Friday, May 31, 2013


Do you know any 7-18 year olds that love art and are looking for a unique art experience? The Mattress Factory has an exciting line-up of summer workshops! In the spirit of the Mattress Factory, these interactive workshops are experimental, collaborative, and immersive. Students work with practicing artists and spend time in the museum and its installations.

Community ArtLab is for students ages 7-13, and there are ArtLab workshops to suit a variety of art making preferences:

Puppet Insiders with Cheryl Capezutti
July 8-19, 9am-noon
Working with visual artist and puppeteer Cheryl Capezutti, students ages 10-13 are invited to design and build their own mixed-media puppets. Capezutti explains, "Participants will design and build their own small hand and rod puppet in a miniature installation, as well as a giant, full-bodied puppet to interact with the existing Mattress Factory installations in some way. Intrigued? Join the fun!"

Mammoth, Monstrous, Massive Sculptures with John Pena
July 8-19, 1-4pm
Working with multidisciplinary artist and educator John Pena, students ages 10-13 are invited to an "explosively entertaining workshop!"  Pena continues, "We will attempt to create a huge sculpture that can only be activated through our combined efforts...Will we make a gigantic shark that we inhabit and control from inside its massive cardboard body? Or will we recreate a microscopic organism that can only be seen by our giant microscope?" Brainstorming, building, performing, and subsequent exhibiting (which may include a parade) will be collaborative.

Fes-toon*ing Brings Us Together with Maria Molteni
July 15-18, 6-8pm
Working with multimedia and performing artist Maria Molteni, students ages 7-12 and their parents/guardians are invited to a series of workshops experimenting with the concept of the Festoon. To investigate and celebrate this playful, basic form, participants will use their bodies, words, and other creative materials. Participants will explore topics ranging from "entomology (the study of insects) to electricity, etymology (the study of words) to ornamentation...participants will be sure to outgrow their thinking caps!"
Make It, Jump It, Stomp It, Eat It with Heather White
July 22-August 2, 9am-noon
Working with artist and educator Heather White, students ages 7-9 are invited to experiment with various materials in situational performances. White explains, "This class is for kids who have a lot of energy, are excited to experiment with new materials, and love to work with others...we will create obstacle courses, snack buffets, silkscreened fashions, collaborative zines, and much, MUCH more!" White is an artist who has taught printmaking, art history, drawing, installation, design, and art as activism. She brings this passionate interdisciplinary spirit to her workshop, and she anticipates using the Mattress Factory's exhibitions, visiting artists, playgrounds and parks nearby, and classmates as parts of experiments.


Factory 14s is for 14-18 year olds, and gives students an opportunity to work on portfolio-quality pieces, be introduced to new materials and methods, meet staff and local artists, and create an installation at the Mattress Factory.

Constructing Bodies & Moving Images with Anna Brewer + Jessica Rommelt

July 22 - August 9, 1-4pm
Working with visual artists Anna Brewer and Jessica Rommelt, students ages 14-18 are invited to experiment with installation art. Students will be encouraged to experiment with different media (drawing, sculpture, and video) to help them work through their ideas. Anna and Jessica will introduce sculptural building and casting techniques, basic camera control and editing. They will also facilitate brainstorming for the group's installation in the Mattress Factory. Students' creative processes will be similar to the ways the artists-in-residence work. This is a great opportunity for interested teenagers to make art in new ways, meet local artists, and showcase their work in a world-class contemporary art museum!

On August 9th there will be a showcase of all the summer's experiments called, "The Celebration." This exciting exhibition is a time for the students to show off the work they have created in the classes. They can see what other students have been working on, and invite their family and friends to see the Mattress Factory. There will be snacks, some hands-on activities, and potentially some student-generated performances and parades!

To find out more information regarding costs and details for Community ArtLab, check out our website. For more information regarding costs and details for Factory 14s, click here. Please note that several scholarships are available. To find out more and to register please contact Felice Cleveland at felice[at]mattress[dot]org or 412.231.3169 ext. 213.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SHOP MF: Dead Bury Dead

One of the best parts about my job as Shop Manager is selecting fun and well-designed items for museum visitors to bring home with them. We carry products from all over the world, but many items are made right here in Pittsburgh! One of my favorite local vendors is Dead Bury Dead: Dead Bury Dead shirts are incredibly soft and many styles are crafted from organic cotton. They are designed and printed here in our city. 

From DBD’s website

Dead Bury Dead is a lifestyle brand for the living. For barflies and wallflowers and outlaws and astronauts and hustlers and lumberjacks and poets and barbarians and sleepwalkers. And for people without labels. Without limits. // Do what you do, and do so in style and comfort. Dead Bury Dead is clothing for the soul. A stark reminder. Every day. That life is a gift. And as moments pass, they are dead and buried. Have the best day of your life. Today. // And as long as you live. Death shall have no dominion.

Watch Dead Bury Dead's video on Vimeo:

DeadBuryDead Freedom from DeadBuryDead on Vimeo.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

SCREENINGS: Carrie Schneider, Reading Women

The sixth and final installment of Screenings is up in the lobby through May 23. The exhibiting artist for the next two weeks is photographer Carrie Schneider. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Schneider created the video, Reading Women, a work in progress of 50 women reading books written by female authors. 

I was able to snag Exhibitions Manager Owen Smith to get his thoughts on Schneider’s work, and also some closing sentiments on Screenings.

CAITLIN HARPSTER: Carrie Schneider works primarily in photography, so video work is a relatively new exploration for her. How do you think she did?

OWEN SMITH: I wanted a still photographer for one of the screenings because I wanted to see what they would do. Carrie is a photographer, yes, but what she really is doing is studying a subject, almost in an anthropological kind of way. She is the only person I know who has been to every neighborhood of Pittsburgh and photographed it. She has been working on this great photographic series of houses--88--in Pittsburgh that documents the identical underlying structures, along with how the houses have been personalized over the years and now appear very different with their own rich social history.

She approached Reading Women in a similarly rigorous way. She documented the women reading in multiple ways. She had an idea of something she wanted to study but was unsure of the final form. She has been taking photographs of the women as well as video documentation. This is something she has been working on for a very long time. It is a work in progress.

CH: How did she determine how long to focus on one women over the next?

OS: The reason for the length of each clip is one page-turn. So it depends on what they are reading and how they are reading. It’s a very structural concept of editing, which pairs nicely with the photographic series Hands. You see the photographs of the hands of the women and the way each woman holds the book. There is a complimentary body of work with this video. Carrie is exploring multiple ways of how to document and present one single subject.  I like her practice.  It is a very thorough, almost scientific type of practice.

CH: Reading Women is kind of like a series of portraits.

OS: They are always portraits. Even when she was documenting the houses for 88, that was a form of portraiture. The high art of portraiture is not just depicting the likeness of a person or thing, but capturing the personality within it. I think that is what she is really trying to explore, what creates the personality of each woman. She is showing us not only how each woman is reading, but what she chose to read as well. The idea is that you are getting a portrait of this person in her own kind of head-space, where she feels completely engaged and unaware, empowered almost, while reading her favorite book by a female author. Coincidentally, Carrie’s work pairs very nicely with our Feminist And… exhibition.

CH: This is the last work in Screenings. Overall, how do you feel about the screenings and how they were received?

OS: I was really happy with it all and would like to do another screening series again in the future. I was really excited with the variety of works produced. It has been really lovely working on this project and I think everyone involved really enjoyed doing it as well. I wanted the idea of the “gesture” to act as a guideline for artists to produce something that was a little bit of a sketch, something quick, or challenge them to show something that were not necessarily prepared to do, like how Carrie showed a work in progress.

CH: I also feel that the “gesture” shows the viewer a different perspective on the working artist. For example, the work Tzarinas of the Plane exhibited, Meditation on the Making of Madness, which actually incorporated their artistic process as part of their video.

OS: Yes, their work became kind of documentary. It is such a wide open field of things that can happen and it has been nice to be able to give artists a space and a little bit of time and a little bit of a goal to do something with.

Overall, it has been a lot of fun.  There is a little bit of “the art of the exhibition” that I might change or do differently in the future that might benefit the artist but I am really amazed and grateful that so many people put so much effort and dedication into this series.


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Monday, May 6, 2013

FEMINIST AND . . . Ayanah Moor


It seems no matter how 
I try I become more difficult 
to hold 
I am not an easy woman 
to want [1]


The walls of Ayanah Moor’s exhibit are papered in words, like the ones above, silk-screened on newsprint in deep reds and browns. They draw observers into the cross-section between race and gender, to somewhere between “a hard woman to love” and “my melanin is relevant.

Moor’s by and about incorporates the language of poets and emcees, references ranging from Billie Holiday to dream hampton to the musings of Nikki Giovanni’s “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day.” ­Moor pulls these fragments and phrases together into a unifying grid of silkscreened letters on everyday newsprint.

In Moor’s own words, “My work explores the way popular culture is an articulation of our desires, our fears, our fantasies. It can both reflect and impact the things we want, which is a fascinating cycle.” [2]


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

SCREENINGS: Matthew Biederman, 8-bit Meta-matic

For the fifth installment of the Mattress Factory’s Screenings, Matthew Biederman created 8-bit Méta-matic, an in-situ, digital work projected directly onto our own curtain in the lobby. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask Biederman a few questions about his work.

CAITLIN HARPSTER: Your body of work, while maintaining a very apparent Matthew Biederman vibe, also reflects a lot of different influences. Could you give our readers an idea of the thought progressions behind the way you create your works?

MATTHEW BIEDERMAN: In terms of influences, while I've always thought that art history is absolutely crucial to know, I'd have to say that I don't have a specific set of influences that I have followed. I think what happens, in terms of doing research, is I end up following threads—within art, within science, within politics and philosophy—and together with their histories, and my own, they tend to point to a direction to explore. Naming a particular artist, or movement without discussing the politics and sciences etc. of the time does not necessarily do justice to the work or the artist either. I just finished reading Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick and it was pretty mind blowing in terms of reflecting upon the today’s information glut. I guess there is so much out there to be influenced by that it all gets mixed up together. That said, however, the biggest impact always comes from collaborators and colleagues that I've worked with in the past. I've managed to build some really great relationships through those processes.

CH: Our readers, like myself, most likely will not have much of an understanding of the process/coding/technological things you do and incorporate into your work. If you could perhaps explain a simplified version of how your piece at the Mattress Factory works and how you created it?

MB: I like to think that these programs, pieces of code, are simply a set of rules for the work to follow to 'be' the art. In effect it’s no different than the Fluxus pieces which consist of rules for a person to follow. Except here, the computer follows the rules rather than a performer or participant. For 8-bit Méta-matic, the rules are as follows: 1. Pick a direction and draw; 2. The drawing surface is disturbed and pulled up/down and left/right; 3. If there is a mark on the edge of the disturbance, stretch those pixels in the direction of the movement; 4. And the most important rule is that if the drawing takes place over another mark already there, invert it. So if the mark is white, it turns to black and vice versa. And of course when the image is nearly full, it resets to black and starts over again.

CH: This series is based on the idea that the videos/works submitted are “gestural.” How does your work exemplify a gesture?

MB: Well, what is a gesture? A quick mark on the page done without thinking too much about it. So I think for this work I interpret the gesture as the way the computer decides where to draw next, which is completely random. In this way, each moment is unique to the piece. Each moment can be perceived as a series of gestures to create the whole—it’s just that the gesture in this case is not a human one. The gestures are created by the computer acting within the set of rules that I have defined. What exactly happens is left somehow to chance, or in this specific case, it is a bit of chance and then acting on what came before it (i.e. what 'marks' are already there).

CH: Why did you choose to project the video on to the white curtain versus the projection screen?

MB: It has to do with the way I understand the Mattress Factory albeit as an outsider, and I see that the Mattress Factory is an integral part of the community, which means to me that people in Pittsburgh have an intimate relationship with the space and place. They have been in that space in the past, and I assume have seen that curtain there in the lobby, so I thought it would be great to just have something appear on/in it, to use the space as it is. So I set out to design the movement and the drawing to happen upon the curtain—the undulations add another layer to the composition, and the material naturally softens the hard edges of the images. The way it scatters the light I like to think of in the same way paint might drip, or ink bleeds (especially when considering where some of my ideas are at right now in terms of making new media works). I'm very interested in the moment when 'new media' can be curated alongside 'traditional' visual art forms, and I think it is slowly starting to happen. Since the advent of powerful consumer accessible computers and affordable projection and flat displays, I believe we have gotten to point where new media works can be shown alongside of painting and sculpture. It's important to consider the computer and code within the trajectory of art as a whole rather than subjugating it to its own ghetto as in the past, or even today I still see 'new media' or 'data centric' shows which I prefer would just merge with well considered curated exhibitions, but this is its own thesis...

CH: You mention in your artist statement that this work is inspired by Jean Tinguely’s mechanical generative drawing machines. Could you elaborate on this a little bit?

MB: I had the pleasure of going to his museum in Basel and discovering his work for the first time there, and ever since, I've been a huge fan of what he has done. Specifically, these automatic drawing machines to me were very interesting as they sort of poked fun at the art establishment while asking some important questions all the while looking (and sounding) very beautiful. I think that often times, when the audience is confronted with a projection or video based work they are looking for some sort of narrative or structure to follow, so I tend to use titles as a hint at how to understand the work (this time with a computer nerd reference and an art history nerd reference). Structurally, I see the way that the underlying software functions the same way that his machine functions—by using disturbances, this time in the way that the surface of the drawing system functions. It creates what in the past an error looked like. In a similar way, his original Méta-matic(s) would produce different drawings through their wonky mechanics, which to an engineer would look like an error. I guess here it is important to note that I am not trained as a computer programmer, or engineer. Everything I've learned has been more or less self-taught through trial and error. I don't really produce 'rendered' or 'recorded' works that are identical each time they are displayed. I just get bored of seeing the same thing over and over again, especially after I have slaved over each bit of minute detail. So why not build systems that can continue to surprise myself as well as someone who comes to see it?

CH: You also talked about how Tinguely questioned the idea of authorship. You are using your work’s “glitches” to create the final product. Thus, instead of questioning the authorship, are you are attempting to control it by creating something new out of the work’s imperfections?

MB: I think authorship is very important when considering what is created using computer tools. I use my albeit limited knowledge of programming, even though I have been doing it for twenty or so years in some fashion, I can look to so many other artists who are much more skilled than I am when it comes to coding complex systems. However I do all my own programming in these works, and I feel it is crucially important to do so. I'm a bit of a romantic in that way and for me that means that I, as the artist and author of the work, can only produce that work through an intimate knowledge of the material and the medium (which in this case is not only software, but the mechanics of projection and space) in the same way a painter knows oil or watercolors and how to mix and apply it to a surface. Without all the parts of getting your hands dirty in code or in paint or whatever the medium, then how do you know what might be possible? It’s an organic way of working. So if Jean Tinguely was asking about authorship in the artifact(s) created by his machines, I am asking about authorship within a system—this work in particular is set up to draw in a certain way that I never could predict how it might turn out. So in this way, myself, the computer, the projector and the curtain are the authors in some fashion.

CH: Some of your works rely heavily on sound as an integral element of the work (see Physical and Pulse), often times aiding in altering one’s perception of the work. Contrarily, you have several silent works as well (see R+G+B and Tetrachroma). Why do you choose to incorporate sound or omit it in your works? What impact do you hope 8-bit Méta-matic has as a silent work?

MB: Going back to influences, one of the artists I worked for, Jim Campbell, had said something to me once in passing, that he always decided that whatever he put into a work better have a very good reason for being there, down to the smallest details. For instance, the choice to use color over monochromatic images. When I incorporate audio into a work it immediately takes on a huge set of other implications spatially, perceptually, and historically. So it really was just one choice of many that this work is silent. I want the work to reflect the fact that it is a drawing. To add sound would suddenly give another dimension to a 3-D work (x,y and time), and frankly I feel it would detract from the focus of the piece. I try to heed those early thoughts of don't just add it because you can, because when you start dealing with new media, where do you stop then?

Matthew Biederman is an American artist based in Montreal. Biederman’s art explores ideas of perception, aesthetics, media saturation and data systems in our world today. He is the co-director of the San Francisco Television Access, and co-founded the Arctic Perspective Initiative (API), which promotes the creation of open authoring, communications and dissemination infrastructures for the circumpolar region. Biederman is also a resident at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab.

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