Noticing: Participation

Chris Staley tells us, “Notice what you notice.”

Lately, I’ve been noticing that I’m drawn to artwork that involves its audience.  Some of my upper-level students know my story of “breaking up” with art in summer 2011.  The story in a nutshell is that I’m having a harder time these days with work that just passively sits there on the white walls or pedestals of a museum.  I’m almost starting to resent it.  My preference / resentment might stem from deep involvement in projects like Empty Bowls, or working with colleagues at PGSA and BLUR who are equally resistant to passive, stoic art.  Anyhow, art and I are doing a little better these days, because I’m starting to seek out, make, and nudge my students towards making works that are more participatory or audience-centered.  And that’s why I fell in love with Michael Strand’s piece ‘Misfit Cup Liberation Project‘ at the NCECA Biennial.

You’ve got to watch this.

Basically, what Strand asked participants to do is to bring in a misfit cup – a cup that no longer has a place in their lives – and to exchange it for a new handmade cup he created.  He invited his participants to write a brief story about what led them to select and exchange the misfit cup.  Some of these stories were moving, some funny, some confusing, some heartwrenching.  But what made this piece so unusual to find in a gallery setting was that the stories made up the substance of the final presented piece.  Strand’s piece was a display of the exchanged cups rather than any new ceramic work.

In the video, Strand notes, “It’s working from a place of inquiry rather than knowing what I want to tell the world.  It’s sort of harvesting and kind of embedded in the community rather than ‘showing’ the community.”

Simply put – yes, please.

And now I’m investigating.  Seems Mr. Strand is investigating similar themes in other projects.  I’m deeply, deeply intrigued, and I’m guessing from our class discussions that some of my students will be, too.

What should we do with this, guys?


8 thoughts on “Noticing: Participation

  1. I love the idea of displaying some cups that have seen and been through more than i have been through in my life, like the one cup that that guy took to jail and drank out of everyday.

  2. It is cool to think about cups. How they are actually worth so much in life. People just see right through them and just use them for drinking out of.

    • It’s amazing to think about the connections we have to objects, in general. In some ways, we can look at every object we use as a metaphor….

  3. I really enjoy this display because it has much more to do then just the art. By this new approach on creating a new bowl and leaving the old one(old habits) behind. This is just another prime example on art being deeper then just being good with your hands.

  4. This project goes much farther than just making mugs. The story associated with each mug gives it an identity and so much more of a meaning than just a simple mug. I wonder what types of stories we would find out about if we did something like this.

  5. I think this shows that art isnt always made by the artist and it is the work of many different people put together to create 1 work of art.

  6. I really like the way that the ceramic cups are being displayed. although the display cases are made out of wood they really add to the cups and make them more interesting.

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