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May 17th – Meatpacking District Design ’09

An unusual breezy Sunday.  We met at the Standard Hotel. Quietly thrilling to walk a few blocks to the glass-slab building which reflects light from the Hudson River from two directions – slightly south and slightly north.  Double sunset.

The rendezvous was set but the itinerary was not.  How would we feel, in the adjacent neighborhood of cobbles and eviscerated butchershops – now overrun by design seekers enjoying the Department of Transportation’s new traffic/public space patterning?

After drinks in the lounge, our group of writers, artists and designers, animated, wobbled on.  Here, on “Gansevoort Plaza”, shipping containers showcasing Finnish Design, and along the street, welcoming high fashion shop-doors were open.

414 Gallery was a target, but was so crowded and jumbled that we opted for the drinks and continued on.  CORE 77 describes it,

…The space acts as a sort of gallery concentrator, gathering together recent work from IDEA/Brasil, IDSA New York members, Iceland Design Center, designboom, LO-TEK, and a number of other design and architecture studios.

Bustelo-coffee-in-cans, macerated fruit and vodka, sidecars… in the main, drinking and walking typified the halcyon day.

Pictured above, fig. 2 – the three writers; Andy Forell,  Lani Steinberg, Mark Kramer (author “Lee Lozano.net“)… and me. Fig 4 – Conceptual artist (and wearable art designer) Sakurako Shimizu… and me.

CaroleeMay 18 – Carolee Schneemann at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery

Happily traipsing to St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery (MTA Bus M8) we anticipated a historic event, Mysteries of the Iconographies, a visual talk by the artist Carolee Schneemann, who, in her own words is “transforming the definition of art, especially discourse on the body, sexuality, and gender”. She asserted the connection of her youthful sketches to her adult art making– one’s “own iconographies”.  Stairs, sticks, lines and ropes… a humble discourse on childhood symbols and an eloquent tracing of her spectacular controversies.

A particularly poignant slide reminded us of St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery‘s deep arts history.  An image  from the late 60’s performance Water Light/Water Needle was projected, depicting the very same Parish Hall in which we were listening to the artist talk that evening.

Pictured above, projections from Schneemann’s lecture, Fig 1 – Interior Scroll, Fig 2 – Carolee speaking, Fig 3 – Water Light/Water Needle (1966).

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May 20 – American Academy of Arts and Letters

The big trip… take the A-train and then the C to 155th Street clutching our hard-copy invitations. On May 20th, the American Academy held it’s annual ceremony honor over 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $75,000.

My composer cousin Laura Elise Schwendinger was the recipient of the Goddard Lieberson fellowship for mid-career composers of exceptional gifts grant.  And we were there to  is to observe her acceptance – and to cheer as the institution  inducted nine members into the 250-person organization: artist Judy Pfaff and architect Tod Williams; writers T. Coraghessan Boyle, Jorie Graham, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Price; composers Stephen Hartke, Frederic Rzewski, and Augusta Read Thomas.

After basking in the celebrity of intellectuals and artists, a group of us, now including sculptor Judy Fox and composer Sebastian Currier , descended the hill to somewhere around 130th Street and then the stone stair-wall that separates Riverside Drive from the Hudson’s shore to have dinner and share experiences of the day.

Pictured above, (right to left, top to bottom), Fig 1 – Laura, Fig 2 – the gate, Fig 3 – T.C. Boyle, Fig 4 and 6 – view of the ceremony from the balcony, and Fig 5 – Architect Stan Allen’s magnificent, multi-color site model.

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May 22 – Publicolor Design Module

And to complete a week of intensive observation, reflection, revelry and camaraderie, I spoke before an audience of high-schoolers at Publicolor for the “Design Module” – a weekly session with designers describing their jobs.

Telling the story of my development as an artist and designer via the world of film, community activism and civic theatre, I realized how extraordinarily my life and practice has progressed — and struggled to describe my serendipitous and self-made opportunities to these disaffected teenage students.  The Color Club students asked me if I “liked my work” (“Yes”),  what my “favorite color” was (“Colors are site specific”) and we discussed the merits of light and shadow.

Pictured above, scenes from Stir, Splatter+ Roll Gala 2009 (Light Projects’ 10th year participating as Lighting Design consultant and mine; as team leader, for the Publicolor annual fundraiser).

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* dérive

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord