Blogs Field Guide Sarah Peters

Sarah Peters spent ten years in the Education and Community Programs department creating educational programs and interpretive strategies for adult audiences. Now she writes, consults, organizes, brainstorms, gardens and makes things.

A “surplus” of activity with Red76

The clean green field outside is about to get messy. Later this month the collective Red76 arrives to conduct a three-week project aimed at enacting radical modes of education through the exploration of the connections between surplus goods and  surplus knowledge–the notion that we throw away under-used ideas in the same way we toss out […]


The clean green field outside is about to get messy. Later this month the collective Red76 arrives to conduct a three-week project aimed at enacting radical modes of education through the exploration of the connections between surplus goods and  surplus knowledge–the notion that we throw away under-used ideas in the same way we toss out material stuff (more on that below).  Umbrella’d under the moniker Surplus Seminar, a flurry of activities make up the project:

  • The improvised construction of “Anywhere/Anyplace Academy”–a schoolhouse of sorts built from scrap materials and the skills of whomever shows up
  • Book-making using a fancy digital printer, a perfect binder, surplus paper and the internet
  • Saturday afternoon picnics with local artists and musicians to discuss the counterculture of underground music as pedagogy
  • a lecture on utopia by Stephen Duncombe, the author of Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy
  • a screening of Bill Daniel‘s hobo film Who is Bozo Texino? with an introduction by the director himself
  • discussions on topics ranging from Paul Wellstone and Rural Labor Organizing with Dan S. Wang to native land rights with Unsettling Minnesota
  • screenings from the YouTube School for Social Politics–an ongoing Red76 project that invites artists, historians, theorists, etc to create “essays” about social or political ideas using only clips from YouTube. Several YTSSP essays are on view in the Walker’s Lecture Room until August 1st.
  • YOU.  Surplus Seminar is a project that depends on public participation. Someone has to build the A/AA and someone needs to make books out of all our extra paper. We need your ideas, join up!

How do you get involved? There are many ways.

1. Come to the BBQ Kick-off on Tuesday, July 20 from 6-9 pm on the Open Field to meet the crew and pick up a schedule.

2. Call the Red76 toll-free hotline 1.888.339.4496 anytime, any day during the project (July 20 – August 8) for up-to-date info on daily activities or where to go to scavenge for surplus or help build.

3. Stop by the FlatPak House in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden any day Wednesday through Sunday and jump into whatever is going on!

For those readers who want some more context, one of Red76’s main instigators Sam Gould answered a few questions for the July/August WALKER magainze about the ideas behind Surplus Seminar. Read on.

Tell us more about what people will experience with this project.

The Anywhere/Anyplace Academy is a collaborative and somewhat anarchic exercise. Its practical aim is to build collectively a space for learning, whatever that might entail. We use the combined skills and know-how of whomever is on hand to help build it, and we glean and reuse surplus materials such as shipping palettes, old doors and windows, sheet metal, whatever comes into our orbit. While aesthetics are of interest, the concern is more about the conceptual design of an educational space. It’s a means of gathering people to imagine, agitate, and activate the ideas that reside all around us and within us; it’s an investigation of surplus knowledge.

What do you mean by surplus knowledge?

We look at surplus knowledge as a mirror image of surplus material: ideas that all too often go under-utilized, to the detriment of the whole. It’s based around the notion that we are each a consumer, creator, and clearing house for knowledge, just as much as we are the receivers, producers, and disposers of material goods. But when we are acculturated to believe that our thoughts and concerns are somehow limited, we are put at a disadvantage—intellectually, socially, and in turn, politically.

On the positive side, repurposing ideas, expanding and agitating them, much like repurposing physical materials, is infectious and generative. Like the many-headed Hydra, a good idea set free spawns another, and another still. No matter how one might like to kill it, codify it, or capitalize upon it, it cannot die. It cannot be stopped.

Why are ideas so important?

In an economy where ideas increasingly serve as the major bedrock for monetary growth, those zones where social and political capital converge can easily become compartmentalized to continue a top-down, hierarchical economic system. The collective and inventive reuse of ideas, therefore, becomes politically necessary as almost never before. Open thought, the sharing of skills and knowledge, and the generative growth that develops from them encourage a horizontal system of benefit.

Working collaboratively—within Red76 and with the public—means leaving a lot of things to chance. What are the benefits of working in this manner?

Even within progressive circles there are plenty of places for one to go and be told what to do, say, think, how to act, how to engage a situation. I find those types of absolutist platforms more acceptable for rallying, capital-P politics, and the like. Sites of learning, the types that I find most encouraging, don’t have an end result, but rather a frame around them that encourages the intangible, the unknown, and the anarchic.

Susan Sontag, Timothy Leary, Angela Davis and Betty Friedan (among others) at Open Field

Open Field is a place for all kinds of ideas, including the exploration of how knowledge is created and disseminated in contemporary intellectual life. A series of seminar-like conversations that starts this week does just this. The Public Intellectual: Guru, Gadfly & Cultural Gunrunner will look at six critically influential thinkers from the 1960s over the […]

Open Field is a place for all kinds of ideas, including the exploration of how knowledge is created and disseminated in contemporary intellectual life. A series of seminar-like conversations that starts this week does just this. The Public Intellectual: Guru, Gadfly & Cultural Gunrunner will look at six critically influential thinkers from the 1960s over the course of three meetings to investigate the role of the public intellectual and the transmission of ideas outside of the academy. It will take place outside, under an umbrella, with a beer (certainly an intellectual tradition).

I invited the instigator of the series, local poet Charisse Gendron, to be a guest blogger over the course of the summer to share her thoughts on the project and her impressions of Open Field as a space for these kind of discussions. As a way of introduction, here is a brief Q & A.

You’ve been attending Walker programs for years, ranging from the defunct Artist’s Bookshelf book club to film screenings and Performing Arts events. What draws you to this place? What interests of yours do you see reflected here?

The Walker was one of the reasons I chose Minneapolis when I was looking for a new city. I had been teaching literature and film in Tennessee, and the possibility of strolling over to the Walker to see screenings of Derek Jarman’s Blue or Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman thrilled me. The Walker represents opportunity—to see, hear, talk with Sadie Benning, Todd Haynes, Kelly Reichardt, Lorna Simpson, Haegue Yang. To witness the cross currents between artists I love; to discover that Lorna Simpson was influenced by Chantal Akerman!

What inspired you to organize this series of discussions?

In a previous incarnation I was an academic. At a university, people are trained to think,  but their research is so specialized that they lose the ability to talk with people outside their discipline. Few can afford to be polymaths, culture vultures, running out to encounter the next new thing.

Once I was free of my career, I had the energy and flexibility to write poetry, to look at art, to read for pleasure, and to find others who shared these passions. The problem is, outside of universities, people often don’t share the theoretical ground for conversations to develop efficiently.

I’m always hunting for that overlap between making culture and theorizing it, and the people who negotiate that overlap, the “public intellectuals”—the curious ones, the critical ones, the ones with something to say and the ambition and preparation to say it. When I find some of these folks, I make the sign of the cross.

Certain questions, though, I haven’t found in circulation locally: about the role of public intellectuals, the conditions that foster them, the media they have used historically and use today. So I needed to pose these questions and to root out others who might care about them, might even identify as public intellectuals in a producing or a consuming capacity, as thinkers, not necessarily professional scholars, who are blogging, publishing, attending salons, in reality or just in their heads.

Having such a conversation takes a little structure and a little preparation, some shared readings, a meeting space, an intention, an interstice where people need to exercise some mental rigor but not a special vocabulary. This is the space that I love to be in, so I have some responsibility to make it happen.

One more thing—why the 1960s? Public intellectuals flourished then because thinking wasn’t so specialized and because readers and writers (from T. S. Eliot and George Orwell to Clement Greenberg and Susan Sontag) used journals such as The New York Review of Books and The Partisan Review to engage in sustained conversations. Minds were aflame with social and artistic movements—the French New Wave, the emergence of photography as an art form alongside painting and sculpture, the student revolts, the sexual revolution. I was a teenager and that cultural climate set the bar. We are living in a similar time now in terms of media and visual culture and I hope people who come to the sessions will educate me more about it. The point is, yes, to give serious consideration to the writing of Angela Davis and Timothy Leary, but also to use ‘60s case studies as a launch for talking about how we transmit ideas now.

Why conduct these conversations at Open Field? What connections do you see between the public intellectual and the commons, if any?

The public intellectual is someone who wants to be part of the current cultural conversation in a more integrated way than is often possible in academia; someone who wants to make connections not only with scholars but with artists, journalists, activists—thinkers throughout the community.  The Open Field, both the concept and the physical space, is an attempt to democratize resources, relocate a measure of authority from institutions to individuals, and provide a context for new affiliations and syntheses. My little project fits snugly within the Walker’s big project in an almost fractal way.

You were part of Haegue Yang’s artist-in-residence project this past year which involved a series of seminars with a small group of learners. Does that experience have any relationship to your series on public intellectuals?

Participating in that residency was an incredible privilege—to be thrown into Haegue’s synthesis of French philosophy, the work of Marguerite Duras, the example of people who have resisted political oppression, the theory and practice of abstraction as a visual means to refract received ideas. To be exposed to her unique personhood, work ethic, changeableness. I don’t know how useful the residency was to her—I hope somewhat. If nothing else, it demonstrated the arduousness/ardor of building community, of a group of people finding their own stake in being together, both voluntarily and somewhat arbitrarily, making the effort to communicate by folding paper, knitting, playing “statues,” watching videos, talking in a range of registers—with the option at any time of disengaging.

 After the last seminar, we sprang apart. This is as it should be for a communion not to become a burden, a search for consensus, an obligation to compromise. Haegue’s residency helped me to understand the serial nature of cultural participation. The whole process must happen over and over to maintain a local balance of tolerance and conviction, the climate for art and ideas that builds public support for libraries and museums. Open Field presents a huge opportunity for dozens of exchanges such as Haegue’s residency to occur—they won’t be as intense, but there will be more of them. Each transmission brings us closer to a cultural economy in which we don’t need to reinvent the language in order to converse. For it is no longer true that language, “a” symbolic order, precedes us.

 

The discussion series The Public Intellectual: Guru, Gadfly & Cultural Gunrunner starts this Thursday, June 24 at 7 pm in the Open Lounge.

A commons primer in 62 minutes, 6 seconds.

On the advent of Open Field‘s official start tomorrow, I thought I’d share two resources that demystify the complex nature of this subject. First, this charming, animated video outlines the basic concept of the commons, complete with cartoon owls and snappy quotes. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7jaSjkd0jM[/youtube] Second, if you have a bit more time to invest, is this fantastic […]

On the advent of Open Field‘s official start tomorrow, I thought I’d share two resources that demystify the complex nature of this subject. First, this charming, animated video outlines the basic concept of the commons, complete with cartoon owls and snappy quotes.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7jaSjkd0jM[/youtube]

Second, if you have a bit more time to invest, is this fantastic radio interview by Francesca Rheannon of the Writer’s Voice program. It features commons theorist David Bollier talking about his book Viral Spiral and science fiction writer/technology blogger Cory Doctorow on his novel Makers.  The two-part conversation starts with the history of the commons in early European society and lands in the current century with a discussion about:

  • the internet’s birth of free culture
  • the market and the commons (not necessarily adversarial)
  • the dangerous expansion of copyright law
  • anti-copyright activists who aren’t who you think they are
  • how giving stuff away makes money, or a new way of looking at artistic value
  • much more

As Doctorow says: “The problem [with the creative arts] isn’t piracy, its obscurity.”  It’s well worth the audio hour.

So there you have it: dancing geese, remix culture, Disney, Girl Scout songs and file sharing, all in the time it takes to make dinner. Enjoy.

A tree grows in the Open Field…

Actually, many trees grow in the Open Field. Eight of the 14 honey locusts were transplanted into the ground today in the space that will soon be the Walker’s outdoor lounge/beer garden/classroom and social space for the summer. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ilx5Ex5bknM[/youtube] Here is a panoramic shot of the action, complete with landscape workers, gigantic trucks and gawking staff.  Go here for […]

Actually, many trees grow in the Open Field. Eight of the 14 honey locusts were transplanted into the ground today in the space that will soon be the Walker’s outdoor lounge/beer garden/classroom and social space for the summer.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ilx5Ex5bknM[/youtube]

Here is a panoramic shot of the action, complete with landscape workers, gigantic trucks and gawking staff.  Go here for more pictures.

Open Field Construction Update

The sun has finally arrived and the construction of the Open Lounge continues:  The poured concrete surface over the fire lane can now properly set, thanks to today’s warmer weather Workers are laying down pavers on the south end of the fire land, filling the cracks with sand Huge amounts of earth are being moved […]

Setting new pavers

Marking out the edge of the "grove" that will contain Honey Locust trees

The sun has finally arrived and the construction of the Open Lounge continues:

  •  The poured concrete surface over the fire lane can now properly set, thanks to today’s warmer weather
  • Workers are laying down pavers on the south end of the fire land, filling the cracks with sand
  • Huge amounts of earth are being moved to carve out space for a large box, roughly 42 ft x 116 ft, that will serve as a gigantic planter for Honey Locust trees slated to arrive next week.

Join us to Open the Field

The kick-off of Open Field is less than a month away and we’re getting excited about the night we have planned to commence our summer-long experiment to create a cultural commons on the Walker green. We’re working with the folks at Works Progress, a local collective of cultural programmers and general smarties, to put together […]

Green field by Clav from Flickr

The kick-off of Open Field is less than a month away and we’re getting excited about the night we have planned to commence our summer-long experiment to create a cultural commons on the Walker green.

We’re working with the folks at Works Progress, a local collective of cultural programmers and general smarties, to put together a three-part launch (two parts party, one part interactive presentation) to set a stage for the conversations we’ll have over the course of the next three months. We have a full slate of presenters who will contribute a flurry of ideas, questions and examples of both digital and analog commons. Innovations such as a digital museum commons, a barter system for artists and creative types, and a collaborative online environment for creating art, code, and texts will be discussed alongside ideas about landscapes of public and private space, and ringtones, the music industry, and race. Come back here for more posts on each of the speakers.

In addition to these presentations, the night will begin with drinks and an interactive felt board installation that invites you to help us define and redefine a “cultural commons”.  For starters, there is this thought from Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt

“…so much of our world is common, open to access by all and developed through active participation.”

And this question from Josh McPhee of Just Seeds:

“What does it mean to be creative as a conscious social activity–to create a commons rather than individualizing creativity?”

What is your definition of a cultural commons? Come over on June 3 to share.

Open Field website is up.

Check out the new website for Open Field, our experimental, summer-long project that invites the public to help transform our big, green backyard into a cultural commons. The site serves as a hub where you can learn more about specific projects happening this summer, read tweets and view images of what others are doing on the […]

One of many suggested uses of Open Field.


Check out the new website for Open Field, our experimental, summer-long project that invites the public to help transform our big, green backyard into a cultural commons.
The site serves as a hub where you can learn more about specific projects happening this summer, read tweets and view images of what others are doing on the field, and add your own activities to the shared calendar. One of the major components of Open Field is the animation of the outdoor space by all of us. We’ve organized some of our own programs on Thursday nights and Saturdays, and we hope you fill up the rest of the hours this summer with your own creative, engaged actions.  

Visit to learn more about:

Invite your friends and join us in imagining new possibilities for the creative future we hold in common.

Susan Howe and David Grubbs are here.

Susan Howe   Dear fans of poetry, music, sound art, sound-based poetry, poetics, interactive media, sonic architecture, UbuWeb, Kenneth Goldsmith, John Cage, Laotian free-reed mouth organs and Emily Dickinson, I’m writing to ensure your awareness that the distinquished poet Susan Howe and reknown experimental musician David Grubbs will grace the Walker stage with their collaborative […]

Emily Dickinson

John Cage

Laotian free reed mouth organ

Susan Howe

 

David Grubbs

Dear fans of poetry, music, sound art, sound-based poetry, poetics, interactive media, sonic architecture, UbuWeb, Kenneth Goldsmith, John Cage, Laotian free-reed mouth organs and Emily Dickinson,

I’m writing to ensure your awareness that the distinquished poet Susan Howe and reknown experimental musician David Grubbs will grace the Walker stage with their collaborative efforts on Thursday. We’re lucky to have them here–busy, creative types that they are, and to have them appear together.

Perhaps you are a fan of these artists individually. Maybe your record collection includes albums by Gastr Del Sol, Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Red Krayola, or Wingdale Community Singers, in addition to the eleven solo records David Grubbs has produced.

On your bookshelf, maybe you have ear-marked copies of  the The Midnight (2003), My Emily Dickenson (1985), or Souls of the Labadie Tract (2003)  by the venerable Susan Howe or one of many anthologies that collect her poems with other esteemed writers of the contemporary word.

Or perhaps you have been following the trajectory of Howe and Grubbs’ unique language-sound collaboration. Hailing from different disciplines and generations, these remarkable makers have found a unique expression of sound and word that Artforum once described as “neither traditional recitation nor music-with-words…in Howe’s imagination, the past becomes a very current stake, [and] Grubbs’ sonic architecture is a striking accompaniment to the text.” (-Bennet Simpson)

No matter what kind of fan you are, including fans-to-be, here are some sneak peaks/enticements to whet your palette:

-Howe and Grubbs speaking on their collaboration at a seminar at Birkbeck College, University of London.

-An interivew with Howe in which she discusses her very early work as a painter, touching on many of the artists in the Walker’s collection.

-A brief abstract to a talk by Grubbs in which he explains, “I am a recording. I do not age.”

-And a real sneak preview of what you’ll hear on Thursday courtsey of WIRE magazine.

Thanks to Rain Taxi Review of Books for these links and for making it happen!

Open Field construction has begun!

The heavy machinery has arrived. Holes have been dug and filled. Electrical wires laid underground. Granite pavers await their new role in the landscape. Forward march towards Open Field!

The heavy machinery has arrived.

Holes have been dug and filled.

Electrical wires laid underground.

Granite pavers await their new role in the landscape.

Forward march towards Open Field!

The Inquisition is POSTPONED

You may have heard that the Thursday, March 4 installment of the Walker’s new/old quiz forum The Inquisition has been postponed until the Fall.  Until then, let’s review last month’s many prize-winning (literally) moments. Favorites of ours include the open ended question “who was the most influential artist of the 20th century and why?” Walker […]

The Inquisition, February 11, 2010. Walker Art Center

You may have heard that the Thursday, March 4 installment of the Walker’s new/old quiz forum The Inquisition has been postponed until the Fall.  Until then, let’s review last month’s many prize-winning (literally) moments. Favorites of ours include the open ended question “who was the most influential artist of the 20th century and why?” Walker Registrar Joe King began the round of answers with a plea for Jackson Pollock. College of Visual Arts President Ann Ledy argued for Andy Warhol. Walker Curator Betsy Carpenter made a defense for Marcel Duchamp, and music writer Jim Walsh closed the competition by naming Madonna as his prime choice.

And who won, you ask? A brave audience member! After the “experts” gave their answers, Inquisition attendee Hugh accepted the invitation to challenge the panel on their choices and presented an impassioned case for the Beatles. With the audience applause as judge, he, and the Fab 4, won.


Hugh makes a case for the Beatles

Vigorous clapping resumed later in the show when Betsy Carpenter was asked to identify which work hanging in Benches & Binoculars best fit the criteria for America’s “Most Wanted Painting” according to research by conceptual artists Komar and Melamid. With requirements such as a mostly blue, festive outdoor scene with soft curves and domestic animals roughly the size of a dishwasher the winner was clear:

Franz Marc, Die grossen blauen Pferde (The Large Blue Horses) 1911

Overall, the event was brimming with team spirit and playful camaraderie. We hope you join us for another round in the Fall!

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