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Glowlounge: June 2003


wednesday, june 25, 2003
red and black lounge
speaker: swoon
minutes recorded by sharilyn neidhardt, glowlab contributing writer

attendees: christina ray, marcus nystrom, jeff stark, holly tavel, sal randolph, carol stakenas, dave mandl, peter lasell, sharilyn neidhardt, callie (swoon)

callie tells me how she got to ride through the spray of a fire hydrant that was opened on bedford ave. she is visibly soaked.

christina does some introductions, alerts everyone to the new website design. it will be based on a system of blogs hosted by 20six.co.uk.

callie begins to unpack her voluminous backpack of goodies.

her first artifact is a small plastic box, a little thicker and smaller than a paperback novel. it is decorated with a city scape design. inside is an accordion-folded page displaying various swoon pieces around different cities. she originally designed this with the upcoming berlin show in mind.


callie describes her collective, toyshop, and the way it combines many things she is interested in: street parties, street art, performances, all the different ways of living in a city.

callie talks about her work having a very odd relationship to galleries, the tension of needing to create artifacts of the very public work to display in a gallery setting.

callie says the swoon work is about creating something people could interact with. she describes the 'hipster' enthusiasm for street art.

callie describes her latest project, a street art exchange. many artists all over the globe are contacting callie and sending her art which can be placed or carried out by another artist. callie matches artists with artworks and asks for documentation of any kind to be sent back to her and to the original artist.

callie mentions her work is in a show in soho opening thursday 6-8p at 6 spring st. 'indivisible cities'.

callie describes her impulse as wanting to open up ideas about graffiti, and to encourage people to participate in their city.

callie passes around a painted metal piece sent to her (part of the exchange) from an artist in upstate new york. she also passes around some silly/serious monsters and other cartoony street art pieces sent to her by 'so fuzzy crew'. she describes a piece of the crew's street art that depicts a cuddly stuffed animal with fangs and the caption 'pure evil'. it cracks her up.

callie fantasizes about 'leaving paintings everywhere'.

there is a brief discussion about howard finster and the outsider art movement, and the way the outsider art movement overlaps with graffiti/street art.

callie talks about her experiences talking with the wooster collective, describes their aesthetic and their founder. she has contacted several members of that collective to participate in her exchange. callie again mentions that she feels some pressure to create documentation, artifacts, remnants.


jeff asks callie if it is primarily artists or non-artists who are participating in the exchange. after questioning this distinction, she answers that almost exclusively the participants are artists.

as an example, callie gives one of the exchange pieces to sal. here is an exerpt from the email, which callie read to us: "should i send you instructions and drawings for setting the absurd energy free?" additional instructions ask the participant to build a space outside with no permanent traces, take a bus stop and change it into a farmhouse temporarily.

callie describes some of the exchange projects as creating confusing or
silly situations in public spaces.

callie passes around stickers sent to her which depict birds in flight. the accompanying instruction is: 'please post these stickers where you see pigeons'. the group laughs about the fact that pigeons cover virtually every outdoor space in new york.

markus describes an idea for a nomadic cubicle which could be set up on the street in new york [a la the nomadic cafe, participants in the '03 psygeoconflux]. he describes a person busily talking on a cellphone, angrily responding to curious passers by with 'can't you see i'm trying to work here?'.

christina reads from the exchange project she was given. it is apparently very elaborate. "create 8 objects which you must install in a public space under my direction".

callie responds that the instructions may be freely interpreted by the artist. she tells of another exchange where an artist was sent a picnic set. the placesettings seemed too tiny for humans, so she scattered birdseed on it and made it a picnic for pigeons.

christina suggests that callie document somehow the confusion about the instructions.

callie pulls out of her bag an example of her latest public work. it is a large wood block print on brown kraft paper. it depicts a bike delivery person, larger than life size. she describes the process by which she prints them on a large woodblock on the floor of her apartment, using her feet as the press.

she describes the way public art takes on a life apart from the artist. often her work is taken down or destroyed. sal describes watching one of callie's cut=out pieces being scraped from a wall across the street from her apartment.

a comment is made about the artistry of an envelope one of the exchange pieces was sent in. callie is excited about the way the exchange piece is incorporating so many things she enjoys: mail art, conceptual work, public performances, street art.

christina asks about callie's upcoming exhibition in berlin: what will be displayed? how will it happen?

callie talks about making artifacts, documenting exchanges. an art television piece is being made, showing a group readying a piece for exchange, the piece is received by callie, she assigns it to another artist for execution. documenting the exchange process.

christina comments on tagging and the politics of tags.

callie describes her street art as being at odds with graffiti in some ways. her paper works are wheat pasted onto surfaces rather than painted directly. often she is covering tags.

callie observes that graffiti artists obey very stringent rules about their art practice, ironic since it is such a decentralized and anarchic form. she goes into some detail about a graffiti hierarchy: tags, then four-letters, then throw-ups, with murals being the highest form. she discusses the rigid form of tags: no figurative drawing, little embellishment, just letters. a piece can go over a tag, but not the reverse.

christina asks if callie is often confronted in the commission of her pieces, callie says no.

holly observes that it helps that callie is a young cute girl.

callie tells a story about a project she organized to cover up all the billboards on a single block. they heard there was an anti-graffiti task force assigned to the area on that day. she talked to one of the task force members about whether or not they were going to get hassled. he outlined for her the profile they were prosecuting: 15-24 year-old males going out at 1-3am and using spray paint. since she does not fit this profile, she is not hassled.

holly tells the group about the adbusters 'black spot' campaign.


markus describes adbusters television spots that have been rejected by CNN and others. callie passes around a piece she intends to leave in a store. it is a glass juice bottle with an intricate cutout inside, depicting an abstract city scape. she gives props to sal, says how inspired she was by the 'free words' project.

callie relates another inspiration for the bottle piece: a label on a box of baking soda, which she misread as 'keep this and all products out of the reach of women'.

holly describes another project subverting commercial space: 'execution' greeting cards which can be printed out from a website for free and placed in hallmark stores among the other greeting cards.

christina expresses a desire for next year's psygeoconflux to include this type of claiming private commercial space as public space.

sal describes 'the problem of scientology' for barnes and noble; the hordes of 'rearrangers' who sift through the store and set books in the wrong order, face certain books out, or insert books into the stacks at barnes and noble. barnes and noble goes to considerable expense to combat this activity.

is commerical space public or private? is rearranging actually subversion?

jeff: is grassroots the most effective way of making change?

sal: what does 'effective' mean? what is being affected?

using more to do less rather than using less to do more.

sal asks callie whether she consider the exchange project an art work, and if so, which is the art part. callie stumbles a bit on the question. i interject that she doesn't have to know the answer.

the exchange project has a cooperative structure, and there are many different focal points. callie thinks aloud about how she will describe this decentralised activity in a gallery setting.

sal mentions how much she enjoyed participating in the recent moveon.org primary, which callie, christina and myself also participated in. there is much gushing over the effectiveness of this organisation.

callie remembers a quote from gordon matta-clark which has stuck with her, "it's all about the people".

christina asks about the context of the gallery, draws attention to similar projects operating within the gallery system which are conceptual or participatory. often these projects produce artifacts which are then sold as art objects, i.e., the thai restaurant, etc.

the spirit of chris burden is invoked. sal muses that its ironic that the padlock (from the school locker he locked himself in more than 25 years ago) is the thing traded as an art object. i point out that he no longer does such conceptual work, he now makes elaborate objects and installations which are much easier to market and sell.

the problem of the artifact taking the place of the artwork is discussed. callie(?) points out that a rock taken from the site of the acropolis will never be equal to the acropolis itself.

[at this point the lights were dimmed and it became a bit harder to take notes. additionally, the conversation became more fragmented and freeform. the notes that follow are probably not as complete as they could be.]

sal describes different ways to represent a work that is not an object. it is essential to be clear about which part is the artwork and which part is the documentation. andy goldsworthy is briefly trashed.

the art market is a luxury market. what does it mean for marginalised or working class artists to be producing for a luxury market?

street art is non-commodity and non-object. so how do street artists support themselves and their art?

art conveys or provides a specific experience. when the art is the experience, how 'authentic' is the documentation of that experience?

sal and carol have a back-and-forth about conceptual artists of the early seventies, including one who released a quantity of helium over san francisco, and another who removed every mention of his name from the art world record. how to be a part of the conversation (art history) without producing saleable artifacts.

peter talks about artifacts being used to provide a justification and explanation for the performance. he is frustrated when the artifacts or documents seem much more interesting than the performance itself. he compares documentation to ethnography, and observes that much art documentation uses 'science-oriented signifiers' to lend validity.

callie compares art in a gallery to an animal in a zoo. the animal in a cage makes her sad, but she feels excited about the opportunity to be close to an animal she would otherwise never encounter, and feels that zoos may inspire conservation by providing a sanitised 'nature' to interact with.

we agree that this metaphor is one we've heard before. sal describes a protective impulse. there are different problems in documenting different artworks. 'take a picture, it's going in a museum'.

[at this point the discussion about documentation became heated. two glasses of wine conspired to interest me more in the discussion than in documenting the discussion. the meeting broke up about 20 minutes later, but only after a very interesting discussion of creative time's participation in the 'tribute in light'.]


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