"Excerpts from the Universal Lab (travelpod 1, 2, and 3)"
2005 Dan Peterman
Welcome to the now. In a pluralist, industrialized, and deeply technological society we exist in an ecosystem of shift and flux. Our heterogeneous DNA strengthens and challenges us, and in a characteristic, historic note of progress evolution has now transitioned us to the next step of our survival : responsibility. Within this shift and flux the boundaries and definitions of our laurels and classifications blur and dissipate. History is a reference and Future a story of optimistic polygamy waiting to be written. Everything is new and old and possible, and truth somehow seems (ever) more self- evident.
In a direct address to this revolutionary evolution is the traveling exhibition, Beyond Green : Toward a Sustainable Art at Lewis and Clark's Hoffman Gallery until December 9. This exhibit exemplifies both the continuously hazy differentiation between art and design while also re-emphasizing the fact that each entity is neither synonomous nor entirely autonomous as we know them to be. Beyond Green seeks to emphasize the need for art to move beyond an elitist, separate space and become one with the needs and realities of living humans. This exhibit seeks to promote art as one of the catalysts for a creative, sustainable, symbiotic society as opposed to merely the forum for the expression of intangible ideas. It suggests rather that form, content, and function will all be able to one day meld entirely. These ideas of course, have been circulating for almost a century, having some of their first origins in the days of Constructivist Russia, and being encouraged by Walter Gropius's Bauhaus.
"Suprematism, 18th Construction" 1915 Kasimir Malevich
"Red Blue Chair" c.1923 Gerrit Rietveld
However, a century of making still cannot erase the traditions that so many artists still attempt to address. Yet, this is a time of change. Highlighted by this week's election, the voice of the people still has power. All is not for naught. Beyond Green is an exhibition to which this call is put out to artists and designers to assess their skills as pointed contribution. The artist group Wochenklausur's manifesto puts much of this ideology into a very pointed art historical perspective and emphatically argues the direction contemporary art must veer to effectively be both socially relevant while eliciting actual change, in whatever degree it may occur.
Andrea Zittel's piece in the foyer calls for change while questioning the reality of everyday human needs.
Much of Zittel's work espouses the intrinsic human need for communion with the natural world and simultaneously addresses her own continuation of an art history intertwined with a living social change. Brennan McGaffey and activist collective Temporary Services central piece, "Audio Relay" represents an anarchist's response to the fascist regime of big business in public radio. The piece is interactive, asking viewers to choose cd's to play within the gallery space which will then be broadcast on actual public radio stations. The cd player and antenna are battery and solar powered and appear transportable enough to take to parties. Artist Kevin Kaempf's sustainable answers to everyday household problems become both entrepreneurial and charitable as he encourages not the copyright or patent but the proliferation of his ideas and practices.
"Audio Relay" 2002-ongoing Brennan McGaffey in Collaboration with Temporary Services
This is Beyond Green's introduction to its manifesto. Continuing through the gallery space, numerous other possibilities and budding projects for a sustainable world unfold. It is truly this way of thinking, this language that Beyond Green wishes to encourage. Not all of the projects and designs are as visually or philosophically as sophisticated as the next. The exhibit can seem somewhat scattered in this way and could be more composed. And some of the groups' ideas seem, while creative, not truly pressing, or even somewhat impractical. The formal elements of these pieces, while brilliant in design and manifestation, do not feel rife with urgency. The show as a whole could have more eloquence, more poetry, more grace, more anarchy. In the back of the Hoffman gallery the two pieces that seem closer to this are the pieces "Under Discussion" by the group Allora & Calzadilla and Michael Rakowitz's "paraSITE" and "(P)lot".
Still from "Under Discussion" 2004-2005 Allora & Calzadilla
"paraSITE" 1998 Michael Rakowitz
As newly elected President Obama faces now one of the most difficult presidencies with which to contend, we as a populace must inspire one another in order to creatively find ways to accommodate and sustain our masses. This inspiration is often ignited by the infusion of poetry, of ingenuity, and of urgency in the call to action.
What a great show to check out after the election.
It will be interesting to see what will look very dated to the Bush years by February 2009.... a lot of work I would see in Miami each year seemed to be an exercise in frustration.... which is understandable but it's work like this Beyond Green show that risks failing as art for higher goals (which ironically can lead to better art).
Instead of a pandering stance (like a lot of art fair work) I prefer the stuff that passes or fails on its own merits and agendas.
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