Issue #185
Self-Bursting Buckyball March 9, 2012

Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

From the Editor

When I stepped away from teaching and the trappings of academia two years ago, I readily admit to some fairly aggressive abdominal butterflies. At that point I’d been in school, in some form or another, for my entire existence—moving from student to professor along the well-worn path many MFAs and PhDs tread. Rightly so. Saddled with student debt and few traditional career opportunities, teaching is a beacon; replete with enticing notions of health insurance, stability, a steady paycheck and time to pursue ones own studio or scholarly work. Downright utopian, no? But utopias, as we know, are unattainable, impossible scenarios. This however is not a screed about academia (at least not entirely), as my time working with students in the halls of higher education was quite enjoyable. Life on the other side of the bubble is good though, and bubbles, in one form or another, are the crux of the issue.

The academic and art world’s are full of such bubbles, large and small. Artists' studios, residencies, the commercial gallery system, College Art Association conferences and the larger academic world are just a few potential echo chambers. These are not necessarily bad things. Like minded peers, engaging students, intellectual exchange, productive hours spent in the studio and the support (practical and moral) that comes along with them are welcomed qualities of each of these. All things in moderation. Problems arise when we can’t see the wood for the trees. Lost in the accoutrements of our cells, it's easy to lose sight of other people, other communities and of our unavoidable existence within the larger world. (A glimpse at contemporary politics—its vilifying language, reductionism and endlessly parroted talking points amongst others—offers a clear example of the dangers of isolationism; regional, intellectual and otherwise.) As a result, we risk losing our empathy, mounting a high horse and becoming indifferent to the goings on around us.

If, on some fundamental level, art is about showing us an aspect of the world we might not normally consider—and artists bear a measure of culpability for that—then stepping outside of ones personal bubble is critical. Think of it like a daily research trip. Exposure to dissonant ideas, participation in conversation and exploration of other places and people act as ways to feed the work taking place behind the doors of your study. Expanding one's sourcebook and as a result, repertoire, is never a bad thing. To speak reputably about the world—its strangeness, beauty, horror and complexity—and to be an active citizen and cultural producer in this century, means real, physical engagement is mandatory. New models and fresh thinking come from it. I say this as a previously obstinate occupier of two bubbles: my studio and my academic position. This is not to say I don’t spend extensive hours working within four walls or that I would never teach again, only that as I move along I’ve found a new appreciation for, and importance in, engaging with the world that's bustling right outside my door.

Relationships between the pedagogical, academic and exhibiting worlds are the subject of former ...mbg editor, writer and curator Wendy Vogel’s thoughtful Long Read on Excursus II at the ICA in Philadelphia. The exhibition proposes some new ways of thinking about the archive, public programming and the distribution of ideas that art exhibitions enable. From Chicago, artist Adam Schreiber takes a look at David Hartt’s film and photographs that make up his exhibition Stray Light at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Hartt’s exploration of the Johnson Publishing Companies mid-century modern, total-designed interiors offer us a compelling look at the collision between ideology and fantasy. Photographs by Bruce of L.A., on view at Stephen Cohen Gallery, are the topic of Los Angeles artist and writer Tucker Neel’s review. A Nebraskan chemist, Bruce Bellas moved to L.A. in the 1940’s, eventually founded Male Figure in 1956, and extensively photographed the then burgeoning muscle scene in Venice Beach. From Houston writer and Rice University PhD Candidate Rachel Hooper looks at Geoff Hippenstiel’s energetic abstract paintings and finds a dynamic group of images that resist being separated from one another. Our Project Space this issue features the New York-based collaborative duo Ghost of a Dream and their poignant group of drawings, sculpture and film. Their project speaks to the buildup of memories, the excitement of achieving and the act of hoping—intimately personal actions that link us inexorably to one another, and the world at large. 

We hope you'll get in touch with your thoughts, criticisms and best wishes by emailing us at: askus@fluentcollab.org.  

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

+ 1 Comment
mark l. smith
Mar 9, 2012 | 6:43am

Eric, so glad to see you at the mbg desk!  I enjoyed this writing very much and look forward to seeing you put your talent and intelligence to work in this forum. All best wishes, Mark

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