Art I Made in Q2–2022
In retrospect, this quarter involved exhibiting a lot of work which I reused very efficiently. I kinda made a lot of art, but mostly I just executed on solid concepts and cooperated with other people to stand up big projects.
At home, I focused on icons of our house. We also threw a house party that ended up exploring a fun artistic medium that I used extensively later in the year.
Around the House
I don’t believe that having a single logo repeated everywhere is important. I don’t think it’s how humans experience organizations and I think that the thing you are reprsenting itself continues to grow and change. (Maybe it’s better for simple minded people or people who barely know you exist?) I know the Brand industry pushes logo and uniformity. We tend to accept this without challenge.
Anyway, Cloud Castle changes every year with different residents and practices. This tattoo is a personal opportunity to decorate the blank canvas of my skin with a fun image that denotes a nice house I have had the fortune to cultivate and participate in for a few years. The cloud in front of our house is decoration that no one can complain about, because it’s officially our symbol so that somehow justifies its existence.
House party themes are a good opportunity to experiment with some ideas and materials that might be useful in future art projects. Not everything about the theme works great, but you can learn from the hits and give up on the whiffs.
Basically exhibiting work outdoors requires building an indoors, usually with EZ-ups. In 2019, I underwent a thorough design process for lightweight wood shade cubes that could fit inside my car. Here, in 2022, I had a roof rack and even better transportation options (more financial security plus friends with more load capacity). So I dreamed up this maximally efficient structure to let us have walls, a roof, a door, or whatever other features we wanted to screw into a wood frame.
I’d love to find a better system than these wood cubes, but given my transportation, storage, and budget I am skeptical that another will come around soon. The main area for improvement here is that these structures take about an hour to put together.
I got this stash of bamboo back in summer of 2021, so was trying to find ways to use it. In Q1, I tried another structure that was unimpressive.
The bamboo proved extremely useful as spears, which we sometimes called “staffs” to workaround bans on fake weapons at some events. The bamboo is also a fun dowel, though not great at holding screws.
I started building skulls in Q1–2022 because it was a fun papier-mâché project that would be entirely biodegradable and prepared far in advance, to be unleashed at various projects throughout the year.
This effort continued into Q2, with a final headcount of about 20. The display concept: a rack of skulls has a great visual impact from a distance and sets the tone of your project. I added nuance with the idea that skulls could be decorated as specific people.
Thematically, I can’t say that skulls connote death or anything deep to me. They just tend to accompany things that are considered evil, which are generally some of the most interesting places in cultural narratives. Villainous lairs, dark cultist temples, and so forth are usually where the narrative’s creators get to go wild and explore. It’s the far extreme from the good hero’s humble village home. That place is generally pretty boring. I think that’s part of why I wanted skulls to bring around.
Talky Feely Board Game
Another epic build, here we started with a funny Buy Nothing find and built our own custom version. The game’s structure is quite good: on your turn, you roll dice to advance to a spot, then draw a card based on the spot’s color; each card is a prompt for you to share about feelings, talk about ideas, or act something out.
I worked with Sophie rewriting all 300 cards for our “Bad Parenting” theme project (with disturbing questions about parenting), and then again for our “Explorey Torium” (with inspiring questions about discovery and wonder). Big commitment and high cost to print, but great result.
The deranged concept behind this one is that we’d have fun with a psychiatric game for children designed to abbreviate therapeutic sessions by eliciting psychodynamically meaningful content. The format lets you explore rather big and strange ideas that are lurking just a sentence or two away from your existing reality.
Smaller Bad Parenting Projects
The theme of “Bad Parenting Academy” never spoke to me, but I joined the project and interpreted it as the Addams family. Childish creepiness is a comfortable space that I think most people (who feel in any way outcast from mainstream society) can inhabit for a fantastic moment.
Ok the logical equivalence between swearing and numbered dominoes is probably the main reason I kept pushing here! Also Dave ordered the dominoes so we had to follow through.
This was a new sign concept: a stretch of fabric stapled on large dowels and painted with house paint. It worked well and I eventually found an even cooler alternative based on it. Making signs for projects is a requirement and often a problem.
Smaller Explorey Torium Projects
At another event during this quarter, they asked for us to work in th theme of High School. The “Explorey Torium” was our compromise with that premise. Building a science museum full of interactive pieces was appealing, because that’s basically what I wanted to do anyway. Interactive art lets people relate in a more fun and fantastical way than talking about whether or not they had a hard week at work or their boyfriend is annoying this week. I added the “Explorey Scout” angle here because I had a growing inclination from the previous year to go around behaving well and having wholesome fun, in contrast to the typical “cooler than you” partier attitude that one is on break, not responsible for anything, and will leave things worse than you found them.
People who are motivated by belonging are new and confusing to me, but can be helpful as a mob wearing matching costumes. They create delight in the streets. I find it unnerving and personally have an extreme distrust for groups, especially that offer membership and belonging.
For some reason, at this event, I felt clear that 8.5" x 11" posters would be ideal. I think because the event theme was “High School” it felt appropriate to under-deliver on production value for print projects? Anyway, most of my effort went into a smear campaign against us to make our Explorey Scouts seem edgy and exciting.
The central art piece for the Explorey project was “explorey holes” which are basically little dioramas. You look in through a hole and see something interesting. I loved this idea because it’s potentially modular, allowing each contributor to make their own small thing, then plug it into a larger structure. I think that worked a bit, but it’s always challenging trying to collaborate with people who say one thing and then do another. They say “I’ll make one!” but then they don’t. I have learned that most people do not notice the difference between what they say and what they do; I think it’s a common “friendly” practice to ignore and downplay such everyday disappointing deception.
Yet More Games
Although I don’t see myself as a game designer, my successes during this time with games encouraged me to make three more games for another event a month after the Explorey project.
I think I like games because I can run them with friends and have fun, or they can run themselves, once you’ve had enough people come through and learn the rules. Ideally, I’m creating structures that draw in existing energies, get people to act as stranger (and more interesting) versions of themselves, and provide engaging and meaningful experiences, with a minimum requirement on my effort in the moment.
Collaboration has been really rewarding during this time. We have a great group going with lots of ideas, energy, and ability to execute! Generally, I end up frustrated when I feel like I’m babysitting hipsters to make them feel cool, without doing much of the work to accomplish what they so readily take credit for implicitly. With strong collaborators, this is much less of a problem. Even our bit players are pretty strong, these days, which is great. Working with a team ultimately amplifies my effort tremendously, so it’s just about bypassing the psychological barrier of “fuck this shit” to keep the beast at work.
I enjoy that the Bad Parenting work was so creepy and negative, while the Explorey work was so positive and idealistic! Both were childish, but I’m still happy in that register because it makes accessible content that encourages playful interaction. If the Explorey Scouts had instead been insurance adjusters, I think we could get some interaction, but we’d have a longer path to enthusiastic fun.
Overall, I clearly put most of my efforts into art that went out to festivals. Work for my home offers diminishing returns, as it gets more dialed in, there’s less need for big changes.
I think this is the first year I started working consistently with grant money, getting free tickets to events, and helping to deliver the same to collaborators. I feel very concerned about the greed and entitlement that easily come with this process, but I also am sympathetic to the management perspective that the event needs good content and has budget to get it. Art like mine is relatively affordable and I am, in particular, a good investment, though this is generally hard for me to communicate to strangers. Part of this is that we now have several people who are capable of doing the administrative work (largely thanks to Burning Man theme camp experience), so we can manage the paperwork to get money to cover most of our art costs. Also, by chaining together grants from one festival after another, we can splurge on art materials occasionally, which helps for things like a large wooden cube to play in.