Thursday, July 24, 2008

Richbrau, Continued-- and a bit of reality.

So, regarding my prior entry about hardware and Richbrau Brewery in Richmond: it turns out Richbrau is producing beer again, in another, trendier part of Richmond. I was able to find a picture of the old brewery, where I lived for less than a year in 1988, but it's all fixed up now. In fact, it claims to house 37 apartments! When I lived there we had no plumbing except a toilet at the other end of the building, reachable by going through several heavy fire doors. We built our own floor out of pallets and found shelving wood, and used some kind of electric burner to cook. I took showers by standing under a cold hose over the same drain we used to wash the dishes. One day we realized this was just a hole in the floor, that emptied into the basement level--there was no pipe there! There were random holes in the concrete floors, and a fair bit of asbestos. We paid $75/month each for $1500 square feet.

I sound like one of those Monty Python skits: "we used to have to crawl home on broken glass, and lick the road clean, and we didn't complain!"

Sure, those were the good old days, but I must admit I like having indoor plumbing and a real stove (I'm not even worthy of the six-burner Viking stove I currently have!) Maybe when the Governor's plan for state workers goes into effect, I'll have to get used to no plumbing again. This afternoon I got an email about how all California state employees may have their salaries cut to $6.55 per hour, until the state budget is passed. Tenured or not, in the end I'm a "state worker".

The "old" Richbrau Brewery in Jackson Ward, Richmond, Virginia.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nature and SUV's

We went camping in the Sonora area of the Sierras for Bruce's birthday. On the first morning, Bruce did a 4000 ft hill climb on his bike, to the top of the Sonora Pass (10,000 ft up) and back. I did nothing of the sort. (I'm not capable of such cardiovascular feats.) Instead I went for a hike and took pictures related to my current project. Although "leisure time" generally makes me anxious, I actually found the trip very helpful in terms of visual and conceptual research for my project. This area epitomized the monster-SUV/ monster-truck culture that partially inspired the piece I'm working on. And then of course there was the "nature" thing, which is also relevant to my project. And also there were the helicopters frequently overhead with their balls of water that looked too small to put out any fire, and the sound of people shooting at something for hours at a time. And the knowledge that those little chipmunks running around were carrying fleas that in turn carried the Bubonic Plague, still with us so long after its heyday.

But back to art: because I now have a deadline for this project, the project I thought I would be pursuing this summer will have to wait. I delayed starting it because it involved an uncomfortable level of intrusion on other people's space(s). I'll have to keep thinking about how to approach this, because I still think it would make a cool piece, and perhaps the individuals whose spaces I want to use can be convinced that it's cool, if I get up the nerve to ask. I guess it's just something that comes with the territory of being an artist: apologizing and explaining a lot, and frequently looking ridiculous.

My former professor, James Elkins, writes at length about the uncomfortable relationship of artists to "the rest of society" in his book, Why Art Cannot Be Taught. He first explains that artists' educations are myopic and just plain inadequate compared to the education of doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on. He then discusses the ways artists have generally been perceived throughout history. "Today the situation is significantly different. According to the newspapers, artists are something of a blemish on society-- or, more strongly, they are parasites on public largesse, or just jerks. The general attitude of the public, as it is reflected in the media, is annoyance."

Hmmm... my colleague in the Industrial Design department insists that I'm a actually a designer. People like designers, that's what I should be. Both artists and designers turn perfectly good "raw materials" into useless stuff. On the whole, though, I'd have to say that artists produce fewer cubic feet of useless stuff annually than designers, who are aided by mass-production in the dissemination of their stuff.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Cool, so a bunch of things are finally going as planned, and some even better than expected, on my project. And I have a venue for it, Scope Miami in December.
The material tests went well, and I can't go into more detail than that, because I have to keep it all top-secret. There's this funny zeitgeist thing that happens with art-- whatever you're making, suddenly everyone else had the exact same idea at the same time*, and the one who makes it a week ahead of everyone else wins. Speed in art-making has never been my forte. Maybe "obsessiveness" is my forte.

*Actually, it's not that other people have the exact same idea. It's more like they express a similar attitude, or are inspired in a similar manner by a manufacturing technique, or a concept like infinite bifurcation.

Also, I came upon this pretty good phenomenon today: It's a way of posting images, artist statements and resumes in a database so that different institutions can look at it, instead of having to laboriously prepare a separate application for each proposal. So far it looks like it's being used by calls for public art, etc. It still took me most of the day to format the images and fill in all the information, but hopefully my "file" can now be re-used for other applications.