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Drawing Residency: Performing to Curating. My thoughts.

Eames ArmstrongBy Eames Armstrong on Aug 30, 2012 | Add a Comment Add a Comment (324)

Drawing Residency: Performing to Curating. My thoughts.

(Exhibition opening 8/31/2012 6-9pm 87Florida.)  I spent seventy-six consecutive hours hosting a drawing project at the Pink Line Project headquarters, which is Philippa Hughes's apartment, from Thursday, August 23-Sunday, August 27.  The particular project was born out of the opportunity; Philippa invited me to do an artist residency in her apartment.  Echoing the generous opening of her space to me, I wanted to open her space to a lot of other artists.  So the residency developed into a hybrid project, at once a social art piece, an endurance performance, and a curatorial experiment.  My intent was to invite artists to produce work with me at my residency which I could then show in an exhibition the following weekend, selected to show the best work I created.  That I created, because even if I did not physically draw the piece, I'm responsible for its coming into existence, therefore Philippa created the work as well in giving me the opportunity to complete this project. 

I'm interested in exploring my role as a curator who is an artist.  And as an artist, I developed the residency with durational performance in mind.  The residency began at 6pm on Thursday and ended at 10pm on Sunday.  I didn't set strict rules for myself, keeping it more like real life than performance, but still conceiving of the residency part of the project as a piece in and of itself.  In a way, I was poking a little fun at long endurance performance that pushes to the very limits of what the body is capable of.  I don't think that the integrity of a piece is necessarily tied to how readily an artist is willing to hurt themselves.  That said, the whole thing was incredibly taxing on me.  To act as hostess for basically four days straight, to be "on" and just talking and engaging, in addition to drawing as much as I could, with little sleep and some partying was really draining, but no more or less than I expected it to be.  I could leave if I wanted to, I was asked a lot if I was "allowed" to leave.  On Saturday I went as far as Sweetgreen on P St for lunch, feeling like my neurotic food habits weren't being met by my reluctance to be demanding on my hostess, it isn't like me to be demanding, preferring self-sufficiency.  An important part of the agreement was that Philippa would provide me (and everyone who came) with space, food, drink, and materials (donated by Utrecht.)  Which she did, but I'll leave it at that I am a little neurotic.  I didn't leave much or for long though, the residency was first of all meant to be a time to make work, and particularly when I didn't have guests over I tried to take advantage of the time to draw.

From a pseudo-sociological perspective, it was really fascinating to see the way a lot of people dealt with drawing.  Some people came right in and got to work, with a preconceived idea of what to make, and others doodled a while thinking, and others used my ready-made ideas.  I printed about a hundred fortune-cookie-like pieces of paper with "ideas" on them, like "baby mountain," "shrimp cocktail," "donut kiss," "modern breakfast," "thousands of hands," etc. in case someone needed a jumping-off point.  Otherwise, I wanted participants to draw what and how they wanted.    I was surprised by the level of participation.  For some reason, I had kind of expected (wanted?) more negativity or criticality about the project itself- and anticipated that a lot of guests would disregard drawing in favor of partying.  In retrospect, a number of factors are likely responsible for the focus, but such a pleasant surprise that the event went largely the way that I had hoped but didn't expect.  I was likewise surprised by the time commitment a lot of artists made, with several return visitors.  In the exhibition, it will be fairly obvious who spent a lot of time there with me, the ones who really took advantage of the residency as a time/space to make work.  

I love to introduce people, I got to enjoy that non-stop, and think I maybe instigated some meaningful connections, in addition to a lot of great people I met for the first time.  "Artist, meet artist, the fact that you are here means you already have a lot in common."  The guests were primarily invited by me, some from Philippa, and some friends-of-friends.  It was important to the project that participants were invited and it wasn't open to public or whoever, because as a curator I wanted to be sure that work would be made that I would want to show.  Of course I won't show it all, something else that was asked frequently- lots of what was made I kept referring to as "fuck around work," a term I think I'll keep.  It wasn't my intent to make a utopic free-for-all situation in which "everyone is an artist."  Great if anyone at all wants to draw outside my project, I hope they do, but I believe in curating.

The ties to my predecessor Agnes Bolt's piece l were unavoidable.  I intentionally tried to keep a low profile on the project, remembering with more than a little irony how critical I was of that piece as I heard about it through heavy media coverage- way before I met Philippa.  Additionally, I didn't want it to be about exclusion as an invite-only event, and keeping it on the down-low I thought could avoid any popularity contest issues of who's who in DC, I invited friends and artists I know.  Though my focus was not in producing a community-building project, involving a lot of artists in this way created representation of the group as they left and their work remained, documentation and product of the project.  I'm looking so forward to the opening not just to see and show off some of the amazing work that was produced, but to get to see everyone I shared this experience with again.

More info and pictures on Aether Art Projects, and the event on Facebook

(first posted on on 8/29/2012) 

photo by Deena Odelle Hyatt



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