XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 6

Next.

M. Scott Tatum

We’ve come a long way baby…

(Click on the glowing building to see an example of video projection mapping in action.)

The Big 6 Things We’ve Learned

New Art Forms

There are concepts and forms of performing and visual arts emerging that don’t cleanly fall into any genre we have had before.  Most of these are the products of different areas beginning to collaborate in ways that are less just supportive of each other (say, the ballet and symphony) and far more aligned with devising pieces (Solo Symphony: A Dance By Peter Bay, for instance).  How we discuss them, market them, train future practitioners, critique them, and create them is unclear and will continue to challenge our vocabulary moving forward.

New Physical Spaces

No longer is theatre in an auditorium and music in a concert hall.  As we begin to reclaim relics of the industrial revolution, meet huge financial difficulties at the non-profit, governmental, and business level, and as new requirements for our emerging forms of art take shape, we find that we must create spaces that can be virtually blank canvases and technological wonders, grand yet intimate, neighborhood based but world-class, special-event environments that are getting daily use, and still be able to take care of our traditional arts.  The balancing act required of these new physical spaces will require a better understanding of how all stakeholders interact with the arts.

New Role of the Arts Organization

Centuries/millennia of being the primary cultural experience have made the visual and performing arts lazy.  As different art forms continuously generate themselves, it’s time to take a look at the role of any arts organization in a community.  Are we social objects? Meeting places?  Democratic institutions?  Caretakers of the past?  Foreseers of the future?  Should we focus on education? Performance? Artists?  Learning how any given organization does, and could, fit into a community (local, national, global) requires a strong vision of the purpose of the work being created.  And it can not be insular or self-referential.  Gone are the days of Ars Gratia Artis…we must have a real role in our society if we expect to survive.

New Technology

Moore’s Law loosely suggests that the capacity of a computer doubles every 18 months.  Extrapolated out, we can see technology evolving at a rapid pace that puts stresses on the arts, and everyone else, to keep up with trends and equipment that can dramatically change the way in which we create, live, and interact with the arts.  Conditions are ripe for technology to play a major role in expanding the power and influence of the arts to current and new generations, if we do it right.

New Audience Expectations

If you aren’t following your audience, you aren’t going to have one.  As audiences are bombarded with thousands of choices in how to spend their time and money, there is a battle happening in the arts on how to best engage with this new crowd.  People, however, mistakenly believe that this has not always been the case and if we just try really hard we can keep things the way they always were.  It’s pretty simple, you meet the audience where it is, challenge it to grow, and hope it’ll come along for the ride.  If not, change what you’re doing.

New Ways to Connect

Social media has not altered the way we connect to each other, it has facilitated an ease, consistency, and expansion of who we know and how we stay in touch.  At the end of the day, all of the things old folks stand on their lawn and wave their fists in the air about (smartphones, the Facebook, Twitter, iPads, etc) are simply tools to do what people really want to do…make serious connections with others and interesting content.  We should not mistake their attention to some other thing as a rejection of what we’re doing but rather a challenge to find ways to ramp up our value as social objects.

(Quixotic Fusion at TED, click for video)

…but there is so much farther left to go.

 

To get us through it all and to move forward, let’s think about the following areas of focus:

Transition

We must understand and welcome the fact that the arts in a state of transition.  Not only in this moment, but always. As part of the creative legacy of the arts, we must embrace the constant evolution and movement of the arts.  Do not be scared of change.

Mindset

We must examine the types of mindsets that shield us from our forward momentum as artists.  We need to re-evaluate collectivist, protectionist, hyper-reactive, blame-seeking behaviors, and their associated products, in order to start with an open mind that is prepared for the future.  Do not stop thinking about the new.

Leadership

We must invest in leaders that are harbingers of change, comfortable in chaos and conflict, masters of editing and collaboration, and visionaries who can recognize the value of all that has come but look for all that is yet to arrive.  These leaders need to be excellent communicators, well-rounded academics, creators/artists themselves, and have a natural ability to share their gifts with others.  Do not nay-say every fresh idea, fresh face, or fresh place that comes to you.

Training

And we must institutionalize these changes through a training program that emphasizes the real skills of innovation, leadership, collaboration, and visioning.  We have to let go of content focused degree programs and instead radically recreate the environment in which young arts leaders, artists, and other stakeholders learn.  Do not accept that our current education system will ever create the right kinds of future leaders.

Until Next Time.

In summary, besides my Think Different commercial you can access if you click on the posters below, the ultimate thought that ties all 6 of the Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art posts together is we must be open, willing, and capable of change.  There are great challenges ahead for anyone who can’t commit to growing with the society in which we habit.  There are challenges for us who are ready for evolution too…but we’re far more prepared for that world.  “For change come fast, and change come slow, but everything changes…and you’ve got to go.”

Here’s the to crazy ones…


XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 5

The Social Object

M. Scott Tatum

Can we talk?

In exploring, in more depth, the current trials and tribulations of various classical music organizations and whilst looking at emerging forms of the arts in this Middle Spaces blog, a rather heady theory about social interactions, and their root and causes, came across our screens.  Hugh MacLeod’s The Social Object begins to help us understand what might just be missing from some of the Fine Arts and why an ever decreasing audience is the result. In a nutshell:

“The Social Object…is the rea­son two peo­ple are tal­king to each other, as oppo­sed to tal­king to some­body else. Human beings are social ani­mals. We like to socia­lize. But if [we] think about it, there needs to be a rea­son for it to hap­pen in the first place. That rea­son, that “node” in the social net­work, is what we call the Social Object.”

In taking apart this superficially simple concept that we need things to talk about if we are going to talk, the arts quickly becomes a stodgy, reductive, redundant, and ridiculous social tool.  By this I mean that, we in the fine arts, are so often drawn to claims of fidelity, tradition, and cultural certainty that we not only ignore or are unaware of the world changing around us but actively decry this change as blasphemous.  We wrinkle our foreheads in shock that ANYONE would dare not understand why and how this symphony or painting or 300 year old play could possibly be considered useless in today’s society.

The Social Object-ification of the arts, as a default, is an older mode of a time when the landscape wasn’t nearly as dense with opportunities to create meaningful social connections.  Today, social objects such as a bottle of wine and dinner (see above), bowling, Star Wars trivia, charity balls, a recent new book, your child, and even the new iPhone draw people into connections that result in meaningful dialogue, relationships, and action.

And perhaps this is what is missing now…the point of the Social Object.  The Social Object cannot be the only portion of the formula.  In fact, it is just the very beginning, the impetus.  Social Objects help draw in people so that they may share human connections with each other.  As the arts have become more insular and obsessed with their own tradition, the arts for art’s sake argument has taken on a greater prominence and has lead to a great defeat of its place in modern culture.  What to do?

Creating Social Objects Around New Trends and Technologies

 

In an article from the New York Times last year, Jennifer Preston explores the work of several art museums attempting to leverage social networks to revive their product, their Social Objects, to a place of importance that can be appreciated by more than just a few in-the-know types.  The efforts come in a few different ways:

1. By following each other on Twitter or subscribing to feeds on Facebook, people with affections for certain Social Objects (in this case, art and art information) can be aware of the happenings in their lives.  If Susan is seeing a lecture on architecture, she can let people know what she’s up to in 140 characters and her network of friends and followers will be aware of this and other events.  If you multiply that by even 5 people going to different events, due to their different spheres of information and influence, you create a stream of things to do on your calendar, created by like-minded people.  This is the new word of mouth advertising.

2. By embracing location aware “check-in” services such as FourSquare or on Facebook, through either direct asks or incentives, organizations can combine the aforementioned worth of mouth advertising with data collection that places unconnected parties enjoying the Social Object into groups. Direct advertising possibilities for the organization and creation of a peer group for the people means an organic and expanded audience base who tie their friendship, social experiences, interests, and resource expenditures to your brand.

3. Using sites like Meetup.com to create normalized and ritual based excursions that are open to any and everyone can engage curiosity, social grouping, and give a reliable source of audiences for an institution.

By taking these and other ideas to the next level, we can imagine a set of instances where the blurring of cultural event, technological communication and everyday life could be the norm.  But what about getting people more involved in the creation of art?

Crowdsourcing Art

Through tools like Kickstarter, we find that artists are attempting to leverage their Social Objects in a way that will help fund their work.  By packaging their projects with splashy videos and giving incentives, Kickstarter campaigns have become Social Objects in and of themselves.  The layered concept that one must create a Social Object in order to excite interest in funding an additional Social Object is not lost on advertisers (see: Superbowl Half-Time Commercials) but is a newish thought to most in the arts.
But this is not the only way that we could think about Crowdsourcing, or having many people help do one thing, the arts.  Instead of crowdsourcing patronage of a particular artist, http://phonearts.net/  encourages its contributors to create the art themselves (see an example above).  By turning over control to a large group of people with smart phones (around 500 million of them sold in 2012 alone), lowering the media/materials bar to something accessible by many, and encouraging experimentation, Phone Arts created an online gallery of work created solely on a phone.  What’s their Social Object? The phone and the artwork they create with it means that conversations, through the tumblr model, are active and viral.

The Magic Tate Ball

Finally, a quick look at a Social Object that lives somewhere in between all of these discussions so far:
“Magic Tate Ball is a new location-based mobile app from Tate, inspired by the iconic Magic 8 Ball, where players shake the ball in search of an answer to one of life’s mysteries. The difference is, when you shake your phone, this clever app presents you with an artwork that is linked to your surroundings. Using date, time-of-day, geographical location, live weather data and ambient noise levels the app will trawl through a selection of artworks from Tate’s collection for the best match.”
Location, time, date, weather, and noise aware…provocative and share worthy with in-person communication…specific to a certain organization…and expandable once you interact with the actual museum.  This product has the opportunity to take full advantage of its nature as a Social Object to create meaningful connections between humans and with the institution.  The result is a restoration of the art institution to its place as the original Social Networking site.

 


XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 4

Making Media Mass

M. Scott Tatum

What-the-what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, The Guardian reported on a special project in the UK called THE SPACE.  What is this new fangled contraption on the internets?  As far as I can tell, it’s a collection of British art, music, dance, theatre, film, spoken word, etc, etc, etc.  Essentially, a repository of British Culture, taking advantage of the particular British Moment that occurred this summer, coinciding with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Summer Olympics.  What was intended as a simple cultural record of the summer’s arts events quickly turned into a grand idea of politicians  the Cultural Minister in particular, to tie national funding of organizations and events to the providing live content for a island-wide broadcast channel for the arts.  The BBC-Arts, let’s say, would give an online and broadcast audience to the performances, concerts, art openings, literature readings, etc.  The hope is to bring, according to the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt, “the largest possible audiences completely free of charge.”

Imagine pushing beyond 500 seat theaters or 3000 seat concert halls and performing your art for millions of people who would not otherwise have access to it.  It is an amazing experiment in democratizing the cultures and fine arts of our times.  It is also totally terrifying to everything we know and understand about the business of the arts, the history of technological advances in our fields, and the loyalties (or lack thereof) of audiences for the authentic experience of live performance.

Why invest in the enemy?

We’ve all had to deal with it before…the lone cellphone ringing during a performance…we nervously shift in our seat…throw eyes towards the culprit…want to strangle them for not understanding how to quickly silence their phone…it’s not rocket science, you just HIT THE BUTTON!

And when the New York Philharmonic stopped their performance of Mahler’s No. 9 to deal with an iPhone Marimba, the world stood still until the device was finally, shamefully, silenced.

So, it begs the question: Why would we embrace technologies such as online streaming, mobile platform integration, cell-phones, etc if they far too often cause more problems than their worth.  If they encourage audience members to be distracted, less disciplined, less “art-focused,” less all-enthralled by what the gods artists are presenting to them on stage, why should we make them an integral part of our tool box?

The answer, of course, is that it’s the reality of the world we live in today.  And it would be antithetical for artists (the creators, inventors, and innovators of thought and culture), to be squarely against the new tools of our world.  Would DaVinci look down his nose at the cellphone?  Would Wagner dismiss the iPad as ridiculous?  Would Shakespeare shush an audience talking during a show?  The answers: he would’ve been in line for an iPhone 5 the day it came out, the Ring would have a Story Sync, and “if it is to be, then make it be the grandest!”

As artists, especially those interested in the convergence of traditional and new forms of media, we should strive to explore the middle spaces created where discrete ideas crash into each other.  We should look at ways to leverage one form of story telling or expression to help the other mean more, do more, and reach more.  We should meet audiences where they are and how they live so that they can understand why what we do is important to them..right now…in this moment.

 

What’s the future?

The technology has been available, since 2001, to do things such as synchronize  cell phones to play a symphony.  We’ve been able to do large scale graphic/video mapping onto buildings for several years.  QR Codes are almost every day objects we interact with when carrying our smartphones.  GPS tracks your position constantly through your phone. Wireless networks stand as potential doorways for not only access, but targeted information.  And, with apps like Shazam leading the way, our ability to sync what is happening around us (through audio cues) to what is being displayed on our devices is making shows like The Waking Dead a multi-screen event.
So, it doesn’t take much to imagine a time when engaging with a piece of artwork could mean additional information populates your phone when your GPS or NFC (Near Field Communication) technology notices you are close to something.  Or, watching a dance performance using augmented reality filter on your iPad to see a dancer on an empty stage interact with a fully fleshed out environment on your screen.  Or being able to live translate an opera into any language, define words, and begin to learn how to use them in your own quest to be bilingual, right there in your seat.
The possibilites, as goes the technology, are endless.  But can we be creative about it?

 


XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 3

Not-Quite-Live

M. Scott Tatum

A brief history of “not-quite-live” theatre

Mechanical and projection devices have been used in theatrical entertainment since the mechanicals of ancient Greece and the magic lanterns of medieval times.  In the 20th century, the work of the Epic Theatre, the Bauhaus and Futurists movements began to experiment with the use of non-human actors, broadcast technology, and filmic projections.

During the 80s, technology such as video, satellites, fax machines, etc began to be used to create art and performance.  As the decade went by, computers became more sophisticated, new possibilities emerged. In Australia in the early 1990s Virtual Reality Theatre presented works at the Sydney Opera House, featuring the first hybrid human digital avatars. During the 2000s MIT, The Interactive Performance Laboratory at the University of Georgia, and the Virtual Reality Theatre Lab at the University of Kansas yielded an unprecedented expansion in the use of digital technology in creating media-rich performances. Dance and theatre, especially, were early adopters in these new performance modes and it is now common to see scenic elements, non-human performers, interactive elements, and an ever increasing complication to the way we see productions.

Technological Innovations

Netia Jone’s Where the Wild Things Are demonstrates a new frontier of performance technology integration.  While generating drawings live utilizing several pieces of software, she accompanies the Los Angeles Philharmonic with storytelling that is not just background, but an interactive piece of the performance.  She has control of the animated beings to the point where she can elongate a vowel sound from a singing pig synced to an opera singer or make the beasts hop to a different beat.  Just as Maestro Gustavo Dudamel moves his baton each and every night, her digital paintbrush is creating each and every moment scene.  This is hardly her first endeavor into digital projects.  In her experiments as a digital artist working with classical music, she had attempted to find a way to capture what remains elusive to most purveyors of digital projection content in live performance: naturalism.  Is it the effort to keep as much of the process as live and concurrently occurring as possible that leads to this unassuming naturalism?  Is it her background as a serious student of music that makes her protective of destroying the beauty of a hearing a perfect performance?  Or is it that she understands a basic truth about the use of anything in the arts; that the arts require a human touch?  In discussing this, she recalls a time when an audience shouted, “turn off the video!” during a performance of piece and how this moment in history that we occupy is forcing a discussion of how to use the language we already speak (visually rich, multi-layered media) in an art form that sometimes avoids any sense of evolution.  But as she mentions, “the only really new and modern thing about it is that it’s digital, and we’re dealing with ones and zeros, because the effects and the aspirations are the same as from centuries back.”   This simple belief that, as history points out, we are engrained to attempt to understand through multiple senses allows her to start at a place that is rooted in, and therefore is more, human.

Caught by the Internet

While Ms. Jones strives to utilize technology in a way that is innovative and fresh yet very human, others are seeing the blunt object beat them about concerts, theaters, and on live TV.  And not everyone generates their own ideas or technology.  When more and more digital technology becomes used in the creation and presentation of music, dance, theater, and art, there is a real risk of losing the exclusivity and feeling of spontaneity of a first-hand experience.  When a computer that is connected to the internet is the source of digital content, leaking it to the world is as easy as a click.  And just as many artists, shows, and others have found their work online a new ray of light is shining on the honesty and integrity of artists everywhere.  You just can’t get away with stealing other people’s ideas anymore.  As Beyoncé demonstrates to the world her innovative edge in the American Market (Billboard 2011 Concert Performance of “Who Run The World? (Girls)), a fairly famous European artist created a piece of work that is just  A Bit Too Similar  and a year older than Beyoncé’s performance.  While exciting use of projection in both, the ability to easily lift ideas and work from others through their digital artifacts makes this world of projection integration and other technological advances ripe for a lazy artist mindset.  Hopefully the parallel arrival of savvy art consumers who notice such similarities will also encourage artists to create from scratch.

 

But what happened to using our imagination?

Either way, Ms. Jones innovative works for classical music or Beyoncé’s copycat efforts, the big question lingers: Is any of this really necessary?  The Guardian asks whether the theatre should use our imaginations more and I tend to agree.  While I quite enjoy the awe-inspiring use of a clever bit of technology to achieve something that can’t reasonably be achieved in any other way, there is something beautiful about not always having everything presented to an audience.  Filling in the blanks, metaphorically, is an engagement method that theatre has used since its inception as storytelling around the fire.  Creating images that replace your mind’s ability to connect the dots or imagine its own world could be seen as robbing away our own creative selves.  It could, however, also be seen as a savvy attempt to meet audiences where they are in our media saturated world.  And this is where, for me, things start becoming complicated and difficult to balance.

As a technophile who loves new technology and the powers and creative options it gives a widening group of people, I struggle with a lack of any sort of aesthetic training that teaches appropriate and adequate use.  As a storyteller/director/designer, I revel in the simplicity of the spoken word or a single shaft of light or a well placed chair but know that I could find other ways to connect.  It’s this middle space between what we are now capable of creating technologically and what we are capable of imagining with only our ears, hearts, and minds that many artists, myself include, now find ourselves.


XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 2

Pubs and Plays

M. Scott Tatum

Video Link: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

What happens when Theatre, Music, and other performing arts (re)claim the informal spaces of pubs as venues for their productions?

A growing Middle Space is happening in theaters across the country as companies big and small decide to place large resources into creating, recreating, cooping,  and generally embracing the use of pubs, bars and restaurants as entrance points in their organizations.  Now, I write of this in a seemingly set of generic words not because I dont know what I’m talking about, but rather because the trend hasn’t codified into a easily recognized pattern.  Yes, of course, there is the well-known by the music industry aspect of boozing up audiences to have them better enjoy a show (and, reversely, complain less about premium pricing of beverages at said show since it is seen to be a special occasion).  But there is something else happening in many of the pub and restaurant installations happening at theaters around the country.

Let’s jump to the logical extreme for a second…

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (Daily Mail article on click through) takes the interesting position of not only embracing pub life as a part of the theatre world, but forgetting to bring the physical theater space along with them.  In this production that premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they use the Pub as the performance space.  It is the venue and the setting, the inspiration and the execution of the piece.  The troupe ends up exploring the space through use of Karaoke, bar napkins, tables and chairs, other patrons of the bar (who doesn’t remember getting involved in some drama when out for a drink one night?), and, most importantly, drinking pints of beer.

This removal of barriers seems fancy and new aged, novel in fact, to most theatre goers whose experiences with formal theatre performance is almost always a rather stiff affair of sitting on one side of the stage while the actors or dancers or musicians sit on the other side of the venue.  However, it recalls the courtyard and inn stages of Elizabethan theatre, the travelling players of the Medieval times, and even the storytellers who would recall their days around the cooking fires in prehistoric eras.  While at once new and exciting compared to our overly sanitized performance experiences in the world-class theatre venues, the work that Prudencia Hart is creating taps into our natural desire to connect with a story as it happens.  Just as we rubberneck on the highway to see what the fuss is about in a car accident, turn on the news to learn of the good and bad of the day, and ask our children to recount the activities du jour, we find ourselves looking for more immediate connections to those around us.  Prudencia Hart takes this idea to its logical extreme and makes play out of a space that we usually only reserve for impromptu/natural drama (WHO SPILLED THAT DRINK ON ME?!).  Born out of a need to find additional performance spaces, as Edinburgh Fringe has pretty much filled in any and all available rooms in that city, this company took a chance of mixing the modern storytelling of today (theatre) and mixing it with the comforts of social interaction and nostalgia (the pub), creating a piece that has been met with great response. (As a note, Prudencia Hart will be at Texas Performing Arts at an as yet undisclosed pub location this January).

Chicken or the Egg?

But let’s get back to the other side for a second.  While Prudencia Hart, and others, throw off the shackles of the formal theatre space altogether, many dance, theatre, visual arts, music venues are taking baby steps into the world of pubs by simply adding one to their campuses.

As this New York Times Article lays out, the Public Theatre is wrapping up the work on a $40+ million renovation of their downtown space.  But very little work was done on the theatre venues themselves.  Instead, they added a restaurant, a bar open until 2am, and a large lobby level outdoor veranda space.  Why all the public space focus?  They are taking the fairly well endorsed position that if you can create an image of your space as a 24/7 public venue for food, drink, and socializing, people will also stick around for a show.  By making the venue one that doesn’t operate only for the hour before and after the performance, the Public is betting they can become the central destination of a neighborhood and a self-contained evening on the town.

Austin’s own ZACH Theatre (and their new Topfer Theatre) joins Texas Performing Arts, the currently under construction Austin Playhouse, the Butterfly Bar at the Vortex, etc., as venues in our town that feature opportunities to drink, eat, and mingle extensively before and after the shows and, in some cases, throughout the weekdays as well.  ZACH goes a step further, at least in their publicity materials, to suggest that hanging out at the bar after the show is a surefire way to meet the performers as that will be where they hang out after shows as well. (I wonder what their contracts look like!)  Likewise, they created public spaces that will be used as social and performance throughout their campus.

What does this all mean for the way we conceive of performance?  Or of even just having a drink at the pub?  For me, it represents a moment where performing arts organizations begin to diversify the stuffy brand in a way that allows for more entrance points, a new wave of creativity in the use of space and storytelling, and an expansion (hopefully) of the marketplace for works.


XPost- Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 1

What is performance?

Video Link:Marina Abramović: What is Performance Art?

Marina Abramović defines performance (in her case this is the way she refers to what others might call “performance art”) as “just memory.”  In this simple explanation of the difference between her work and that of a world she sees as overly consumer and product oriented, she jump starts a discussion about the nature of the arts, the way we commodify and classify works we see, and how environmental/sociopolitical/commercial factors define the arts itself.

Welcome to the Middle Spaces: Emerging Forms of Art, Episode 1

As artistic, commercial, political, and cultural collides in the 21st century, a movement is afoot across almost every established art form to explore the areas that exist between what we already know.  The result, if successful (we’ll talk about how we might define that later) this could result in brand spanking new areas of performance and a redefinition of form, creation of new vocabularies, merging or expanding or development of markets, new pathways of education and research, and generally a huge headache to the status quo. Or maybe some relief.  Whatever the case may be, the evidence is all around us and this Beat Blog intends to document, question, and share the ideas and experiments taking place.

How do we talk about things that don’t have a tradition or formal vocabulary yet?

Some questions to think about as we explore the middle spaces:

1. Can we draw any corollaries to established forms? What’s the evolution story?

2. Who and why are these forms being attempted? Necessity? Exploration?

3. How are they being received by audiences? By producers? By other artists? By critics?

4. Where are these art forms being created, presented, and produced? Why?

5. How are these performances being funded?

6. What are the chances this form will transition from “emerging” to “established?”

7. Are there features that begin to define the Middle Space Arts?

8. Do I like it? (My opinion is pretty important, obviously)

9. And what do you think?

But for today…

Let’s wrap up this initial blog with a thought about how the literal Middle Space might influence this trend.  The Tate Modern in London is opening a new space for art/performance/whatever carved from old fuel tanks used to power the turbines of the old power station The Tate inhabits.  Large, cavernous, dark, industrial, and brutal, these spaces are not what most would consider tradition art museum spaces.  And The Tate likes it like that.  They want to use the space as a place for new and different works that challenge the concepts of what a museum, and art, can look like.  If many of the pieces presented are site-specific or adapted to the space, a few questions come to mind:

Does the site in which art takes place help define the form? Or challenge it? Or create new?

The New York Times coverage of Tate Tanks

My quick answer: Gosh, I hope so!  The longer one: One of the main trends we’ll see in Middle Spaces is that the site in which the new art forms are being performed is rarely recognizable as a traditional venue.  Whether through choice, alteration, or absence of the space, form is dictating function (and vice versa) in a way that forces us to begin our experience with the performance from a place of being challenged.

I’ll leave you with this…

This preview video from the Guardian’s art coverage does a great job of showing you how people might interact with new forms of art in the space.

 Video Link: The Guardian.co.uk Tate Tanks Preview

 


Mindset List: Class of 2016

College starts soon for students around the country (and in some places, already).  I start my first class on the 29th (next Wednesday, eep!) and am looking forward to it greatly.  One thing I believe I’ll miss about not being a teacher in the classroom this year is the Freshmen class.  Always full of different perspectives, new experiences, a fresh energy…Freshmen are a great sign of change and growth in a program.  They should be a focus on any good arts program.  Developing the strong creative community from their old and new friendships, instilling best practices in the art form, introducing a strong sense of artistic discipline, and helping them learn to articulate all that they are experiencing will make them great older students, awesome spokespersons for their program, and create a strong foundation for expanding the work being done.  This bit of Program Development Consulting is free of charge to you, my readers.

However, I do not have a Freshmen Class to think about this year.  It doesn’t mean I won’t interact with them.  As a student on one of the most populated college campuses in the country, I will run into some 7500+ Class of 2016 undergraduates out and about, in buildings, and possibly in a few classes.  Beloit College released information this year about how the incoming class grew up, the things going on during their maturation, and their general mindset.  Check out the article here.

While some of the things on the list mean very little to me as really only 12 years older than them, it is interesting to think about the differences even those dozen years can make between world views. Even more interesting to think that “older” folks than me put together a list that is at time accurate and ridiculous.  I get very frustrated when young people are made to sound or look stupid simply because they don’t share the exact same set of cultural/political references of a previous generation.  Behold, below, the Class of 2016 Mindset List. With occasional commentary with ones I have troubles agreeing with or believing.

The Mindset List for the Class of 2016

For this generation of entering college students, born in 1994, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.

1.        They should keep their eyes open for Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning at freshman orientation.

2.        They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.” Generationalist views of millennials are always interesting.  It’s difficult to understand, I guess, that not everything has to be compared negatively to drugs when you don’t understand their purpose or draw.

3.        The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them. Most schools, even in giant, liberal cities, explain Biblical references in literature classes.

4.        Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.” The height of the Jackson Family might’ve seem to have replaced the prevalence of the Kennedys but few would suggest that anyone was ever looking up to them as Royalty.

5.        If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube. When Fox News is the most trusted news source (See here), it’s not surprising to see many people turn to 2009’s America’s Most Trusted Anchor.

6.        Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds. Technophobia on the rise!

7.        Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.

8.        Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.

9.        They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”

10.    On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males. Which came out in 1994, so they likely have little reference to it.

11.    The paradox “too big to fail” has been, for their generation, what “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” was for their grandparents’.

12.    For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.

13.    They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.

14.    There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.

15.    Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.

16.    Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16 cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp.

17.    Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.

18.    Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.

19.    The Green Bay Packers have always celebrated with the Lambeau Leap.

20.    Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

21.    A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

22.    The Real World has always “stopped being polite and started getting real” on MTV. 1994 was San Francisco, by 1998 it was downhill.

23.    Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.

24.    White House security has never felt it necessary to wear rubber gloves when gay groups have visited.

25.    They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.

26.    Having made the acquaintance of Furby at an early age, they have expected their toy friends to do ever more unpredictable things.

27.    Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens.

28.    Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.

29.    They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.”

30.    There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.

31.    Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.

32.    Newt Gingrich has always been a key figure in politics, trying to change the way America thinks about everything.

33.    They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.

34.    Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.

35.    Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.

36.    Stephen Breyer has always been an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

37.    Martin Lawrence has always been banned from hosting Saturday Night Live.

38.    Slavery has always been unconstitutional in Mississippi, and Southern Baptists have always been apologizing for supporting it in the first place.

39.    The Metropolitan Opera House in New York has always translated operas on seatback screens.

40.    A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space.

41.    Good music programmers are rock stars to the women of this generation, just as guitar players were for their mothers.

42.    Gene therapy has always been an available treatment.

43.    They were too young to enjoy the 1994 World Series, but then no one else got to enjoy it either.

44.    The folks have always been able to grab an Aleve when the kids started giving them a migraine.

45.    While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show Lost, for them it’sBreaking Bad, a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances.

46.    Simba has always had trouble waiting to be King.

47.    Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

48.    They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room.

49.    There has always been a World Trade Organization.

50.    L.L. Bean hunting shoes have always been known as just plain Bean Boots.

51.    They have always been able to see Starz on Direct TV.

52.    Ice skating competitions have always been jumping matches.

53.    There has always been a Santa Clause.

54.    NBC has never shown A Wonderful Life more than twice during the holidays.

55.    Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television.

56.    They have always enjoyed school and summer camp memories with a digital yearbook.

57.    Herr Schindler has always had a List; Mr. Spielberg has always had an Oscar.

58.    Selena’s fans have always been in mourning.

59.    They know many established film stars by their voices on computer-animated blockbusters.

60.    History has always had its own channel.

61.    Thousands have always been gathering for “million-man” demonstrations in Washington, D.C.

62.    Television and film dramas have always risked being pulled because the story line was too close to the headlines from which they were ”ripped.”

63.    The Twilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.

64.    Robert Osborne has always been introducing Hollywood history on TCM.

65.    Little Caesar has always been proclaiming “Pizza Pizza.”

66.    They have no recollection of when Arianna Huffington was a conservative.

67.    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has always been officially recognized with clinical guidelines.

68.    They watch television everywhere but on a television.

69.    Pulp Fiction’s meal of a “Royale with Cheese” and an “Amos and Andy milkshake” has little or no resonance with them.

70.    Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.

71.    Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.

72.    Astronauts have always spent well over a year in a single space flight.

73.    Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

74.    Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.

75.    The Sistine Chapel ceiling has always been brighter and cleaner.



Finland, goals, and my very first post.

So, here we go…

I was wondering what would be my first post for this new blog and sitting neatly in front of me this morning was an older (Dec 29th, 2011) article out of The Atlantic (here for the whole article).  The following:

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

That’d be the Minister of Education explaining very succinctly the main difference (read: obvious issue with the US education system) between those nations with superior education systems and the rest.  Teachers/administrators are the tip top best of the best because, at some point, people realized that their children are actually important.  Lip service is not enough.

Which brings me to this quick point: We must do more for our children, our students, our country.  And, that’s why I’m studying to do just that. This blog is dedicated to that goal.