Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Speaker - Production class #5

Tonight we had a guest lecture from John Quigley, who is an activist, artist and organizer. He has taken over 100 aerial photographs of people on the ground working for environmental causes. We had the pleasure of participating in an experiment of his, and being photographed by him. We were asked to create an image for the organization 350.org, specifically using the number '350.' This was to be done in 3 ways: with objects, with a sign and with our bodies as a group. I found personally that using my body to be part of the message was the most powerful, and I believe this was because it meant I couldn't just be a by-stander. I was actually physically involved. The next most powerful was the arranging of objects, because we were thrown into a physical task. And the least effective for me was the sign. I wondered what it would have been like to be asked to bring an object, perhaps for a larger cause, to be incorporated into the photo.

To further elaborate on the process of using my body as part of the message, I was also participating without having to make too many choices. By being present and using my body it was easy to be involved. In arranging the objects there was an obligation to interact, that could be good, depending on the intended outcome. If I was coming to support a cause in a big group I would rather use my body than be thrown into the paradox of choice with others. I did enjoy the problem solving that went along with the arrangment of objects, but it was also a little caotic.

Hearing John speak about his work was really inspiring. He had a lot of really good tips and advise to offer, such as:
  • recognizing the political structure your working within, and possiblly reframing your way of working with an organization - offfer project as means of support
  • Recognizing a real "no" and a false "no"
  • Working from a Code of Ethics
  • Using art as a tool of coalition building - sometimes getting 2 parties to talk that otherwise would of never communicated before the possiblity of being apart of something bigger.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Project in Process

For my class 'Advanced Topics: Urbanism' our first project is to notice something specific about our neighborhood and take 30 photos. We've had a month to do this, and I have been trying, but alas, I can not create unless under the wire. So it's due on Monday, and I am finally really starting to make progress on it. The process started with me taking pictures of spaces, mostly parks, with and without people. Then I read an article by Jane Jacobs and realized the answer to my question with that idea, and moved on. Next I became interested in patterns. So I began taking photos of patterns in my neighborhood. I was interested in the metaphor of patterns for the diversity in the neighborhood. While I was out finding patterns, mostly on buildings, I had an epiphany. If I was interested in talking about the diversity of people in my neighborhood, then maybe I should just photograph them.

I quickly came up with a criteria for how I would do this while photographing the first person. I introduced myself as a student in the neighborhood working on a project to take pictures of people in the neighborhood. I would try to ask every other person I encountered on the street, that wasn't walking too fast or in mid conversation with someone else. Without realizing it, I quickly had meet 10 people in my neighborhood. I tried to keep the encounters as brief contacts and only told my name if people asked, and didn't ask for theirs. Some people enjoyed talking, while others just said 'thank you'. I was aiming for anonymous contact, which as Jane Jacobson suggested, is a vital part of a community.

A few observations that I had with this experience:
  • Older women were less likely to allow me to photograph them
  • Older Asian people were less likely to allow me to photograph them
  • Males were more likely (I wonder if that was because I was a young woman)
  • Younger men and women were more likely to allow me to photograph.
  • Half the people that allowed me to photograph them asked me questions, like were I went to school and what I was studying.
  • One person asked me my name.
I really feel like a public practice grad student now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Figuring it Out.

After my botched presentation I started questioning why I had even picked these communities, and asking my self if I really felt a personal connection to these communities. In talking about my presentation failures with Suzanne, I came across some clearer answers as to why these communities were of interest to me. In trying to identify a personal issue that was important to me I kept thinking that I was hiding from a personal cause I cared about: health care. In actuality I had gone straight to the source in an equally personal issue: home and homelessness.

I also noticed that I was speaking with a lot of 'should's' in questioning myself; a sure sign that I'm trying to live up to someone else's expectations other than my own. Suzanne did have a good point that this program is a good environment to explore issues you wouldn't otherwise. In approaching my chosen community, I'm going to keep that in mind, but also trust myself with my choices.

Every day I learn so much more about this field and myself. Such a rewarding experience.


On Tuesday night I had one of my first failures. Keeping in mind that this is a productive part of the process, I have to mention it. During the last Production Studio class we were getting ready to present our organizations of interest. I was feeling ready having done my sketches, made notes and talked to one of the communities. But the problem was that I wasn't prepared with what my professor wanted, which was just the facts about the organizations/communities. I had gotten ahead of myself and over looked the simplest of tasks.

While it had been a big embarrassing mess for me in front of the class, I woke up the next day ready to find answers the questions I didn't know. I called and talked with my organization I was most interested in: District 13's Neighborhood Council of East Hollywood. Much to my surprise there was interest in my ideas, and the VP of the council was interested to get involved.

So lesson learned: when you fall down, just get back up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Love in a Cementary Questionaire

As part of my program, all incoming Otis students in the Public Practice program participate in a community project at the beginning of the program. This year Andrea Bowers in our instructor and is participating in a residency at 18th street studios in Santa Monica. For her residency she has decided to develop a laboratory or practicum where experimentation with interventions and collaborations between cultural and community organizations take place. This is our 1st year community project. Below is a questionnaire that she and Bob Sain developed.

  1. Do cultural organizations have the responsibility to address social issues such as class, ethnicity, gender and politics? Why and how?
  2. Can a cultural organization impact the life of the community in a meaningful way? And is so, how?
  3. What are the roles for artists within cultural organization? Should artistic programs be determined only be curators and directors?
  4. What should cultural institutions look like today and in the future? What might a "new" cultural organization look like?
These questions and ideas are to tie into of project in some way. My answers to these are to follow soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Third Week.

The end of the third week is here. I believe I finally have a regular schedule of classes to follow, and the work load is starting to pile up. It's been an intense few weeks, full of long days (some 14 hours), but I'm starting to get used to it. And while there is a lot of work ahead, I'm pretty excited about it.

My program is full of great people, amazing professors and tons of opportunities. In fact, I never thought I would of had so many opportunities. I've had to be realistic about where I want to focus my energy and what I'm really capable of doing. In the spirit of this, I dropped one class, so I am down to 15 credits, which is 5 classes. Still a lot, but that's really the minimum that we're expected to take. I also decided to not apply for the TAship at a local high school, since it wasn't what I wanted.

Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and a bit of a break this weekend. The great thing about this program is that things I like to do all feed into my work.


It's Thursday night and I'm racking my brain about this community project, which we begin presenting our ideas on Tuesday. I need to limit my interests to 3 organizations that I would be interested in collaborating. I should really be in Fresno with my professor and class, but it just didn't work out, so I am missing an awesome Feminist lecture.

For the first time, I started have fun thinking about all of the different organizations I could work with and remembered that I have my whole life to do this work, not just the next 2 years. That was a much needed perspective, because I was becoming too overwhelmed; feeling like my career was betting on this. It's just one of many opportunities that will come my way.

Remembering back to the days before school, I use to fret about how to make make these connections with organizations, and once I do, what to do. So it's not so different, but I have been down this path before, but this time I have teachers and colleagues. Over the last week, I kinda forgot how important that was, and started thinking about how much this school was costing me. My advise if you decide to go to a expensive school, sign the papers and don't think about it, especially if you have to create.

Back to the ideas about the community project: I have it narrowed down to 3, and then there's a possible fourth. The good news is that which ever organization I don't chose now I can use for my next year project and thesis. The communities I'm thinking about working with are as follows: a local Neighborhood Council in East Hollywood, Silver Lake Farms, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, and the possible 4th is tied between the Arthritis Foundation - LA chapter and LA Care. So the issues I'm looking at working with are: Land, Food, Neighborhoods and health care. All really diverse, but important to me.

Time to take a break on this and start planing the rest of my weeks schedule as its going fast. Tomorrow is a lecture with the 2nd year students at FarmLab.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


As others in their second year of this program warned: There Will BE CONFLICT!
And so it was that I had my first run in with a fellow colleague. The details of the scenario are unimportant, only that if was resolved amicably. Perhaps it was practice for the community project I am beginning this semester.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Field Trip

This program seems to be really big on field trips, which is great. For my 3rd class in Production Studio took a field trip down to the District 13 City Council's office. We were toured through the neighborhood by the founder of LA Commons and the VP of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council (where I home to do my community art project). Here are some picture of the class and neighborhood from that day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Community Art Production Studio - 2nd Class

We began with a tour this afternoon by Clayton Campbell, the man responsible for curation of the 18th st. art studio space where our class is held. After viewing the space and talking about the history of the art center, I'm still left wondering about the neighborhood that this space exists within.
(?) Check out map and research area of 18th st. studios

Next, Pauline introduced us to some frame work to think about this project. She gave us (5) areas to consider:
1) Investigation - of ourselves and the various organizations
2) Access / Gatekeeper - Who is the person that can allow us the into the organization to even talk about the possibility of collaborating?
3) Engaging the Community - this can happen through a variety of ways:
----social engagement
----Public Practice
4) Outcome - How will this piece manifest its self?
5) Sustanability - What will happen after our partnership is over?

(?) Note to self - Consider process model

Next we spoke about fundraising. We concluded that we should all try to raise $500 per project. We discussed in-kind donations and events that we could hold.

HW - for next class:
* See (?) above
* Research organization to pair with
* Brainstorm fundraising ideas
* Email Andrea a blub or 18th st. website
* Read the theme of 18th St. " Creative Economy"
* Pick up copy of Ad Busters for a world view update