Thursday, March 28, 2013

SHARE: A Storytelling Potluck

On Thursday April 18, the Mattress Factory will host SHARE: an evening of sharing food and ideas. This democratic evening will be held in conjunction with our current exhibition, Feminist And..., which presents new work by six women artists from throughout the world. The show’s curator, Hilary Robinson Ph.D, proposes that feminism is not a single-issue set of politics but rather a multi-vocal, multi-generational and multi-cultural evolution of thinking and practices. In that spirit, guests of SHARE will first tour the exhibition, and then will be invited to share food and drink. During the potluck, a predetermined group of sharers will begin telling stories about a life-changing experience. Each sharer will have 6 minutes to present.
One of the evening’s sharers is Feminist And... artist Julia Cahill. Cahill is excited to be a part of an event that is both a casual potluck presentation and an open conversation with the community. She believes that, “this is the kind of event that needs to happen more often and among more communities. It’s important to have frequent dialogue with other artists or colleagues.” Cahill uses humor and parody to get her audience to reflect on how they are implicated in the issues raised by her artwork. She believes it is important that people are aware of current events, and she hopes that her audience leaves her work asking questions and having conversations.

Reflecting on when she installed Breasts in the Press for Feminist And..., Cahill likened the environment at the Mattress Factory to a studio space: she could work but also mingle with the other artists. The installation period facilitated a communal space, which Cahill found very generative. Cahill could see other artists' spaces and chat throughout their processes, and vice versa. As an artist who lives in Pittsburgh, Cahill appreciates that during installation she was able to visit the MF frequently. Cahill offers, “It’s important to have frequent dialogue with other artists or colleagues, whoever they may be, to simply be more aware of what is going on around us and what others are working on.”
The audience for SHARE will also have the opportunity to converse after the presentations. The stories shared by presenters will set the scene for a rich conversation over a shared meal. With a metaphorical emphasis on the “. . .” part of the conversation, we will listen and learn from each other. 

SHARE is free, but registration is required by April 8, 2013. Please call (412) 231-3169 or email felice[at]mattress[dot]org to participate.

--Posted by Danielle, Education Intern

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Screenings"—Q&A with Owen Smith, Exhibitions Manager

Screenings is a new exhibition in the Mattress Factory’s lobby at 500 Sampsonia Way. The “screenings” are being created specifically for the space by six different artists from the U.S. and Canada. Already underway, each artist’s video will be shown for two weeks, the series ending May 23. I tracked down Owen Smith, Exhibitions Manager, for a chat about the series. 

CAITLIN HARPSTER: How did Screenings come to fruition?

OWEN SMITH: We have had special occasion screenings in the past at the Mattress Factory, and we have this big, lovely screen, which is an under-utilized opportunity. I wanted to have something on the screen all day for the general public to see, so I took inspiration from our Gestures series and invited artists to do something quick and dirty, low budget…a gesture. The screenings are meant to be immediate works, more like loose sketches, and in doing so, the artist is forced to experiment and take risks, perhaps creating something that is different from their overarching perception of their own work.

I gave everyone carte blanche to do whatever they wanted—to program that screen, basically. I didn’t have any preconceptions of what I wanted them to do. I had only two stipulations: I asked that they create something new, and that whatever they created be silent.

CH: How did you choose the artists to showcase?

OS: I really wanted artists who came from all different types of background in video. For instance, Stamatis Marinos works primarily with documentary film. Tzarinas of the Plane are performance artists. Matthew Biederman creates computer-generated video installations. Carrie Schneider is a wonderful photographer. I invited a diverse group of artists in hopes that they create something outside of what they are used to creating.

CH: Can you talk about the first work of the screening series, Stamatis Marinos’ regeneration?

OS: Stamatis’ background is in documentary film. I was very pleased that he went outside his normal practice and created something more experimental. Stamatis took a clip from the Internet and appropriated it. He wanted time-lapse footage of something growing and dying. The two mushrooms shown on the screen were out of sync with each other as they grew and died. It was a very touching little narrative within the film. The individual grids on the screen were also out of sync with each other. What I found most interesting was that while it was silent, it was the equivalent of a musical round. When you sing a round, you are out of sync individually, but as a whole there is a beautiful rhythm that is created. The same goes for regeneration. It is a different experience depending upon how you focus your attention on it.

CH: Tzarinas of the Plane are currently screening their work now. What are your thoughts on their creation?

OS: Tzarinas of the Plane created two films, essentially. The first one, Mediation on the Making of Madness is a documentation of the two of them in free form—how they come up with their costumes and the process of how they work together. I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I was very pleased that they focused on that part of their artistic process. The second part, Ping-pong, is really interesting, especially devoid of sound. It is accelerated to a speed that, paired with its silence, appears very Charlie Chaplin-like. And I like the run around the table and never actually playing ping-pong. They obviously like to have fun.

Last Saturday, Tzarinas of the Plane came to the Mattress Factory for a special performance called, Bag Animals. Every spring in the artists' home of Detroit, plastic shopping bags will slowly appear as the snow melts. In their performance, Tzarinas of the Plane wore costumes made entirely of plastic shopping bags and acted like animals. Sometimes they were orangutans, sometimes squirrels, sometimes raccoons. At the very end of the performance they switched personae and started to beautifully play a concertina and sing opera. It was great. The best part is that I had no plan for Screenings to include live performance. It was just something that happened though the process of working with the artists.

CH: What can we expect from the upcoming artists?

OS: I am really not sure. That is the point, as well as the fun of it. So far I have had a documentary filmmaker create an experimental work, and two performers create a documentary work. Anything can happen.

The next Screenings installment, by Steve Summers, will debut Friday, March 29 and run through Thursday, April 11, 2013. For more information on Screenings please visit the Mattress Factory’s website.

Read All Posts by Caitlin

Monday, March 25, 2013

TAHRIR: An interactive performance

This Thursday, March 28, the Mattress Factory will host an interactive performance art piece, TAHRIR, written by artist L.M. Bogad, performed by Bogad and Tavia La Follette, and designed by Michelle Carello.

La Follette co-curated an exhibition, Sites of Passage, at the Mattress Factory in 2011. That exhibition was part of an ongoing project and larger mission to establish more connections between countries and cultures. Sites of Passage focused specifically on the Egyptian revolution. Larry said they chose to focus on Egypt because it is “the most compelling example of an ongoing revolution happening now. The events in Egypt can prompt us to ask larger questions like ‘how can people create a revolution for equality and justice, and can they sustain it in the face of the inevitable elitist reaction, fundamentalism, and militarism?’”

Bogad did an interactive performance, WELCOME TO OUR REVOLUTION: Testimony from Tahrir, as a part of Sites of Passage. WELCOME TO OUR REVOLUTION playfully explored seeing the revolution in action, since Bogad and La Follette were in Cairo working with artists there during the revolution in 2011.

This new piece, simply called TAHRIR, reflects on what has transpired since then with the Egyptian revolution, particularly on the currently grim state of affairs in Cairo, where protesters have been brutalized by the police and fundamentalist militias, and the ongoing popular uprisings in Port Said and other Suez Canal cities.

As with the other artworks in the Mattress Factory, TAHRIR is a site-specific piece. The piece will begin at dusk (7:41 p.m. to be precise), with a Ritual to Prevent the Sunset. The start time was specifically chosen because it can serve as a metaphor for the current, waning state of the revolution, as well as a last-ditch attempt to preserve its values and momentum. It’s important that the audience participates in this ritual because, “everyone who is involved will be equally responsible for stopping the sun or not. Trying to sustain a revolutionary spirit in the face of resistance can sometimes feel as difficult as trying to stop the setting sun, or holding back the sea with your hands,” explained Bogad.  “If the artists and audience do not make astronomical history by stopping the sunset, the performance will continue in the darkness just as the struggle must continue in the darkness.”

The audience will also participate in “Economusic,” a concept Bogad invented and has performed in New York, Helsinki, and Sao Paulo, in which he creates music out of economic data. Bogad expressed that while these actions may seem absurd, they can create an understanding through personal experience.  “Performance is a way not just of showing, but also of knowing.  You can better understand an issue through performing it, experiencing it, as opposed to simply spectating.”

The artists and the audience will move inside and outside of the museum in the search for hope for the revolution.

The performance is Thursday, March 28 at 7:41 p.m. Tickets ($20 general admission/$15 members/$10 students) can be purchased by calling (412) 231-3169 ext 213 or by e-mailing Pre-registration is recommended as space is limited.

--Posted by Danielle, Education Intern

Monday, March 11, 2013

Art Lab: Derek Reese

Every first and third Saturday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m., the Mattress Factory offers Art Lab, an interactive and hands-on creative session ideal for individuals and families with children of all ages. Art Lab is free with admission and projects are developed to complement our current exhibitions and permanent collection, so please feel free to check out our galleries before or after Art Lab!

The Art Lab experience for the participant is representative of the creative processes of the artists at the Mattress Factory. It is a space intended for creative experimentation, where ideas can grow and foster. Art Lab is a liberating space for everyone to have the opportunity to get lost in his or her own creative process.

This Saturday, March 16, Art Lab: Wonder Bred will be hosted by artist and museum educator Derek Reese. Derek’s own artworks explore common themes of identity through the use and experimentation of materials.  One question visitors can explore is, “How does the place you are from influence who you are?” By viewing and interacting with Derek’s works, visitors will be invited to reflect upon their own background (whether it be cultural, genealogical, geographical, etc.) and create their own works of art by using unconventional materials. As a working artist himself, we asked Derek to relate the Mattress Factory’s Art Labs to his own creative processes as an artist. This is what Derek had to say:

I think that Art Lab has the potential to be an actual laboratory where the artist begins a test, or asks a question and the visitors, guided by the artist, continues the conversation or the experiment. Experimentation is key. Through participating in Art Lab, I hope that Mattress Factory visitors get a sense of what the art making process is like for a professional artist, such as the artists with work being exhibited upstairs in the galleries. I would like everyone to see how important and rewarding that experimenting, playing and creating can be.

Join us this Saturday, March 16, for Art Lab: Wonder Bred and perform your own artistic experiment with Derek Reese!

Read All Posts by Caitlin