Issue #182
Productive Confusion January 27, 2012

Michael Jones McKean
The Gilded Scab
Courtesy of the artist and PARISIAN LAUNDRY
Photo credit: Guy L’Hereux

From the Editor

Time and space; two characteristics that any artists residency program worth its salt provides plenty of. Mix in a healthy dose of support along with a stipend and you’ve got the ideal scenario: an oasis for artistic experimentation and production. Since the beginning of the year I’ve found myself in just such a placeThe Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NEwhich provides all of the above and more. I’ve embraced every aspect of the opportunity Bemis so graciously provides, which includes working quite hard, being in a place and discovering a new city, and of course plenty of time at the bar with my fellow residents. As is to be expected, my time here, which will continue through the end of March, has given rise to some thinking about programs like this one and how invaluable they are for artists. Does anyone know an artist who couldn’t use time and space, to say nothing of a little financial assistance, to focus almost solely on their work?

Residencies are an incredible opportunity for those that choose, and work hard, to attend them. In our obsessively practical, market driven economy the notion of paying an artist to do nothing but work and think in a space that you provide is an improbable anomaly. There’s no guarantee that great work will be made and that idea runs counter to everything we’re taught to believe. There is very little about art making that is predictable, and rightly so. Open-ended, speculative, discursive, mysterious and often downright messy, artistic practice doesn’t fit into the typical model set up to produce as many widgets as possible in as little time for the least amount of money. To truly appreciate art objects and practice we have to learn to tolerate confusion, uncertainty and recognize that more often than not we’re simply not going to know everything. Intuition, not logic, is king in this world.

In some sense this gets to the core of how we choose to define ‘work’ and ‘productivity’ within our society. Turgid definitions beget an inflexible monoculture in which we value and respect a singular notion of what it means to work and be productive at the expense of all others. One only needs to listen to the political rhetoric filling the airwaves in the GOP debates or President Obama’s recent State of the Union to see the outline of what that culture is. Here artists are assumed to be ‘lazy‘ and ‘unproductive’ when few realize that maintaining a serious art practice is, in the accepted systems terms, the equivalent of having two full-time jobs (though without any of their practical guarantees). This is what makes residencies so astounding. They not only provide for the practical aspectsspace, time, money and sometimes foodbut they embrace and celebrate numerous definitions and means of working. If I chose to do nothing but read books for three months that would be acceptable because after all, that is, unequivocally, a way of being productive.

Texas’ most laudable artists residency, San Antonio’s Artpace, fits this bill and then some. Nuances between residency programs are many, but Artpace has a number of distinguishing features that make it stand out. These characteristics and more are discussed in my interview with Artpace’s engaging new Executive Director Regine Basha, who gets set to take the helm March 1. Just up I-35, artist and writer Sean Ripple’s review of Mads Lynnerup’s current offering at Lora Reynolds Gallery asks some good questions about the nature and recent trend of participatory exhibitions. Continuing our coverage of Pacific Standard Time, artist and writer Travis Diehl takes an opportune look at Under The Big Black Sun at MOCA LA. Due north of Los Angeles, writer Leora Morinis writes beautifully about Kerry Tribe’s two-channel video installation Here & Elsewhere previously on view at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Back on the east coast former Ballroom Marfa Associate Curator, writer and Bard CCS masters candidate Alicia Ritson skillfully lays the groundwork for defining the function of the curator within todays art world in a thoughtful and engrossing Long Read.

Another diverse and rich issue of ...might be good if I do say so myselfone that couldn’t have been possible without your support. I know I speak for all of us here at ...mbg when I express my sincerest gratitude to you, our readership, for your overwhelming generosity this past week during our fundraising push. The outpouring of support exceeded our expectations and in addition to helping keep ...mbg stable and growing, warmed our hearts. Thank you! As is always the case we welcome your feedback on how we’re doing by contacting us at askus@fluentcollab.org. Keep the comments, subscriptions and donations coming!

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.

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