city and park board, retail licenses, etc. Phew. It’s a lot to plan. But we’ll have the time and money to plan it well. Mark your calendars for a trip to Minneapolis in early summer 2012.
Here are two of the potential sites:
2. This August or September, I have been selected to participate in an artist’s residency program at the Elsewhere Collaborative in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Elsewhere Collaborative is (according to their mission statement)…
…a living museum [in] a former thrift store that contains a 58-year collection of surplus. Residents create site-specific responses to the living museum, collection, and evolving community. Residents discover a creative process that is both immersive and responsive, challenging their practice with public parameters and critical perspective.
What this means, basically, is that I will be living inside a thrift store creating site-specific art and/or performances and/or interactions for a month this summer. What kinds of art/performances/interactions? Don’t know yet! The coordinators of the program make it pretty clear that you shouldn’t bring your own exact plans to Elsewhere — the best way is to come in and figure it out once you’ve experienced the space. I have started reading up on the history of Greensboro, just so I’ll have some context once I’m there (the North Carolina librarian at the Greensboro Public Library, Helen Snow, has been very helpful so far).
So yes, to reiterate: this summer I will be living in a thrift store. Here it is:
Focusing on pieces made since the 1970s, the exhibition shows how the vernacular, in its very ubiquity—its integration into home life, social rituals, and sense of place—is an ongoing fascination for artists. With artworks that draw from such diverse sources as local architecture, amateur photographs, and handmade domestic items, it’s suggestive of a long, meandering road trip through the emblems and eyesores of everyday culture, replete with tourist destinations and outmoded hotels.
There is a very lovely catalogue accompanying the exhibition, with essays by the curator Darsie Alexander, the late J.B. Jackson and, well, me. My piece delves into the mysteries of where the visual culture of the Midwest came from in the first place:
That’s why I’ve always found the idea of “the heartland” as a metaphorical flourish so odd and inappropriate for the Midwest. The heart is the center of the body physically, just as the plains of the Midwest are the geographic center of the country. But think of driving through the exurban interstate corridors in the region’s right-wing strongholds and coming across those anti-abortion billboards that picture a gurgling baby proclaiming, “My heart was beating at 3 weeks!” The “heart” metaphor in “heartland” is getting mixed here, since the heart is also among the earliest organs to develop. The rest of the body grows out from the heart. How could someplace as recently populated and as hastily improvised as the Midwest be the heart of a country at least a century or two older than it is? If the Midwest is the heart of this land, it’s an artificial heart, one that’s cobbled together from the parts that were lying around.
The catalogue is available at the Walker Art Center’s store, or you can buy it on amazon.com and have a mail delivery person bring it to your house or apartment.
Here’s a piece from the show (and also the cover of the catalogue), Marc Swanson’s untitled sequin-covered trophy:
Back when I was a painter — an actual painter that mixed oil colors and stretched canvases and wore paint-splattered suits to social functions — I completed a series called 28 Parking Tickets. These were life-sized tromp l’oeil paintings of parking tickets I’d supposedly gotten in various cities I’d traveled to across the U.S. between 2001 and 2003, from Milwaukee to New York. Most were authentic, some were not. This series was displayed at the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville in April of 2004 to lukewarm acclaim, then sold or given away as gifts piece-by-piece. My brother Nate has most of them. They are displayed in his apartment.
A few weeks ago, I got my first parking ticket in years. But Andy, faithful readers say, you haven’t gotten a parking ticket in years, because you don’t have a car. This is true. However, I recently signed up for a car-sharing service, and on my first day out, I underfed a meter outside my office and came back to find a white-and-green flag on my windshield.
So, in honor of the complete payment of this ticket to the fine people at St. Paul City Hall, and in honor of that monumental series of so many years ago, I give you this quickie drawing of my parking ticket from December 3 for the amount of $34.25, including the $1.25 convenience fee added for payment by telephone.