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?