From our Education & Public Programs department, an evolving guidebook navigating the expanded terrain of art and creative life.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar. So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, […]
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar.
So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, I immediately went looking for museum-goers who, like me, prefer to visit the galleries alone. I found several photos of visitors (including many feral children) who appear to be alone, but who clearly had an unseen companion (the person behind the lens).
Then I found Alycia Anderson’s submission, Blue BOOM! It’s impossible to tell for sure, but it appears that the young lady found herself a little alone time with the exhibition Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers. And, I have to say, I’m a bit jealous that she (a fellow Scandinavian, perhaps?) was able to enjoy Klein’s signature “fluid” and “consistent” blue unhindered by the visual clutter of other museum-goers, with their jackets and their hair and their purses and their brightly colored Walker pins.
In 2009, I was living three blocks from the Walker when light/space artist Robert Irwin recreated the scrim piece Slant/Light/Volume (1971) that was first installed at the opening of the Barnes Building in 1971. I tried several times to not only visit the museum alone, but to get the entire Irwin room to myself, as this lucky visitor did. But it never worked out. What would I have done there all alone? Dunno. But I was convinced the experience would be transformative. I had just read Lawrence Weschler’s engrossing biography of Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (University of California Press, 2009), and I was completely taken with his work.
Those of us who visit galleries alone, are we truly looking for solitude? A bustling gallery on a Saturday afternoon rarely provides peace and quiet. But a Thursday morning at, say, 11am? Now you’re talking.
Or are we maybe just looking for love? My friend “T” was visiting the Walker alone recently and found the man of her dreams just waltzing through the galleries.
I think, rather, that we’re just not all equipped, in the moment at least, to fully process what’s before us and form an opinion of it. Especially with artists such as Yves Klein and Robert Irwin.
Against personal protocol, I recently visited both the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with others. Technically, I arrived at Chris Schlichting’s dance performance Stripe Tease alone, but shortly before the program began, a friend arrived (also solo) and plopped down next to me. As the piece wrapped up and we walked toward the cafe for a cup of coffee, she turned to me and said: “You know, someday I hope to have the vocabulary to discuss dance. But right now, I’ve got absolutely nothing to say about that. Nothing!”
A short while later, I visited the MIA with a newish acquaintance to see the MAEP show of a mutual friend. As we passed through the various regional and period rooms en route to the exhibit, she paused, turned to me, and said: “Just so you know, I’m not ready to talk about art with you just yet.”
In both instances, I was happy to comply, happy to talk of simpler things. I was happy to have a companion, but happier yet to be alone with my thoughts, like Alycia in Klein’s sea of blue.
For the past several weeks, Lightsey Darst has been holed up inside the Walker’s resource library. A dance critic, poet, and author of Find the Girl (Coffee House Press, 2010) and the forthcoming Dance (September 2013), Darst was the first writer selected to participate in The Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, an initiative presented by Coffee House Press […]
A dance critic, poet, and author of Find the Girl (Coffee House Press, 2010) and the forthcoming Dance (September 2013), Darst was the first writer selected to participate in The Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, an initiative presented by Coffee House Press through a grant from the McKnight Foundation. She entered the library well-intentioned: exhausted from a long semester of teaching, she hoped to explore library choreographies, to further her research into the private life, and to compose new poems.
In a space filled with more than 13,000 artists monographs, 30,000 exhibition catalogues and some 1,800 artists’ books, Darst found more than a few distractions.
“I believe in encounter — it’s why I’m here,” Darst wrote in her final dispatch from the library. “Research in the library is difficult. It is an encounter with actual and irreducible difference.”
The distractions, it seems, proved to be helpful. “I am here trying to find a thing that sparks a certain kind of question and seeking,” wrote Darst. “I am here to do something new.”
“At some point all books open to all other books,” Darst concluded. “Even a relatively small library becomes inexhaustible in terms of paths through it.”
With its Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, Coffee House Press aims to create a body of work that will inspire a broader public to engage with their local libraries in a new and meaningful way, and to encourage artists and the general public to think about libraries as creative spaces.
Join us in the Lecture Room here at the Walker on Thursday, June 20 at 7 pm to hear Darst and Walker archivist Jill Vuchetich discuss the residency. To read more of Lightsey’s dispatches, visit the Coffee House Press blog, Unfiltered.