Blogs Untitled (Blog) Behind the Scenes

Introducing the Interdisciplinary Work Group

In September 2011 a group of Walker staffers convened under the umbrella of the Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG). Largely drawn from the institution’s various programming departments, the group was charged with examining on both a pragmatic and more theoretical level how the Walker approaches and thinks about the interdisciplinary in its work. The IWG emerged […]

In September 2011 a group of Walker staffers convened under the umbrella of the Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG). Largely drawn from the institution’s various programming departments, the group was charged with examining on both a pragmatic and more theoretical level how the Walker approaches and thinks about the interdisciplinary in its work. The IWG emerged out of a desire first expressed in a 2009 Bush Foundation grant application titled Expanding The Rules of Engagement with Artists & Audiences to “develop new internal systems, planning mechanisms, and infrastructure to foster greater institutional integration, cross-departmental collaboration, and interdisciplinary experimentation in programs and collections that can be sustained in the future…”

Standing (left to right): Jenny Jones, Rock the Garden coordinator, Visitor Services; Michèle Steinwald, assistant curator, Performing Arts; Dean Otto, associate curator, Film/ Video; Deborah Hay, choreographer; Susanah Shouweiler, writer; Susy Bielak, associate director, Public and Interpretive Programs; Yesomi Umolu, curatorial fellow, Visual Arts; Eric Price, new media designer. Seated: Emmet Byrne, design director; Abi Sebaly, Cunningham research fellow; Brooke Kellaway, Getty research fellow. Photo: Bartholomew Ryan

The group set about asking some very basic questions: As a multidisciplinary arts organization that has expanded in size considerably over the last decades, how are we prepared to respond to the ever more interdisciplinary ways in which artists are working? Given that the institution has Design, Education & Community Programs, Film/ Video, New Media, Performing Arts, and Visual Arts departments – all of which actively create programs — are we not innately interdisciplinary? Or, must we be engaged in cross-departmental projects to really achieve that goal? Are such projects de facto interdisciplinary? Or can they simply mean that one department is acting as a logistical consultant for another which is working in a format they don’t conventionally use? Each discipline has a different relationship to time, space, and language. When is this a good thing? Where can the tensions between different ways of working and looking at the world be turned into productive means of exploration? And just what is it about that term, “interdisciplinary” that is so desirable in the first place? Is it the idea of each participant entering something where they can’t predict the outcome? And if so, how can a large institution with multiple competing needs – from work flow to scheduling and budgeting constraints – remain open to such a philosophy of practice?

Rather than jump to conclusions, the group agreed to engage in a period of research and invite a variety of people to visit the Walker and talk about their work. The desire is to step outside the day-to-day institutional needs of the Walker and get a sense of how different people in different fields are working on and thinking through some of the same broad questions. The visits started in the Spring of 2012, and will end by January 2013, at which time the group will begin to craft its thinking around interdisciplinary questions, and will work to deliver a report that outlines some of its findings and ultimately also attempts to deliver some practical tools to guide interdisciplinary projects into the future.

Each event takes on a different structure depending on the member of the group who is organizing it and their conversations with the participants. Some are intimate seminars, for example the visit by choreographer Deborah Hay that occurred in May 2012. Others involve the participation of a larger group, as with the visit of design futurist Julian Bleecker, which included the Design and New Media departments. Writer Susannah Schouweiler has been invited to attend each event and deliver an account from her own perspective, as a way to informally document the proceedings and to create a record that the IWG can use into the future. Over the coming weeks and months, Susannah’s texts will be posted on the Walker blogs, introduced by the event organizer. As an accumulation of different perspectives, we hope these posts serve to sample the range of the IWG’s research, and that they prove useful material for others who are engaged in similar questions.

Events:
Deborah Hay, May 05, 2012
Julian Bleecker, June 05, 2012
Lisa Yun Lee, September 18, 2012
Eyal Weizman, October 4, 2012
Stanford Makishi, November 29, 2012
(More updates soon)

“The Quiet Revolutionary”: Honoring Librarian Rosemary Furtak

A beloved member of the Walker family and the book arts community, Rosemary Furtak, the Walker’s librarian for 29 years, passed away Sunday, July 8, 2012, at age 69.

Rosemary Furtak, 1986

A beloved member of the Walker family and the book arts community, Rosemary Furtak passed away Sunday, July 8, 2012, at age 69. She was a great colleague and friend, and one who will be sorely missed.

Last week we celebrated a beloved colleague, Rosemary Furtak, who retired recently after a 29-year career at the Walker. Countless curators, scholars, writers, artists, designers, and others—both inside and outside the art center—have a special fondness for the Walker Library, which houses more than 35,000 publications in a wonderfully hushed, secluded underground space. This is thanks largely to Rosemary and the infectious enthusiasm she brought to her profession as a librarian–and, more to the point, to her role in establishing and building the library’s collection of some 1,600 artist’s books.

It was for her work in both of those capacities that she received a Distinguished Service Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS) at its 2012 conference, held last March in Toronto. “In the early 1980s, Rosemary was among the few art museum librarians who recognized a fundamental difference between artists’ books and others, and who segregated them into special collections areas that would eventually become known as ‘Artists’ Book Collections’,” noted Janice Lea Lurie, head librarian at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in presenting the award. “The idea that artists’ books are different, or as Rosemary stated, they are ‘books that refuse to behave like other books’, was a visionary step, as no well-defined precedents in the early 1980s existed for establishing artists’ book collections. Consequently, Rosemary was a pioneer in this area, which later became part of the “collection development” mainstream of the late 1980s and early ’90s.”

In their nomination letter, Lurie and a host of other ARLIS colleagues wrote of the ongoing impact of Rosemary’s “early and visionary leadership” not just in art museum librarianship, but also in the books arts community and “the strongly rooted ‘book-scene’ culture of the Twin Cities.” They cited her as both a “well-known local personality in the art, library, and book arts circles” and “a highly respected and beloved figure internationally”; and, finally, noting her “very quiet way” and “great modesty”—something that endeared her to so many—they proposed for her the title of “The Quiet Revolutionary.” More than 30 of Furtak’s fellow art librarians and other colleagues in book arts and museums supported the nomination.

Many of us at the Walker already miss Rosemary’s sharp insights and vast knowledge, not to mention her connoisseurship of chocolate and her sartorial flair (on any given day she could easily take the award for best-dressed Walker staffer). We will also sorely miss her miniature exhibitions of artists’ books, an ongoing series presented in a specially built display case right outside the library. Fortunately, all of these exhibitions dating back to 2005 have been documented in photos–click here to see the full collection on Flickr.

For more on Rosemary and the artists’ book collection – including 13 great examples of works—see this interview from 2008, conducted as she was co-curating the exhibition Text/Messages with Walker curator Siri Engberg; and her article, “Adventures in Collecting, originally published in Walker magazine.

Recent artist’s book display, organized by Rosemary Furtak

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day: Leading Ladies in the Walker’s Collection

With registrar Joe King and registration technician Evan Reiter we took a trip to art storage to see the first 5 works by women to enter the Walker’s collection.                     June Corwine Still Life (1945) Oil on canvas Accessioned May, 1946           […]

With registrar Joe King and registration technician Evan Reiter we took a trip to art storage to see the first 5 works by women to enter the Walker’s collection.

"Still Life" (1945) by June Corwine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June Corwine
Still Life (1945)
Oil on canvas
Accessioned May, 1946


Joe King, the Walker's Registrar, with "Rose Planes" (1945) by Irene Rice Pereira.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irene Rice Pereira
Rose Planes (1945)
Oil on parchment
Accessioned September, 1946


Evan Reiter, the Walker's Registration Technician, with "Rocking Chair Gossips" (1945) by Clara Mairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clara Mairs
Rocking Chair Gossips (1945)
Oil on composition board
Accessioned December, 1947


"The Door" (1947) by Evelyn Raymond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evelyn Raymond
The Door (1947)
Mahogany
February, 1948

 

"Der Tod im Wasser" (20th century) by Käthe Kollwitz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Käthe Kollwitz
Der Tod im Wasser (Death from Drowning) (20th century)
lithograph on paper
Accessioned December, 1949

About That F#@%ing Frank Gaard T-Shirt…

One day in early 2005, I spotted Frank Gaard getting off the bus on Hennepin Avenue. Toting a pink-painted plank under his arm, he was headed my way, to the temporary offices Walker staff was occupying during construction of the new expansion. We greeted, and he showed me what he had: a going-away present for […]

Frank Gaard, I Love the Fucking Walker, 2005. Collection Philippe Vergne and Sylvia Chivaratanond

One day in early 2005, I spotted Frank Gaard getting off the bus on Hennepin Avenue. Toting a pink-painted plank under his arm, he was headed my way, to the temporary offices Walker staff was occupying during construction of the new expansion. We greeted, and he showed me what he had: a going-away present for Philippe Verne, then senior curator and Visual Arts department head. It was a sign that read, “I love the Fucking Walker.”

Vergne, who is now director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, had invited Gaard to participate in a billboard project in downtown Minneapolis; Gaard’s work was part of a series that included pieces by Matthew Barney, Takashi Murakami, Yoko Ono, and Laylah Ali.

In an email, Vergne says Gaard submitted the original art for the project, but the billboard company rejected it. He jokes:

The billboard company did not want to print it and install it because of the word “love.” They thought the word was offensive and might shock young sensibilities. As we all know, love is a dangerous, uncontrollable emotion that leads people to behave in ways that might disrupt social order.

It smells too, at times.

But Gaard says the piece wasn’t his submission for the billboard project. Vergne, he remembers, was set to leave to head up an art center in Italy (it ultimately fell through, and he returned as chief curator), and Gaard wanted to present him with a parting gift. Painted on a “a piece of wood [he] found in a dumpster,” Gaard says it was “inspired by Philippe’s ability to see the Walker both ways, as an impediment and as a thing that can provide solace to people.”

While the piece isn’t in the Walker’s current Gaard show, it is in the Shop, reproduced on t-shirts:

Gaard says Vergne wanted to have the artwork appear on shirts years ago, but it wasn’t to be. “I think I signed a permission slip,” Gaard remembers. But now that they’re made, what’s Vergne’s response?

He emails: “I love this Fucking T-shirt.”

Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy is on view through May 6, 2012.

Documenting the Drops: Part 1

This past week, the McGuire Theater has been occupied with the unpacking, photographing, and re-rolling of many of the Cunningham backdrops.  The drops came to the Walker folded down and packed in portable touring -friendly hampers and bags (imagine a large sleeping bag in a small scrunch sack).  But now that they are here to stay, they are being rolled […]

This past week, the McGuire Theater has been occupied with the unpacking, photographing, and re-rolling of many of the Cunningham backdrops.  The drops came to the Walker folded down and packed in portable touring -friendly hampers and bags (imagine a large sleeping bag in a small scrunch sack).  But now that they are here to stay, they are being rolled flat on long cardboard cylinders, to eliminate creases and stabilize their condition. Although we have already hung several of the drops in theater in preparation for the exhibition Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham / Robert Rauschenberg, this is the first time that any of the drops are being formally photographed by the Walker’s photographers Gene Pittman and Cameron Wittig.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Production Director Davison Scandrett has also been on site, documenting some of the drops and other set pieces for the company’s dance capsules.  The Merce Cunningham Trust’s dance capsules will facilitate the licensing and recreation of some of Merce Cunningham’s existing dances, so that even though the company has disbanded, educational institutions and other dance companies can still present Merce’s work.

The artists represented in this first batch of backdrop photos include Jasper JohnsAfrika, and Marsha Skinner.  The photographers also documented drops by William Anastasi and Robert Rauschenberg, which will be featured in another upcoming post.

MCDC Production Director Davison Scandrett pulling the Exchange (1978) drop out of the bag. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

The unfurling of the Exchange drop, designed by Jasper Johns. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

Davison with Walker Registrar Joe King, in front of the Exchange drop. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

The backdrop for August Pace (1989), designed by Afrika (Sergei Bugaev). Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

The August Pace drop coming down. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

Backdrop for Change of Address (1992), designed by Marsha Skinner. Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

Joe King helping the WAC photographers set up their shots.  Photo: Abigail Sebaly

 

Installation—Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy

Minneapolis-based artist Frank Gaard is here this week installing Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, his first Walker solo show since 1980’s Viewpoints. Opening Thursday night, the exhibition spans more than four decades and features Gaard’s unique perspective on the world as illustrated through paintings, zines and drawings. His content veers from wry commentary on the […]

Minneapolis-based artist Frank Gaard is here this week installing Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, his first Walker solo show since 1980’s Viewpoints. Opening Thursday night, the exhibition spans more than four decades and features Gaard’s unique perspective on the world as illustrated through paintings, zines and drawings. His content veers from wry commentary on the art world to renderings of placid ponies, references to revered philosophers and artists to overtly sexual themes–all presented in Gaard’s trademark DayGlo paint. Here’s a sneak peek of the exhibition as it’s being installed.

Crew member Emily Lyman ponders a wall installation in progress.

Gaard considers the placement of a work that bears a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche: “We have need of lies in order to conquer this reality, this ‘truth,’ that is in order to live. That lies are necessary in order to live is itself part of the terrifying and questionable character of existence.”

Assistant Registrar Jessica Rolland catalogs work beneath a wall of Gaard’s portraits.

A detail of Gaard’s Untitled (Bottlecaps).

Art world references frequently make their way into Gaard’s work. One portrait of Christi Atkinson, former head of Walker Teen Programs and program director at the Soap Factory, features panties emblazoned with the names of those art organizations.

Gaard’s 1999 piece The Time Painting awaits hanging in the galleries.

Karl Marx and Adam Smith Drop in on Occupy Wall Street

Last week Karl Marx and Adam Smith, two of the stars of the Pedro Reyes exhibition/video series Baby Marx, made an impromptu trip from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to Occupy Wall Street in New York’s Financial District. The artist had been tracking the protests and decided the puppets should check them out. Among other activities, Marx interviewed OWS protesters, while Smith set up the first Occupy Wall Street bank.


Adam Smith launches the First Occupied Bank. Photo: Natalia Nakazawa

Last week Karl Marx and Adam Smith, two of the stars of the Pedro Reyes exhibition/video series Baby Marx, made an impromptu trip from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to Occupy Wall Street in New York’s Financial District. The artist had been tracking the protests and decided the puppets should check them out. Together with the director of photography Vicente Pousso and the Minneapolis-based puppeteers Janaki Ranpura (Smith) and Marc Berg (Marx), Reyes shot several new scenes. Among other activities, Marx interviewed OWS protesters, while Smith set up the first Occupy Wall Street bank.

Normally museums don’t let their art objects go on field trips during an exhibition. For one thing, they might get damaged. But Pedro’s idea was so obviously in tune with the project as a whole — exploring as it does the intersections of art, ideology and entertainment, not to mention the clash between Marxist and capitalist theory — that the registrars and curators worked out a way to make it happen and released them back into the world. Visitors to the Walker last week saw two empty stands where Karl and Adam normally hang out, plus labels letting them know that they would return soon.

The videos of the visit should be ready in the next few weeks and posted online, in the meantime here are a few snapshots:


Marx prepares to interview a protester at Occupy Wall Street. Pictured: Michele Fiedler, Pedro Reyes, Karl Marx, Vicente Pousso and Marc Berg. Photo: Natalia Nakazawa

Marx is not so happy with Smith’s new profit-making scheme. Photo: Natalia Nakazawa

Walker Loading Dock: Puppeteer Marc Berg returns puppets to the Walker’s Assistant Registrar for Exhibitions, Pamela Caserta. Photo: Bartholomew Ryan

Walker Receiving Area: Adam Smith is doing OK after his trip to New York, according to a condition report that reflects any changes. Photo: Bartholomew Ryan

Karl and Adam in situ at the Walker. Photo: Gene Pittman

UPDATE: Here’s video of the Occupy Wall Street segment from Baby Marx.

Members Making Trouble!

Walker members have more fun taking advantage of A Think & A Drink: Member Events. Last Friday, after most of the museum shut down, we toured the exhibition Absentee Landlord, curated by John Waters. Almost 60 of our favorite members were in attendance to celebrate the arbiter of trash!

A Think & A Drink: Troublemaker

Walker members have more fun taking advantage of  A Think & A Drink: Member Events.  Last Friday, after most of the museum shut down, we toured the exhibition Absentee Landlord, curated by John Waters.  Almost 60 of our favorite members were in attendance to celebrate the arbiter of trash!

We started off the evening with a tour of the exhibition.  Below you’ll find one of our fabulous tour guides Tanya!  Tours become a little more conversational during A Think & A Drink.  Is it the think? Or, is it the drink?

Following the tour, members had a chance to debrief over cocktails and cheese.  John Waters definitely provided ample talking points.  Conversations ranged from art to terrible roommates and everywhere in between.  Shockingly enough I didn’t witness the use of any fake cockroaches or other gag items now found in the Walker Shop.  I like to put them in my bath tub.

Everyone was all smiles after the tour, here’s some of our regular attendees.

If you’d like to join us for the next A Think & A Drink member event please visit membership.walkerart.org for more information.

Cold Storage and New Brightness: The Cunningham Acquisition Moves in at the Walker

ARRIVAL: Many items from the Cunningham acquisition are now living at the Walker.  In preparation for the November opening of Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham/Robert Rauschenberg, the art storage basement is filled with Robert Rauschenberg-designed costumes and set pieces (or decors, as Merce referred to them).  Rauschenberg collaborated with Merce Cunningham on pieces from 1954-1964, […]

R-L: Details from Robert Rauschenberg's costume designs for Summerspace (1958) and Antic Meet (1958). Photos by Abi Sebaly.

ARRIVAL: Many items from the Cunningham acquisition are now living at the Walker.  In preparation for the November opening of Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham/Robert Rauschenberg, the art storage basement is filled with Robert Rauschenberg-designed costumes and set pieces (or decors, as Merce referred to them).  Rauschenberg collaborated with Merce Cunningham on pieces from 1954-1964, 1977, 2000, and 2007.  The pieces in the Walker acquisition reflect this broad span.

IMMIGRATION AND PASSPORT CONTROL: Following their journey from New York, all items must undergo a thorough inspection, cleaning, and cataloguing before they can fully move into the Walker’s collection.  While the rest of Minneapolis sweats it out in the midsummer swelter, the art storage, and the acquisition items within, remain stable in a temperature-controlled environment that is cold, very cold.   Last week, textile conservator Beth McLaughlin visited to school us in preparing the costumes, decors, and other performance ephemera for their new lives as museum holdings.  Each costume (and there could be well over 1,000) will be vacuumed with the Nilfisk (more than your average Hoover—a device with special brushes and filters), inspected, and carefully tagged and folded into boxes layered with acid-free tissue.  Décor backdrops, which typically measure a very large 30’ x 60’, will have to be hung in an actual theater setting to allow their storage folds and wrinkles to relax, before they are then rolled onto long dowels.  A bear fur coat, which Rauschenberg found for the piece Antic Meet (1958) will have to be frozen at the Science Museum of Minnesota so that potential fur-loving pests stay away. The painting vacuum, appropriated for cleaning costumes. Photo by Abi Sebaly.

EMERGING QUESTIONS: Until now, these items have been cleaned and cared for with the aim of sustaining their use in performances.  But now they are now handled with cotton gloves.  In light of this transformation, how should we treat the traces of performances past, such as the lingering residue Merce’s stage makeup on a shirt collar?  Should gummy labels and fabric wrinkles be treated and repaired, or stabilized and left as intact as possible? How do we create new spaces for this acquisition in the art storage area, in the catalogue database template, in the way we share these items across departments and disciplines?  How do we convey the multiple stories of these items as objects of function, objects of design and aesthetic interest, and launch pads for broader learning?

NEW BRIGHTNESS: Items that were once meant to be observed from afar, in motion, on bodies, lit by stage lighting, are now stationary objects exposed to close, raw-light scrutiny. This may sound like a more clinical vantage point, but as I begin to examine the costumes, I am constantly surprised by the unexpected details that pop at this close distance.  For instance, Rauschenberg’s Summerspace (1958) costumes look uniformly dotted from stage.  But up close, you can see that he applied the colorful dyes in more layered, varied patterns. And even after more than 50 years, the day-glo hues and intensely saturated colors keep blazing.

 More updates to follow soon!

L: Detail from Rauschenberg's costume design for Summerspace (1958). R: Derry Swan in Summerspace. Courtesy of Cunningham Dance Foundation.

L: Summerspace (1958) costumes. R: Textile conservator Beth McLaughlin holding Rauschenberg-designed hooped tank tops from Antic Meet (1958).

 

R: Detailing from Merce's Antic Meet (1958) tank top. L: More detail of Rauschenberg's tattoo motif on the Antic Meet tank tops (scooping the likes of Christian Audigier and Ed Hardy, 50 years before their time!).

Baby Marx…Coming Soon

This is the original teaser for Baby Marx, an ongoing project by Pedro Reyes that explores the intersections of mass entertainment, ideology and contemporary art. The teaser was produced for the Yokohama Triennial in Japan in 2008, and was followed by a television pilot shot in Mexico City in 2009. He worked closely with Japanese […]

This is the original teaser for Baby Marx, an ongoing project by Pedro Reyes that explores the intersections of mass entertainment, ideology and contemporary art. The teaser was produced for the Yokohama Triennial in Japan in 2008, and was followed by a television pilot shot in Mexico City in 2009. He worked closely with Japanese master puppeteer Takumi Ota for over a year to design and build the puppets, which Reyes explains as crafted “to cast the personality of a character in the simplest form […] a silhouette.”

The Walker version of Baby Marx uses the tools and procedures of documentary filmmaking, as well as the handmade puppets and monumental library set used to film the pilot episode, to develop and expand on the questions raised by the entire project to date.

Baby Marx is on view at the Walker August 11 – November 27, 2011.

No posts

Previous
Next