Department of Art and Art History News

Stephennie Mulder featured on History News Network

Mon. September 29, 2014

history news network logo on blue green background

An essay by Stephennie Mulder was featured on History News Network. The essay is from her recent publication, The Shrines of the 'Alids in Medieval Syria.

Q+A with Visiting Professor James Sham

Mon. September 29, 2014

head shot of James shame in white shirt with neutral background
Photo by Lily Brooks.

This fall, you came to the department as a visiting professor. What made you decide to come to Austin?

So many reasons, the Austin Roller Derby among them...Are there any reasons NOT to come to Austin?

What resources at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) or in Austin have you been excited about taking advantage of?

I'm most excited about the people here at UT. I've only had the opportunity to meet a few colleagues from other departments and fields, but they all seem excited and open to collaboration! There is a unique ethos and blend of minds here at UT that I think facilitates creative partnerships more than other places.

You're teaching Digital Foundations this semester with mostly first year undergraduates. How did you approach this class?

I think of the course more as an Art Foundations course in which Digital technology is taught, than a Foundations course in Digital Technology as applied to art. The beauty of teaching a Digital Foundations course is that as a platform is has the ability to absorb so many kinds of making.

Students in my class may end up doing performance art, installation, animation, or more conceptually founded projects. The more diverse the outcomes, the happier I'll be!

 


Goldfish Extract, pigment extract from Goldfish found already deceased in local aquariums and pet stores.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I began my studies in Studio Art and Philosophy as an undergraduate, but somehow ended up with an MFA in Sculpture despite not having ever really made a sculpture prior to that point. More accurately, the trajectory of my work has come from Painting to Performance to Video to Social Practice to where it is now, which we're calling "Innovation Arts" for the time being. In truth, my trajectory has been very non-linear and is not as tidy as described above; I continue to make and do several kinds of things and even make an object or two every once in a while.

You describe yourself as an inter-disciplinary artist. How did you start working or thinking in that way? What boundaries do you try to push with your work?

The term 'inter-disciplinary' means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so I'll try to answer this question from a personal perspective. For me the term necessitates a collaborative process, and the evolution of its role in my studio and life has been a slow development over time.

Years ago, I spent a lot of time as a part of my art practice trying to convince scientists, specialists in other fields, members in the local deaf community, and all kinds of strangers to collaborate in various art endeavors. At first it was because I was simply looking for resources in the sciences to accomplish things technically for which I lacked the knowledge base. I spent a lot of my time convincing tech companies to let me try out their equipment for the sake of making art, primarily for curiosity (and budget).

I operated on this idea that the concept of art, that is, the collective activity of making art in a group of strangers, could act as this social bridge upon which people could engage people that would otherwise not cross paths.

The critical question was, and still is—to what aim?

This was a question I wrestled with for a long time. After getting all of these amazing people in the same room under the guise of making art, the idea that the outcome of the entire interaction would be a video, or artwork or some object always seemed anti-climatic.

Fast–forward to 2014 and now I'm working with a Chemical Engineer and a Social Scientist/Entrepreneur to create the kind of program that I wished had existed to help facilitate my past collaborations. Our program facilitates partnerships between artists, scientists, and other inventors to create the prototypes and installation under the guise of art, and towards the aim of innovation.

One of the great advantages of working within the field of art is that it generally and readily accepts external systems or activities into its framework. We've decided that innovation and invention is the kind of activity we'd like to import into the art-world; and also vice-versa that imagination and the ingenuity for problem solving and experimentation is something we'd like to export out of the art world.

You mentioned you’re working with a Chemical Engineer (Brian Korgel) and a Social Scientist/Entrepreneur (Adam Bock). You three recently received a MIT-Skoltech Initiative Innovation Ideaslab Research Grant for a collaborative project. Can you tell us more about how you came to work with them?

I met these two at an Ideaslab conference hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoletch).

MIT and Skoltech brought together 24 innovation specialists from 17 countries to workshop ideas that would address the question "How can an institution or government seed, grow and maximize technological innovation and entrepreneurship?"

After being given an opportunity to propose creative research projects that would address these concerns, we were able to receive approval for our project, "Rapid Design Pivot.”

What are the goals of the project?

Rapid Design Pivot is a research project where we initiate and facilitate partnerships between artists, scientists and inventors to discover new applications for emerging materials, science and technology. Through the activity of making art, we anticipate that artists and scientists together will discover usages for emerging materials that would otherwise not be explored.

We have created both a physical space in Moscow, Russia to test these prototypes/art installations and an intellectual space to maximize the impact of these ideas be it via start-up companies, licensing solutions etc. We'd like to think of ourselves as matchmakers for artists to work with the materials they've found inaccessible and also conversely for scientists to see the potential of their ideas in action.

What has been the funniest/greatest thing that has happened to you while here so far?

After driving across the country twice, going up to Canada in between, I finally arrived in Texas and promptly crashed my car in Houston.

Well, I suppose that will be funny one day...
 

Michael Smith installation during the 2014 Frieze Art Fair

Sat. September 27, 2014

artist standing in installation of bar
Image courtesy of the artist

For the Focus section of the 2014 Frieze Art Fair London, Michael Smith will be restaging his Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snackbar installation from 1983. The installation, presented by Dan Gunn Gallery (Berlin), is one of Smith’s most important and earliest installations and this will be its first exhibition outside of the US.

This year’s themed section, Live, organized by curators Raphael Gygax and Jacob Proctor is dedicated to ambitious performance-based installations and will include works specially conceived for Frieze as well as the re-staging of a number of important historical pieces.

Jeff Williams presents work at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Fri. September 26, 2014

concrete pieces pressed in compression table in park
Compression and Tension Table, cast concrete, reinforcement bar, steel, 2012

Jeff Williams presents work in How the Light Gets In, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition features recent work by seven former Core fellows who have continued to create challenging and compelling work. The exhibition will be on display October 10 through January 11, 2015.

Scott Proctor presents new work at Co-Lab Projects

Fri. September 26, 2014

Detail image of ceramic work with bright orange glaze splattered on black glaze
Image courtesy of the artist and Co-lab Projects

Scott Proctor (M.F.A. Studio Art, 2007) shows new work in Unmentionables at Co-Lab Projects. The exhibition will be on display September 27 – October 4 with reception on September 27. Proctor has shown his work extensively throughout Texas as well as the United States, including Austin's "20 To Watch" exhibition in 2009. Proctor is one of the founding members of MASS Gallery in Austin and continues his position there. Scott is the head of the Ceramics and Sculpture Department at Temple College, Temple, TX. He continues to maintain a studio in east Austin.