This post I wrote for Open Engagement’s 100 Questions, 100 Days blog was published today:
Sean Orlando has led and participated in grandiose sculptural installations around the world since 2006 and has recently completed a year as de Young Artist Fellow. This June, the artist will explore his own artistic inklings and sensibilities as a solo artist for the first time.
What’s in store?
Undoubtedly, it will still contain all of the elements that we’ve come to love – industry, beauty, detail, science, art, ideation, and something unexpected.
Steampunk Tree House (2007-10)
The Lumbering Contraption (2008)
The Raygun Gothic Rocketship (2009-present)
The Nautilus (2011-13)
Steve Dye, old friend and Exhibitions Technical Manager at SFMoMA, suggested a book about how to visualize all of my research. Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is a real treat.
It turns out Mr. Tufte has a number of books, as well as one-day courses. I am of course curious how to relay all of this research, which is really the juiciest stuff of all, in effective, visually interesting language. Of course some of it will be relayed by discussion, talks, activities… but though the aesthetics of scraps of scribbled notes is cool, it might not be the way to go.
Another interesting thing Steve shared with me is the process and considerations of collecting and caring for media based artworks. He is constantly tested by media, intentions of artists and curators, and limits of formats as they change. SFMoMA is part of a network project Matters in Media Art, that has been developing a ‘best practices’ study for collecting and caring for media. They, too, have made some swell charts.
Some sketches for my own graphic visualization:
Lock up your belongings. You are now entering the Bancroft Library. This wonderful place holds dear to its heart the value of material culture, and protects it lovingly. I visited the Exploratorium’s physical archive here- just 1 oversized lot with a few folders and a tube containing an original XL exhibition poster, a series of posters from a 1989 concert series, and original architectural drawings for exhibitions with sticky notes still attached. If I were patient enough, I could have ordered many more boxes, which needed to be picked up from a warehouse in Richmond and delivered the next day. One can order these items online once registered at the Library, which is across from the Campanile on UC Berkeley’s campus. These documents are invaluable for research about the pre-digital age. If only we could know what will happen to our digital files… .
Their website hosts a slew of information as well, with very detailed finding aids. For instance, here’s a handy PDF of everything inside the Exploratorium archive. If this doesn’t inspire you to get organized, I don’t know what will. http://pdf.oac.cdlib.org/pdf/berkeley/bancroft/m87_148_cubanc.pdf.
If you go in person, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time, as you have to got through a few hoops to see anything. The librarian/archivists are very helpful and personally assist you so you can enjoy your findings. Be prepared before visiting>>> http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Here’s a link to their entire collection, thanks to the Online Archive of California: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/institutions/UC+Berkeley::Bancroft+Library
What has value? Who decides?
Yesterday I met with Justine Topfer, Project Manager from SF Arts Commission. She runs the Art on Market program, which I feel is one of the more important and successful public art programs around. If you walk down Market Street in downtown SF, you come across a changing poster series done by local artists, almost always about a local, current issue. Many of the 6-part works are based in process-oriented or relational work that end up in a 2 dimensional realization of the projects. These accessible multiples are human scale at 4′ x 6′. To some they are a refreshing change from advertising; to others, more imagery to come across in the chaotic street. Many of the works were made by former emerging artists that have now gained notoriety in San Francisco and beyond. Justine was generous to speak frankly about the state of these posters once they finish their public tenure on Market St.
Each artist gets 1 set of posters, while the Arts Commission stores the rest (5 more sets). They are for sale on the SFAC website, if you can dig your way there. They are not, much to my dismay, collected as art works by the Arts Commission, and now, after 22 years, they are wondering what to do with these posters that had once flanked the streets. There is talk of sifting through to keep some “important” ones, while throwing the rest away.
How do we decide what is important and why? Storage? Yes, it’s problematic. So is commitment. I propose the Arts Commission purchase and care for one of each poster as an archive of not only their work, but also of these times. Perhaps the SF Library or a museum could collect them. What does it mean to throw away years of work, even if it is a multiple? If they were to take the time and resources to digitize them in hi resolution, could they promise to be the stewards of new digital forms as they change through time?
I propose these objects are valued, saved, loved and kept in their physical, material state.
Art on Market Posters by Packard Jennings and Steve Lambert (top left), Helena Keeffe (top right) and Jennifer Wofford (bottom left)
As this project moves forward, I am recognizing not only specific interests, but classifications that can help organize my findings. In terms of specific interests, it has been necessary from the beginning to replace the word “remarkable” with what that means to me. I think one of the things that makes the Bay Area scene remarkable is the amount of post-studio practice happening, and all the zillions of things that has allowed it (and other art practices) to happen. So, I’ve brought in these guidelines for my working timeline:
venues & initiatives
Since art involves so, so many other influences outside of art, I will be curious to see what comes to the table when the public is invited to help me complete the timeline whilst I am in residence at the Kimball. I am ready to discover and debate.
The Prelinger Library is one of the rare ‘private’ libraries/archives open to the public. I put private in quotes in that it is not publicly funded, but in fact it is a “free offering, an installation, a workshop, and an extension of our living room” according to a humble printed info sheet offered to me by Rick when I came through the door. I visited Megan and Rick Prelinger’s labor of love for the first time yesterday. Somehow it didn’t really cross my path until recently, though I’ve been here for a long, long time. Alas, now I know. I was lost in there for hours, uncovering an unusual taxonomy, looking though books, ‘zines from the old Mission punk infoshop/record store Epicenter, an archive project by artist Amy Balkin, and a lovely assortment of ephemera: soft bound cookbooks produced by appliance manufacturers from the 50’s, found photos, maps and more. I was taken with the book section entitled Utopia, realizing I need to do more research there considering I use the word freely about my practice.
“The library is primarily a collection of 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books, most published in the United States. Much of the collection is image-rich, and in the public domain. The library specializes in material that is not commonly found in other public libraries. The library has three major sections: The main shelves, the ephemera collection, and, in Row Six, holdings of standalone collections and oversize materials.” http://www.prelingerlibrary.org/home/collection/. Here you will find the quirky system of organization that leads you through the magic.
You can visit Wednesdays from 1-8 to and are encouraged to uncover a sense of wonder and serendipity. You never know where the next subject may lead you. You can also go online and visit a number of free, downloadable delights, of both printed material and moving images. Their website alone is a magical place to get lost. http://www.prelingerlibrary.org/home/.