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Dec
16

Students Hold Court

By lucycomer

On November 22nd, a gathering of approximately twenty-five people of high school and college age came together and had a conversation about an exhibition at the Walker right now; Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Our conversation was part of one of the performance pieces in the exhibition, the first one you see as you walk up to it, a long old table with eighteen chairs made of plastic and metal. They came from a former public elementary school in Chicago’s South Side, and now are setup in the exhibition as a classroom type setting in the gallery. The piece is called  See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court (2012) by Theaster Gates. This space has been occupied by different people leading conversation open to the public, including Ralph Lemon, Coco Fusco, Theaster Gates, and Keith Ellison. This day, it was lead by students. The people seated around the table came as part of groups such as WACTAC, University of Wisconsin Lacrosse, Penumbra Theater, the African American Registry, and more. We all looked around the exhibit, and came back and wrote down questions we could possibly pose to the group for conversation. Students Hold Court was a very intense, intriguing, and real discussion addressing many subjects brought up by pieces in Radical Presence, and the following is a summary of what we talked about on that day.

To start off, we went around the table and talked about pieces that we saw that interested us. A few people mentioned the video by Zachary Fabari, High Fructose Corn Syrup Fix and White Flour Constipation, which one found puzzling, but another suggested that it could have something to do with globalization, and the effect that has on media and advertising. One person talked about another video that is computer generated, and he had to watch it five times before he was able to connect to it, and described it as “fantastical.” Another person mentioned was a series of photographs where a black man walks around in Germany in beige lederhosen, which they feel said something about trying to fit in. Once everyone shared their brief thoughts on something they saw in the exhibit, a staring question was posed to the group that was written down earlier by someone at the table.

“How is the title of this exhibit, Radical Presence, explained in the pieces? Or what does the title really mean?”

First off, one person noted that things are considered radical when black people are present. She wishes that wasn’t the case. “It’s not radical because of the control black people have in these pieces, it’s just because of their bodies being there. You don’t have control over what identity you’re presenting to people, but you can control that with art.” Another person said that black presence is not seen all the time. Someone observed that there is boldness brought with each piece, and that some things in the exhibit even have labels with mature content warnings. One person said that radical means change. It means questioning, to try to explain works that are asking tough questions. “Ideas are part of the plan, they’re not just wishes, they are something purposeful that you are moving forward with.” Another said that radical is grasping things at their roots and fixing them. “In this case, the roots are identity, performance, and thinking of oneself as black.” Someone questioned our topic, asking why is this all considered radical? What is the actual reason for black performance being considered radical, and not something you would normally see in an art museum?

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One person found the performance Eating the Wall Street Journal (2000) by William Pope L to be related to the last question. In this performance, the artist sits on a toilet which itself is on top of some tall scaffolding, and he eats the Wall Street Journal, milk, and ketchup, and vomiting it up. He said this shows the absurdity of business culture. “The Wall Street Journal controls so much.” I added that in this piece, Pope L is physically sick of what that news source is saying, and what the media in general is saying. Someone built off of that saying it’s a critique of the things we ingest and consume each day. What is the media trying to tell us, and what’s really going on? One person felt that Pope L’s performance is larger than just the Wall Street Journal, “it’s all the other one-sided news sources and stories accepted as the truth. We put a lot of unquestioned faith into the news.”

An example brought up was #pointergate, a story that came from a seemingly reputable news source. How many people saw KTSP’s broadcast on it and thought it was true? How does a story like this represent Minnesota, especially when it got a bit of national attention when Jon Stewart made fun of it in all of it’s sad ridiculousness on the Daily Show. It was brought up that the man in the pointergate story, Navell Gordon was wearing loose fitting jeans, a large t-shirt, running shoes, and talks with a black dialect. Because of this, people see him as being associated with gangs. Someone questioned that if he was wearing a suit, would the story be the same? Classism contributed to pointergate as well. A person there said that stories in the news are often changed when the people involved are black. “Black artists are putting themselves on the line over and over again.”

“What do you think about using own body/bodily fluids as a medium? I think people might be grossed out, but is it disgusting? Why? Why not?”

This question was mainly directed towards a video of a woman who put a knife through a lemon, used that knife to cut her tongue, then slowly drags her tongue along a wall. Many people’s immediate reactions were being grossed out by the video of her performance, but they also said that it took dedication, and that it was powerful. “The intimacy of it was powerful. This is a piece that was common for many people to find confusing, but because of that confusion, people have a conversation about it, and having a conversation about it is what makes it powerful.” One person said that it is not the body that’s big about it, it’s the art. “The artists body is just being used to convey an idea, and she doesn’t care if she got hurt in the process. Her body is just a way to convey her ideas and her art.”

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“Being the race and gender you identify as or if you choose no identification, what emotions have you experienced growing up with the internalization of the media?”

Someone said that media pushes ideas into people’s heads, generalizing a lot of things. People have unique experiences but the media displays groups as- “archetypes of a person” another added. Yes, the first speaker continued, saying everything is categorized and put into a certain idea of “normal.” People at the table shared stories of disassociating themselves from people in their communities, and feeling like they don’t belong because of being mixed race and not fitting into one category or another. “People make you pick if you’re mixed race, you can’t be both.” Someone pointed out that it’s not just the media or social groups that make you fit your identity to what they want. You have to identify yourself on college applications, which only give you the option to identify as white OR hispanic, with no option for being biracial. A person said that culturally, we want to categorize people. Someone explained that “we believe everything has a place. We’re trained to categorize things, like in a grocery store. We compulsively feel the need to categorize.” Another explained that we categorize, because otherwise, it’s overwhelming. Categorizing someone as a high school student helps you know something about them.

One person said that at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, art is categorized as “Asian”, “Native American”, or “African”, but then there’s “Modern”, grouped by time period rather than place of origin. Should we categorize like that in art? It was pointed out that we have this art because it’s unique in where it comes from. Someone said that identification is important because of representation. The person saying this said that it makes her excited to see homages to being black. “Assimilation to whiteness in America is not necessary. Categorization is good in some circumstances.” Then someone pointed out that if you say it’s just art, people will assume that it’s by a white artist, but the racial association with Radical Presence gives you a different expectation to what you will see. A person said that categorization is difficult in our culture because most things are assumed to be white. A student said that white males are the default. “The NBA isn’t the men’s NBA, but anything beyond men’s is specified. You don’t say ‘this is a white man’s perspective’ in art. That’s assumed.” Someone suggested a balance of categorization. “Showing diversity in everything would help to fix that.” Another person said to decide what category you’re in. “Own your labels and be proud, like being Transgender or Latina.”

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“Self expression is cool, and I kind of wish I was more like the artists in the exhibits in the manner of being down with who I am. Do you have any suggestions of helping me get out of the phase where I can not express myself?”

The first suggestion was to experiment and find new ways of expressing yourself. “Question the venues you use to express. It doesn’t have to be planned or have any expectations. Just do it. Don’t plan.” One person said that art is something that comes from you, and you don’t have to be specific in any way. Another added that we don’t have to know ourselves to make art about yourself. Someone said that art is questioning things. “Talk with people like artists and adult mentors. Share your ideas and experiences.” The closing words to our wonderful ninety minute discussion around an old table with twenty students in a noisy gallery was “Try to follow yourself and you do you. You’re always right for you.”

Nov
17

WACTAC to CAMHTAC

By janejackson

I’m not expecting palm trees. Not in Houston. In my mind, palm trees only exist in California, TV celebrity soaps, and Microsoft Clip Art. But there they stand, those disturbing trees, looming over my family’s rental car, 2:00am in the morning at the wrong hotel. And suddenly I know that palm trees will be to me what water is to cats; that unexplainable force that freaks and creeps me out beyond reason. It relieves me to see no palm trees stand anywhere near the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (CAMH). There are trees, though. Trees with branches decorated by pictures of […]

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Oct
30

The Problem with Halloween

By Mason Santos

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, Halloween is tomorrow, and for some of us (myself included) this means a quick stop to the store to create a last-minute costume for the holiday. However, as you get your costume together, keep in mind that there is a line between okay and downright offensive. Yep, I’m talking about cultural appropriation, stereotypes, and racism. Cultural appropriation is the act of taking a culture (that isn’t your own) and fixing it/changing it so it fits your life. Everyday Feminism has a fantastic article discussing it, as well as introducing the […]

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Oct
30

Music and Visual Aesthetics

By Calvin Hafermann

The accessibility of the internet has done many things to the music industry.  Obviously, it has enabled piracy of music, and it has enabled constant streaming via sites like Spotify or Pandora.  It has also given artists both big and small, nearly unlimited freedom; anyone can publish anything and it can be shaped exactly to the creators will.  I’ve noticed a few artists over the years taking advantage of this and crafting projects that are more than just music.  The artists design the visual aesthetic or merchandise for the band or create characters and worlds that transcend the music.  Here […]

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Oct
15

Museum Mixtape #5

By ingridtoppjohnson

  Museum Mixtape is back with a vengeance! For those of you who are unfamiliar, Museum Mixtape pairs a piece of art in the Walker’s collection, or one being exhibited there, with a piece of complementary music. In this edition, the art in question is the Cowles Conservatory located in the Walker’s Sculpture Garden. Since the conservatory is larger than much of the art surveyed in Museum Mixtape, it will be paired with three songs rather than one. The conservatory is a place for contemplation and escape. In the summer, the glass walls, imaginative plantings, and the giant fish sculpture […]

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Jun
20

A Visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Pablo Helm Hernandez

  While on vacation in L.A. with my family, My family and I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known as LACMA. It was very cool to explore a different museum with a large quantity of modern art besides the Walker. The Walker I know inside and out, but the LACMA was like exploring the Walker for the first time all over again. We found a parking spot across the street from the museum in front of a sketchy, gated apartment community that looked more like they were trying to keep the residents in rather than […]

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Jun
13

Reflecting on Make a Stranger Laugh

By Calvin Hafermann

Those of you that went to Double Take back in April certainly heard about Make A Stranger Laugh.  Maybe one of your friends participated, maybe you yourself did.  While I would definitely consider the activity a success, it kind of took on a life of its own and turned into something new that we weren’t exactly expecting. First, a little background: Make A Sranger Laugh originally started as part of our collaboration with artist Jim Hodges.  A big aspect of Jim’s work is the use of simple yet beautiful gestures that communicate very human concepts or emotions.  We wanted to […]

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Jun
3

GIVE US YOUR LAUGH

By lexiherman

Give Us Your Laugh was derived from Jim Hodges’s Give More Than You Take. We had an ongoing conversation with Jim that evolved into an exploration of universality through laughter. At our spring event, Double Take, we explored our concept both through Give Us Your Laugh and Make A Stranger Laugh. Both are exchanges between people in laughter that create a commonality. We attempted to embody Jim’s simplistic gestures with our thought provoking prompt “Give Us Your Laugh”. The materials were inspired by Jim’s A Diary of Flowers. The flowers were presented on random paper napkins using different colored inks. […]

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May
29

Separating Art from the Artist

By markarginteanu

I hold a great love for Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. It both solidifies and deconstructs and aesthetic I have long been fascinated with, film noir and the detective story. I first saw it almost four years ago when I was 14. I was mesmerized from start to finish as it was clear that the filmmaker had an absolute mastery of story and image. Another of my favorite films is Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Like Chinatown, it is at times deceptively gentle with its presentations of image, not directly telling the viewer what to think or feel, but simply letting the events play out […]

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May
15

Museum Mixtape #4

By alexismoore

Museum mixtape is back again with a piece of art paired to music. The combination this time around  is Jim hodges’ Ghost with the song Christmas Island by LAKE. Listen to it HERE. Hodges’ Ghost is a little piece of nature encased inside a glass dome.The artificial life in the dome contains carefully placed flowers, twigs,grasses and butterflies all made out of glass. Above the foliage are plants made out of glass creating a ghost-like look to the taller plants. Christmas Island by Washington state based band LAKE can be described as nostalgic lo-fi. This is also the ending credits […]

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May
8

Just Dropped: Southsiders by Atmosphere

By chloefouilloux

  Slug is at it again you guys. And this time he’s attacking it harder than ever. As a freestyle rapper, I admire him for his creative and relevant presence in the underground rap world–as a lyricist I continue to be blown away by his story-telling and immaculate flow. Titled Southsiders, us Minneapolitans can take a certain pride to understanding and relating to Slug’s tracks. Ant’s production is varied, complex, and mystic making his artistic contribution as influential and recognizable as Slug’s words. Each track has a sound for every state of mind–I would recommend taking it in doses and […]

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May
8

Apples-to-Art: Jim Hodges

By chloefouilloux

This new segment, Apples-to-Art, is a game we’ve made up to get to know the art around the galleries and share stories and some behind-the-scenes going-ons around the Walker. The rules: pull out a random Apples-to-Apples card and connect it to a work within the glorious Walker estate. Optional step two: Dress up as your favorite adventurer/conquistador to put you in the zone. This session, I pulled “Refined” re·fined [ri-fahynd] adjective 1. having or showing well-bred feeling, taste, etc.: refined people. 2. freed or free from coarseness, vulgarity, etc.: refined taste. 3. freed from impurities: refined sugar. 4. very subtle, […]

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May
5

Art or Exploitation?

By emmajohnston

Busk – verb. play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or subways   A few weeks ago, my high school band traveled to New Orleans. On one of the days we were given to explore the French Quarter on our own, my friends and I passed a fellow band student playing his alto saxophone on a street corner. He had left his case open in front of him and, as we walked by I could see that it was filled with crumpled dollars and change. I watched as his friends walked by and noticed him.   […]

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Apr
24

3-2-1 Interview with Lexa Walsh

By Mischa Kegan

WACTAC member Owen Dennehy interviews artist Lexa Walsh. For more information on Lexa, check out her website here!

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Apr
14

Teen Takeover: Double Take is on Thursday!

By Mischa Kegan

We had such a great time at the last Teen Takeover! Check out the video and join the Facebook event. See you there?

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Mar
30

Collections: Lost and Found (A Boyhood Obsession)

By ingridtoppjohnson

This is a continuation of thematic posts about collections. Check out the other pieces here and here. My father, Trip, with the Denver Broncos bottlecap. “A new drink for athletes” Trip Johnson fancied himself a future football player. What better way to start then to collect Gatorade caps with football helmets on them? It was 1972, and Trip was in second grade. He would often accompany his mom to the store and peruse the caps of this novel new sports drink for teams he hadn’t collected yet. He was persistent, vigilant, committed: three qualities essential to a young collector’s success. […]

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Mar
27

Perspective Through Personal Practice

By Calvin Hafermann

Upon entering Jim Hodges retrospective show Give More Than You Take, two things are immediately obvious.  For one, his work takes a myriad of forms.  Additionally, he has a special talent for making the ordinary into something beautiful and unique. While all of his work is really beautiful, some of it, like Deformed was a bit inaccessible at first. It’s an interesting perspective on an everyday thing, but I will admit it was not something that immediately jumped out at me upon entering the show.  I am a screen printer, and as I considered it from a printmaking perspective, the […]

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Mar
27

Museum Mixtape #3

By alexismoore

Continuing the blog post series Museum Mixtape, we combine a piece of  artwork from the Walker Art Center’s collection and a song that best reflects the work. A musical, artistic peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you will. Today’s Pb&j sandwich is Yayoi Kusama’s sculpture Passing Winter with Crystal Castles’ song Celestica. Listen to it here.   Yayoi Kusama’s Passing Winter gives a sense of infinity.  The artwork is   a cube made of mirrors inside and out with circular openings carved in that reflect on each other. It creates an illusion of neverending rows of spherical lights. Source The combination […]

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Mar
20

January Teen Art Lounge: Life Along the Fjord

By chloefouilloux

A couple (okay, more than a couple) Thursdays ago, January 16th, the Walker Art Center hosted the January Teen Art Lounge: Life Along the Fjord, the brain child of local artist Chloe Fouilloux which was drastically amplified by the Walker Teens Art Council (WACTAC). The experience was framed by the science and cultural adventures she experienced during the Joint Science Education Program (JSEP) Greenlandic Expedition –  a two week trip to a small village in East Greenland (Note: Upperclassmen teens looking to go to Greenland (for free!) to participate in arctic research science, apply today! ). WACTAC seriously pulled out […]

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Jan
30

Artistic Ownership Through 9 Artists

By markarginteanu

A few weeks ago I went to the 9 Artists exhibit for the first time. A number of video pieces caught my attention, as a lover of film. I watched Yael Bartana’s And Europe Will Be Stunned all the way through, at which point the credits started rolling. It got me thinking that while there was a good 30 seconds worth of people who had helped make it, there was only person that it “belonged” to. I realized then that there is a difference between making a piece and being the artist behind it, so I began to wonder: What […]

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Jan
23

Creative CityMaking Reflection

By emmajohnston

  This summer, I and two other WACTACers were a part of an internship through Intermedia Arts and the city of Minneapolis called Creative CityMaking. The Creative CityMaking project connected various city planners and artists in order to reexamine how the neighborhoods in Minneapolis grow and change. The idea of the pairing was to get the community more involved in the discussion in new and creative ways. Our group was a small, but exciting part of this larger project. The focus of our group of nine teens, under artists Witt Siasoco and Mischa Kegan, was to look at historical architecture […]

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Jan
16

Collections: Chloe’s Memories

By Finn Roy-Nyline

The childhood memories of Chloe Fouilloux, as told second hand by Finnegan Roy-Nyline This interview takes place at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in downtown Saint Paul. Chloe’s collection of childhood memories, I thought, would fit nicely in the playground, with a nice little atmosphere of innocence. So if any of you know the Children’s Museum, we sat in the room with the giant ant hill, in that weird little cabin room up above. Photograph Six: Photograph number six showcases a young Chloe Fouilloux with her father, they certainly do look alike, don’t they? Chloe’s father bought a Nikon when Chloe […]

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