“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is now online!

posted by on 2010.02.17, under art, news, public art, Uncategorized
The first version of the website and book for “The history of Somerville , 2010-2100″ project is now online!
 
To download a free PDF of the book, click here. To view the project’s website, click here.
 
“The history of Somerville , 2010-2100″ is a community art project that is exploring what the future might be like. Both the book and the website present what we’ve found by talking to Somerville community members about the future. In the book and website, you’ll also find official government plans, think tank vision statements, and various ideas and concerns about the future from various other sources.
 
The Timeline section presents this material as a single timeline. In the Predictions Archive section, you’ll find the actual predictions that community members made.
 
We’ll be collecting predictions until the end of the year. If you’d like to make a prediction, please email Tim at future.of.somerville@gmail.com . All participants will receive full credit for their images, concepts, stories, and data. All material received by Dec. 31, 2010 will appear on the project’s website and in the final version of the book.
 
This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council. The project is also on Facebook here.

The future is (almost) now!

posted by on 2009.12.08, under art, public art, urbanism

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What will it be like? That’s up to you!

“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is a community-focused art project that explores what the future of Somerville Mass. might be like.

If you’d like to participate, please let us know any of the following:

1. What do you think (or hope, or fear) you will personally be doing in the future? And when you think it will happen by? (Will you buy a condo in Union Square in 2043? Will you have twins in 2011? Will your unborn child become a famous pianist in 2074?)

2. What you think (or hope, or fear) Somerville will be like in the future? (Will there be hi-rise apartment buildings in Davis Square by 2047? Will the plague strike? Will your neighborhood be gentrified? When?)

Tell us a story! Draw us a picture! Make us a map!

All participants will receive full credit for their images, concepts, stories, and data.

We can be reached at future.of.somerville@gmail.com . We hope to hear from you!

All predictions received by December 31, 2009 will be included on our website, and in our printed timeline. Everyone who makes a prediction will get a copy of the timeline.

This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council.

“Art attacks the daily grind” by Tim Devin

posted by on 2009.11.18, under art, performance, public art

A woman walks down the aisle of the grocery store. She is followed by three other women. They are wearing matching wigs, and singing about the things the first woman is buying.

In a gray, padded cubicle, an office worker opens up a corporate-looking envelope. In it is a formal letter urging him to submerge an enclosed capsule in hot water, so see which “exciting safari animal” it will turn into.

During evening rush-hour, a woman stares down the subway tracks, listening to her headphones. A man approaches her. He hands her a handmade pop-up book. The book is about a woman wearing headphones, and staring down the subway tracks during evening rush-hour.

Welcome to the nutty world of artistic interventions into daily routines.

–Felicity Fenton’s backup singers–

For “Backup” (2008-ongoing), Felicity Fenton hires anonymous women she finds on Craigslist. For the first performance, three of these women accompanied her while she shopped for groceries. The women wore matching wigs, and sang about Fenton’s purchases. “Strange men whistled,” Fenton tells me over email, “some people ducked out of the way (due to the cameras) and lots of people continued to go about their daily task like nothing ever happened.” And a security guard told them they had to leave.

(Image from Felicity Fenton's website)

(Image from Felicity Fenton's website)

A year later, she performed it again, this time writing lyrics and dance moves for her backup singers, and providing them with matching outfits. When one of the singers cancelled at the last minute, Fenton had to take her place. Now short an audience, Fenton called a friend, and talked him into doing his own laundry while the singers serenaded him instead.

“Performance always cheers me up. It changes the tone of the day — completely. I dedicated a performance to something I usually take for granted…It felt as though I was praising the grocery and laundry gods for an hour.”

Fenton is currently planning a few more performances of the piece. These will most likely involving cleaning her house, and driving in traffic. With backup singers.

“It’s common to feel impatient or bored by things we do every day – brushing teeth, eating, making the bed, laundry, shopping, driving – and all the time it takes to do these things becomes convoluted and lacks presence because we think of the time as useless. But it’s not useless. We have to do these things, so why not find a new way to make them enjoyable? Art does this for me.”

–Chris Barr and the Bureau of Workplace Interruptions–

Groceries and laundry can be boring, but at least you only have to do them once a week. Work, on the other hand, happens a lot more often than that. Luckily, there is Chris Barr’s “Bureau of Workplace Interruptions” (2006-ongoing). Visitors to the Bureau’s website can sign up to have Barr or a volunteer from the Bureau interrupt their work-day.

“You know how receiving flowers at work can put a buzz on the rest of the day?” the website reads. “So do we. That’s why we create surprise, the kind that slices through the banal and opens up new places for your mind to wander. .. [W]e hope to invigorate some of the time you spend at work in order to create new experiences and possibilities outside the flow of capital.” All interruptions are guaranteed to not get you in trouble with your boss, too; the Bureau’s website stresses that their actions won’t be noticed by any of your coworkers.

Most of these interruptions take the form of emails. For instance, one volunteer who goes by the name Agent ChrisTwo invited an office worker to write a rap about his job. ChrisTwo starts him off:

“Yo, Yo, First City Loans is where Jason works,
His work is hard, have’n to give loans all day to jerks,
The office is nice but his cubicle is cramped,
the bathroom is clean but the floor is always damp.

“Your turn”

Another volunteer, Agent J, advises an office worker to confess her sins to her coworkers. “Please, don’t feel judged by me; I’m an atheist,” Agent J goes on to explain to the recipient. “We would like to hear back from you, though, to see if this has had any impact on the dynamics of your work-relationships.” Documentation of these and other interruptions are available in a database on the Bureau’s website.

“I think what is important,” Barr tells me over email, “is not just stealing time, but a recognition that contemporary labor utilizes and exhausts our communicative and cognitive functions. So, the important thing to me is to insert non-saleable communications into those channels.” 

–Everyday exchange–

I also like to interrupt people during their daily grind. My “Everyday Exchange” (2008-ongoing) involves paying visits to participants while they shop for groceries, commute to work, or do their laundry. During this visit, I give people a small work of art I’ve made, or a poem I’ve written, that is specifically about this particular routine of theirs. My visit, and the gift I bring along, are meant to make their routine a little more interesting.

(From my website)

(From my website)

I base these gifts on conversations I have with the participants beforehand. During these conversations, we tell each other about our daily routines. For me, these conversations are the crux of the project. One of the reasons I started the “Everyday Exchange” was to get people to discuss and examine daily routines—both theirs, and someone else’s. I’ve found that no one really talks about these things, because they don’t want to bore anyone. But this reluctance can only cut them off from a number of interesting observations.

Because these routines actually can be very interesting. For example, who else is on the train with you, and what are they doing? (Do they look bored? Bothered? Are they checking each other out?) Or when you go grocery shopping, do you always buy the same things? (Some people do. Others don’t.) Our routines can be very interesting—if only we would pay enough attention to them every once in a while. 

***

I asked Fenton if laundry and shopping were different for her as a result of her project. “Yes!” she told me. “I value those mundane acts more than I did… It’s pretty amazing what happens to the brain when you become microscopically fascinated by things before you.”

“Backup” added a bit of magic to Fenton’s routines. The performances also made the grocery store and laundromat a little more interesting for everyone else around her.

Despite the different agendas behind them, each of these three pieces produces a similar result: a blip of surprise, or wonder, in an environment usually fuelled only by boredom.

The Childhood Machine

posted by on 2009.11.11, under art, exhibition, review
(Image from the League's website)

(Image from the League's website)

Of all the various types of jealousy that fuel the art world, there are two that cause the most problems.

The first is the one you feel when someone you know is in a show that you would have liked to’ve been part of, but weren’t (or they’ve been given an award or a grant, or have gotten a good write up…). This tends to make you feel left out, and then Wrathful. For a few short hours, at least. Because after a few hours, you calm down, and realize that both the other artist and the gallery (or the grant people, or the journalist)—that everyone concerned is just plain stupid, and that you’re much better than they are. All of them. This calming down usually involves telling other people about how stupid the other artist is; and your jealousy melts away into an uneasy sense of verbal superiority.

The second type of jealousy is a little less vocal. It’s the jealousy you feel when an artist you know or admire creates a work of art that you wish you’d done yourself. This one is the more painful of the two, because you can’t find anything to criticize. And because you can’t tell anyone about the piece, because you don’t want to help the other artist out by publicizing this perfect work. And so, all bottled up in your throat, your jealousy lives on. Sometimes, for a long long time.

My feelings of jealousy towards the League of Imaginary Scientists, for example, have been making solid food hard to swallow for well over a year now. Coming up on two, in fact. The specific piece that rankles me is their Childhood Machine.

The Childhood Machine was a hugely imaginative piece that lived a brief few months in Trondheim, Norway in late 2007. Alternatively, if you take the project at face value, it is a permanent piece that has, and will always live in Trondheim, Norway.

Near the entrance to the show stood a double-bodied bicycle, which, when pedaled, would reverse time; attached to the bicycle was a chain that would also turn a wheel of progress—backwards. This bicycle was created, according to the League’s website, for the single purpose of “reversing the psychological and ecological damage wrought by Western Civilization.”

Surrounding the bicycle were items meant to evoke childhood. Over a PA system, visitors to the gallery could hear a sound piece designed to remind them of childhood. They could also use a search engine to “search time’s index for isolated moments in childhood.”

Beyond all this, in one corner of the gallery, was the specific slice of genius that’s kept me up, perfecting my tossing and my turning, and teaching my face to wrinkle. On two walls of the gallery was a horizontal black line. Above and below this line were post-it notes, left by visitors. And on these post-it notes were childhood memories, arranged in the best chronological order that the writers themselves could arrange. In this corner was an archeology of an entire town’s childhood memories.

As I mentioned before, the installation was created by the League of Imaginary Scientists. The League is the brainchild of Dr. L. Hernandez Gomez, which is the alter ego of an LA-based artist who also goes by the name Lucy H.G. The League itself is an ever-shifting group of collaborators, who gather together to create elaborate and whimsical installations and participatory events. This particular project was created by Hernandez Gomez, with the help of artist Matt Solomon from Los Angeles, artists Anne Helga Henning and Pol Buyesen of Trondheim, with remote engineering by Jeremy Schwartz and Steve Shoffner in Los Angeles and sound by Imaginationandmymother in London.

I’d really hoped by sharing this with you that I’d feel a little less jealous. That by analyzing the project again, I’d find some little hole in the cloth to poke my finger through. It really didn’t work.

The history of Somerville, 2010-2100

posted by on 2009.02.27, under Uncategorized

What will the future hold for Somerville? We’re trying to figure that out, and we need your help!

“The history of Somerville, 2010-2100″ is an art project that explores what the future might be like. If you’d like to participate, please let us know any of the following:

1. What do you think (or hope, or fear) you will personally be doing in the future? And when you think it will happen by? (Will you buy a condo in Union Square in 2043? Will you have twins in 2011? Will your unborn child become a famous pianist in 2074?)

2. What you think (or hope, or fear) Somerville will be like in the future? (Will there be hi-rise apartment buildings in Davis Square? Will the plague strike? Will your neighborhood be gentrified? When?)
Tell us a story! Draw us a picture! Make us a map! All participants will receive full credit for their images, concepts, stories, and data; they will also receive a copy of the illustrated timeline that we will produce.

We can be reached at future.of.somerville@gmail.com , and our website is here .
We hope to hear from you!

————————————————————————

All information received by June 30, 2009 will be included in our presentation at Davis Square’s Artbeat Festival in July 2009. This presentation will include a lecture; a Future Information table; and an illustrated timeline that you can take home with you.

All information received by December 31, 2009 will be available for all to see on our website.

This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council. Click here to see our Facebook group page.

call for submissions: "i left this here for you to read"

posted by on 2008.11.01, under Uncategorized

About the magazine
Each month or so, we release a new issue of “I left this here for you to read.” We then leave them in public places (such on park benches, on buses, in airports and dentists’ offices…) for anyone to take—free of charge.

Currently, we distribute our magazine in Boston, New York, and LA. We only print about 50 copies of each issue, and don’t reprint any past issues. Sorry, we can’t mail you any copies—we only send them to contributors.

Would you like to submit something to our magazine?
We will automatically include anything we receive, as long as it fits into the following guidelines:

Written pieces—must be no longer than 400 words.
Images—must be black and white (aka “gray scale”).
Physical objects—must be flat, or very thin, and smaller than 8 ½” x 5 ½”. They must be able to fit into a small envelope, or a two-inch square plastic bag; or must be able to be stapled or taped to a page. All objects must be nontoxic, and legal. (Note: if you would like us to include physical objects in our next issue, you must mail us 50 copies of said object. Or 50 different ones.)

All contributors will receive 2 copies of the issue that their material appears in. The will also have their name listed on our website (unless they don’t want their name listed on their website).

Please email submissions to: i.left.this.here@gmail.com

Would you like to help us distribute “I left this here for you to read”?
Great, thanks for offering! Email us at i.left.this.here@gmail.com, and we’ll let you know how.

Would you like to help us edit and produce “I left this here for you to read”?
We’d love your help! Email us at i.left.this.here@gmail.com, and we’ll let you know how.

Would you like to edit and produce your own “I left this here for you to read”?
Sounds great! Let us know how it goes.

Thanks!
The Editors

call for submissions: "i left this here for you to read"

posted by on 2008.11.01, under Uncategorized

About the magazine
Each month or so, we release a new issue of “I left this here for you to read.” We then leave them in public places (such on park benches, on buses, in airports and dentists’ offices…) for anyone to take—free of charge.

Currently, we distribute our magazine in Boston, New York, and LA. We only print about 50 copies of each issue, and don’t reprint any past issues. Sorry, we can’t mail you any copies—we only send them to contributors.

Would you like to submit something to our magazine?
We will automatically include anything we receive, as long as it fits into the following guidelines:

Written pieces—must be no longer than 400 words.
Images—must be black and white (aka “gray scale”).
Physical objects—must be flat, or very thin, and smaller than 8 ½” x 5 ½”. They must be able to fit into a small envelope, or a two-inch square plastic bag; or must be able to be stapled or taped to a page. All objects must be nontoxic, and legal. (Note: if you would like us to include physical objects in our next issue, you must mail us 50 copies of said object. Or 50 different ones.)

All contributors will receive 2 copies of the issue that their material appears in. The will also have their name listed on our website (unless they don’t want their name listed on their website).

Please email submissions to: i.left.this.here@gmail.com

Would you like to help us distribute “I left this here for you to read”?
Great, thanks for offering! Email us at i.left.this.here@gmail.com, and we’ll let you know how.

Would you like to help us edit and produce “I left this here for you to read”?
We’d love your help! Email us at i.left.this.here@gmail.com, and we’ll let you know how.

Would you like to edit and produce your own “I left this here for you to read”?
Sounds great! Let us know how it goes.

Thanks!
The Editors

So here's an inspirational quote for you….

posted by on 2008.10.29, under Uncategorized

“…the lack of significant opportunities on the West Coast for the support and presentation of art music made composers…more likely to embrace underground, experimental aesthetics. Since the audience was so diffuse, and opportunities for careers so futile, why not spend one’s efforts following the potential of fantastic ideas, rather than worrying about the practical applications of those ideas…?”

–Chris Brown, in “At a distance: precursers to art and activism on the internet.”

Seems like this might be true for creativity in general, eh?

posted by on 2008.10.17, under Uncategorized

Got $500? You too could live in Detroit.

posted by on 2008.10.08, under Uncategorized

Upload Download Perform .net

Adam Overton‘s new website/art project, Upload Download Perform .net is a free wiki for performance artists. Users can create a profile; upload their performance scores; download other people’s scores; and add notes and photos and performance dates.

The site just went public, and already there are almost 400 scores on it. (Including 4 new scores from yours truly, here.)

It’s an amazing site. Take a look.

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