New art. Not old, used art.

Day Three: The Event

Brush High School students Chealsia Smedley and Shayna Mell report on the opening night environment …

Artist Kristin Bly poses for participants during the opening.

This is the day we’ve all been working towards; the opening. During the day, SPACES is bustling with constant activity. There was an excess of things to prepare, but in due time, with a touch of magic, everything was ready to go.

A line forms outside of Josh Parker’s installation: “Sometimes an entrance is actually an exit.”

The event: 7:00 p.m. Things were at a good pace. The food was nearly gone, there was a long line outside of the tunnel, and Kristin Bly’s room of viewer portraits was being created right before our eyes. One viewer, on his way to Bly’s room expressed,” I feel like it’s all potential,” which it certainly was.

Ben Kinsley and his mom- also the auction winner- discuss plans  for their future project. At 7:30 p.m. Arzu Ozkal came waltzing in, fully equipped with hooks and ropes. She included the audience, in a pulling performance leading her into her empty space. “SPACES has been doing a lot of creative things. It’s not passive, I love it,” said involved audience member, Elaine Hcilinen.

Every artist was pushed far beyond their comfort areas. “I’m entrusting people with myself, and I’m hoping that they don’t take advantage of me,” said artist Ben Kinsley who auctioned himself off. Ben, who usually directs people to surprise others, now had to allow himself to be surprised and directed.

Arzu Ozkal and her color commentator Eleanor Lebeau prepare to enter SPACES for their live performance.

Even though I knew art and creativity would be utilized and challenged; it was still surprising to actually witness it myself. Witness the artist’s showing of their challenges, and witness the public’s reaction to that challenge. The experience was cultivating, inspiring, and something that I would never take back.

By: Chealsia Smedley and Shayna Mell


Filed under: Artists, As the World inTerns, Beyond Thunderdome, Cleveland, Guest Bloggers, Interviews, , , , , , ,

Gettin’ Down With Dee


Listen in as SPACES ED Christopher Lynn talks about the upcoming fall exhibitions on WCPN’s Around Noon with Dee Perry. Lots covered: The Plum Academy: An Institute for Situated Practices, SPACELab artists Elaine Hullihen and Mark Moskovitz, and SWAP artist Jiří Surůvka.
WCPN 90.3 FM
Aired Monday, August 24, 2009(37:55)

It’s Dee-lightful!

Filed under: Cleveland, Interviews, Miscellaneous Debris, SPACES staff, , , , , , , , , ,

SPACES on Helping Hands

Helping Hands is a program on Time Warner Cable’s Northeast Ohio Network  designed to help “meet the dedicated people behind the organizations, those they assist, become inspired by the stories, and find out how YOU can make a difference.” They visited us a few times to shoot the exhibitions and talk to staff. Other than looking like a zombie on camera just shy of moaning for brains, I think it turned out nicely and we appreciate that Helping Hands is doing this for community oriented organizations in the region.

It’s currently airing locally on channel 23 at 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Posted by Christopher Lynn, Executive Director

Filed under: Interviews, SPACES, SPACES staff, , , , , , , ,

Interview with SPACELab artist Evan Larson

SPACELab artist Evan Larson's "Permeability,Transformation and the Neutral"
Falling Shadow (installation detail), 2009, copper, plaster, 10’ x 8’ x 1.5’ image by Tim Thayer

Arts writer Eleanor LeBeau talked with Evan Larson before the June 19 opening of his SPACELab exhibition Permeability,Transformation and the Neutral (on view through July 17 at SPACES).

What do you mean by “the neutral” in your exhibition Permeability, Transformation and the Neutral?
I don’t mean to be evasive, but even defining the idea of the neutral would negate the central importance of experience in both my interactions with the gallery and the viewers’ open interpretation to the work.

But you must have some concept in mind when you talk about “the neutral.”
I’m thinking about the gallery space being semi-permeable and receptive to all different types of creative activities, such as craft and what is now known as fine arts. I like the idea of trying to use the gallery space as a craft material, to collapse the subject-object relationship between the work itself and the gallery space, and to create an in-between space between the work and the institution of the gallery, or the natural history museum or the historical museum. So [in] the previous work to this work, I used a lot of different semiotic information or stand-ins for different cultures of display or museum presentation. I’m using different strategies to conjure the sense of the basement display of work in a someone’s house, or maybe the kinds of stuffy oak cabinets that one might find in a natural history museum, or the kind of language that’s used in those contexts and how that language shifts from an art space or museum space to the kind of language that we use in our own homes. At first my approach was really broad in trying to bring those communities of interaction together in my work. But here in this work I’ve tried to really pare it back to the most essential aspects that concern me, which are craft and the idea of art–and the gallery space that I’m interacting with here.

Does your work create the neutral [space], or does it evoke it?
I’m collaborating with the gallery and the social culture of the gallery and the institutional traditions of the gallery and what we know about art or craft, and I’m trying to orchestrate an in-between space where the viewer can question the relationship between the work and the gallery. I come from a craft tradition [Larson is a metalsmith by training]; I bring some structural forms from nature that have been used in the decorative arts traditions, and then I’m using the material of the gallery space to construct these things.

I see the exhibition as a really pared back investigation of the question “how do things become?” If the tissue of the gallery wall becomes the artwork, and those things become one in the same, then we might even be asking ourselves, “Then what distinguishes us from the rest of the world?” If I take my hand and I make a shadow and it lands on my body, am I self-informing myself? I’m looking at the gallery as having a life hood and looking at objects as having their own kind of life.

Are you talking about the ever-changing interrelationship between what German philosophers call the Innenwelt [the organism] and the Umwelt [the outer world as perceived by the organisms in it]?
I know the concepts from reading [Giorgio] Agamben. But I think pan-psychism [the philosophy that all energy and matter is alive and therefore has a soul] is a good lead-in to shaping another type of consciousness of other entities. So if I try to find a way to stop myself from saying that everything is “thing,” and say that everything is “something” that has sentience just like I do and its own rhetoric of energy exchange, then I can start to look at other interpretations about how these communities of interaction fold into one another. So, as I was saying earlier, I tried to strip back, and at first it was just the idea that, “Well, is the wall pinching the artwork, or are the cloudy forms [in the installation] pinching the wall? Who is acting on whom? And then with the piece [cloudy form] that’s folded, the wall is folding the piece; it’s pushing on it. So there are different states that are happening.

Do you see the objects you make as sentient beings?
That’s where that question arises: where does my tissue begin and another tissue end? If I’m working on something, I am collaborating with it [the material]. That plaster has its own direct ways of being in the world. It’s going to physically tell me how it wants to be, if I listen. The problem is that if we think of just “things” in the world, then everything becomes sort of disassociated from any responsibility. I’m trying to train myself not to say “that’s a thing,” and to realize that it has its own set of potential ways of communicating.

On one wall of your installation, you hung a sculptural piece that signifies a wall with an elaborately framed window—a wall on a wall. The framing evokes architectural detailing you might find in an older home. However, the space inside the frame—where we expect to find glass and thus a view beyond the wall —is blacked out, thus thwarting our expectations. Plus, the “window” is not a flat plane.
I wanted to push the boundary in my studio space, to push the boundary beyond the studio wall. I also wanted the form coming out of the wall to push into the wall, too, so you can’t tell whether or not, in this case, the gallery wall is acting on the sculptural form, or vice-versa. I transported that piece out of my studio space and into a gallery space had to confront the history of that object being in another space, so it seemed reasonable to hang that wall onto another wall and to allow it to be what it was.

I bought a house at the end of last summer, and one of the things about the architectural space is this blackness and quietness. I’d lived in Detroit for almost eight years, and the city’s noise and energy wasn’t there in the suburb where I bought my house, where there’s empty, vacuous space. The chalkboard spray [inside the framed area] probably comes from my interaction with students and the way I project myself into the world.
What I really like about the blackness is that if you move away from the work a bit, it completely flattens the space and makes the area really ambiguous—it creates a neutral space.

So your work is really a poststructuralist deconstruction of the binary systems that interest you: subject/object; fine art/craft; institution/visitor; artwork/viewer.

Although the idea of binary theory is unavoidably part of my experience as an artist in this time, I don’t consider it to be the central subject. The histories and contemporary dialogs that are germane to architecture, art and craft are three examples of active nodes within the work. However, these practice-based systems oversimplify the various levels of interaction that I hope to accomplish. I’m asking mixed systems—like
materials—to stand in for action or indication of animacy in order to create a new permeable but unified structure. I use architectural elements such as the window to negate the relationship between architecture and gallery and artwork both optically and conceptually.

If I were to make this idea of the binary the central theme of my work, I would eliminate many of the tenuous threads of possibility, which I work to foster. I also fear this (the idea of the binary) theoretically would eliminate the viewer’s active role in the completion/contribution to the work and diminish the importance of my physical dialog with the gallery setting and its idiosyncratic space.

Jean Baudrillard’s Impossible Exchange is a very interesting piece of writing. He’s introducing the idea of a third party meaning. [For Baudrillard, objects/the world/reality elude the concepts and systems of thought we try to impose upon them; therefore we cannot know anything with certainty. For more information, go to That’s been really important in shaping how I think and how I project myself. What I sense from him is that if the idea of binary systems no longer works, when the idea of the self and the Other become collapsed into one another, as the idea of modernism recedes into the horizon, then what is going to take the place of binary systems, and how are we going to shape a new philosophic dialogue?

Can you elaborate a bit on Baudrillard’s idea of third party meaning as it relates to your formulation of “the neutral”?
I became interested in Baudrillard because of my interest in getting to a reductive, most basic form of communication. I’d like to be part of the generation of a third party meaning—if there can be those ideas of the gallery and the object, and then the space in between that where the observer can find their own meaning or their own place.

You began as a metalsmith and you’re currently an associate professor of metalsmithing. How did you move from a craft-oriented practice to one that’s theoretically driven?
I’ve always been very interested in the idea that the things that I’m creating are meaningful things—that potentially could carry the values of craft, but also stir people’s thoughts. So that’s always been some part of my practice.

Were you concerned about gallery walls and spaces in your student and early years as a metalsmith?
I had a primitive understanding of display and the types of visual display that I wanted to reference in the work. I was very interested in scientific instrumentation. So I used demonstrative models that allowed people to understand phenomenological ideas in science that couldn’t be understood without the aid of instruments. So I wanted to pursue that in my metalwork; I was using the wall as a structure to facilitate the display. The Weeping Wheel* was one of those. The Love Rejuvenator was another.

Love Rejuvenator?
There was an elaborate machine that had a vial with a rose suspended in vodka, and so you would turn this crank and it would rotate the rose in this solution. These were illogical manifestations of human emotions.

In our post-medium era, “fine artists” are almost expected to work in a variety of media. Is there a different set of rules for people trained in craft media? Is an interdisciplinary practice acceptable for craftspeople?
There is a large cross section of craftsmen who push the boundaries within materiality. Myra Mimlitch Gray [metalsmith], Lauren Kalman [metalsmith] and Joan Livingstone [fibers] all push boundaries. I do, however, see that a lot of universities are set up in such a way that craft disciplines are usually segregated from the “fine artists,” and I feel that mindset has sometimes exacerbated and often wedged the two studio practices apart. However, I don’t feel either “craftspeople” or “fine artists” need to get hung up on being segregated between “art” and “craft” because the material can speak to both categories—it’s just the training and methodologies that sometimes differ.

In my teaching I encourage students to explore various possible forms for their metalsmithing projects. Some of their projects start with idea and some start with process. Regardless, I expect them to be rigorous in their investigation, so that their outcome will live up to high standard of judgment germane to their study both materially and theoretically. Sometimes in the evolution of the students’ direction they naturally gravitate to a place that would be considered outside of their disciplines’ regular concerns. Through the students gaining a more in-depth knowledge of a specific discipline, they are able to recognize the value of similarity and difference between various disciplines.

Do you think of yourself as an artist?
Yes, but I also consider myself a metalsmith.

*See an image at:

Filed under: Interviews, , , , , , , ,

Interview with SWAP artist Efrat Klipshtien

Installation view of Red Winged Black Bird (detail), 2009 by Efrat Klipshtien

A few days after the opening of her SPACES installation, Red Winged Black Bird, SWAP artist Efrat Klipshtien talked with arts writer Eleanor LeBeau. Klipshtien works as a graphic designer and tour guide at Israel Zoo and Safari in Tel Aviv;her artwork is based on plants, animals and geography. Red Winged Black Bird is a magical environment that conflates plant and animal life, and is simultaneously lunar, earthly and aquatic. Black, glossy cone-shaped sculptures that sprout from the gallery floor suggest termite hills, stalagmites, coral—or even mold colonies, as viewed under a microscope. Etchings on green metallic paper of seaweed-like plants with long, feathery tendrils loop and sway in an underwater current, or are they an undiscovered fern species reaching for the sun’s rays? The terms (and binaries) we use to define things in the natural world collapse in Red Winged Black Bird, where everything is emergent and indeterminate.

On April 11 you introduced yourself to the community with a lecture about your work and a performance. Please tell me about the performance.

The dance performance was connected to my lecture and was about changing the moment or the situation from everyday [life] to an atmosphere of magic, music and dances. There were eight to 10 dancers from Viva Club [the Viva Dance! Studio in Cleveland] and I think from other clubs in the area. They were part of the audience; they sat and listened to the lecture like everybody else. When I finished my lecture, an Announcer stood up—he was also part of the audience—and said, “Thank you for coming…Now we will start the Ballroom…” He was the change between the lecture and the ballroom [the beginning of the performance]. And when he did it, a band at the back of the stage started playing swing music. The dancers [in the audience] stood up and moved to a big dance stage and started dancing. All the other people were surprised because they didn’t expect anything and they wanted to go home. So, in the beginning the audience just watched the dancers. The lights were changed from stark fluorescent to a warm light. When the first dance finished, the dancers invited people in the audience to dance. Everyone started dancing. It was magic.

So the audience became participants. How many people were in the “real” audience?

About sixty. When people arrived for the lecture, we took their names. After the Announcer gave his statement, the band started to play and the dancers started to dance, and he started calling the names [of each person in the audience]; it took him something like fifteen minutes to read all the names loudly, clearly and slowly. When he finished saying the names of all the visitors, the fact that they were in the space—this is what makes the magic. When he finished reading the names, the performance was finished. The music stopped; the stark lights came back on back on; the band left the stage; and the dancers changed their shoes. He [the Announcer] gave the time; he was the rhythm.

Tell me about Red Winged Black Bird.

Red-winged blackbirds were one of the first birds I noticed here in the area. When I asked someone the name, it sounded like “Red Winged Black Bird.” I didn’t know there was a hyphen [in red-winged], and I didn’t know “blackbird was one word.” So it [the bird’s name] sounded like a poem, like haiku. It set a scene for me. And when I worked on my exhibition, to me the poem fit the atmosphere of my space.

How did the installation evolve?

Usually the things that interest me, or move me, are the materials that I am working with. They like to lead me to a sculpture or an installation. I try to listen to them, to go with them, and not try to fight them. So I was working with plaster and made the black sculptures and the green ones, and when they stood in the studio, in this environment, they reminded me of nature. It doesn’t matter what the material is, I’m always making nature, or I am talking about nature.

How did you decide what materials you would use for your SPACES project?

I started working with the same materials here that I was working with at my house for the last three or four months. I’ve wanted to learn more about plaster and stretch the material. I had a bigger studio here and wanted to experiment.

How did the black and green sculptures in your installation emerge?

[Gently laughs.] I really don’t know. I just know sometimes I have the figure or the shape in my mind and I look for the material to make it come true in a way that will interest me. I work with the plaster, and I discovered that I can work with it in a different way. I discovered that I can push plaster and use it as a soft material that you can capture, because usually plaster is used for very functional things like building houses. So here I took plaster to the poetic side of things.

How did you achieve the icing-like effects on the green sculptures?

I added glue to the plaster and it became more flexible, and I pushed the plaster through the pastry bags you use for decorating cakes. I had to be really patient, and it took a lot of time-one drop next to each other.

How did you make the squiggly red forms that seem to be emerging from, or boring into, the green sculptures?

Those are glass. I made them in Israel and brought them with me. I made them by working with glass in the same way [that I worked with the plaster on the green sculptures]. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the red glass when I brought it, but I wanted to bring a few things with me from my studio in Israel.

Can you talk about the etchings mounted on the walls?

The paper has a [top] layer of green metal material. I discovered that if you are very, very careful, and scrape very gently, there’s a silver layer under the green layer, and under the silver layer is white paper. So if you use a very sharp knife, you can use the green or the silver or the white layers [in the etching]. I played with it for fun.

How would you describe Red Winged Black Bird?

[Pauses.] As a creation of a landscape, or nature, or a garden. Those associations, I think, can describe this exhibition.

What else?

I used available glamour. Like shiny black paint [for the cone-shaped sculptures] and metal green [for the etchings] and aluminum foil [for the branch-like sculptures]. This simple glamour—it’s not cheap glamour. I’m not using the right words in English, you must forgive me. If you would speak in Hebrew, it [our conversation] would be more sophisticated, my ideas would be sharper, because it is hard to discuss these concepts in English.

I understand. It must be a challenge to discuss abstract concepts in a second language.

It’s interesting, because the first association you have with glamour isn’t nature. Nature has glamour, but most of it is connected to animals, not flowers and trees. Like in the sea there are shiny things, but not silver shiny. The peacock is shiny, but he does not have silver in his tail. He is shiny but not like aluminum foil. I bring the connection between materials that are shiny in an artificial way and nature. These shiny materials are connected with dream or fantasy—this is the connection. In the work, I never used wood or anything real from nature. I don’t use very complicate materials in my work. I use things that you can find everyday—paper, plaster, aluminum foil, paper clips, the kind of modeling clay that kids use. My point is to find the glamour and magic in everything—in the things we use everyday.

Is your SPACES installation a response in any way to your experience in Cleveland?

No, I don’t think so. I started working on it a very short time after I arrived [on March 30]. I don’t think this exhibition is reacting to the area, except maybe the materials. I used local materials, like the roofing tiles for the floor [of the installation]. We don’t have those materials in Israel. I liked it because it looked like asphalt, like a street. It has a texture and it’s something you want to touch. At first people wonder what it is. I like the enigma of it. But this visit and working here will do something to my art, maybe it’s starting to do something, but it takes time.

Let’s talk about the work you’ve exhibited in Israel.

I like to work with ready-made objects. Sometimes I change the objects a bit, like in Handle with Care (2004) [see Efrat’s bio page on SPACES’  Web site]. It’s a huge net made from paperclips. It was an installation for the Yanko Dada Museum in Israel. Again, it’s very shiny. Simple glamour. If you use one paperclip, it’s nothing. But I used more than 60,000 paperclips to make the net.

How long did it take you to make it?

Actually, I wasn’t working by myself. I always use a lot of people around to help me make things. Most of the objects that I make are built from a lot of pieces connected together, like all the people around me, working together with me.

Did you have help with the branch-like net made out of aluminum foil in your installation here?

Yes, I had a lot of help here. Usually I don’t like to use paid studio assistants. Most of the time I ask for help from my friends or family. I have a big open house or a party for 24 hours. Everyone can stop in anytime they want; there’s food, drink, music [shows pictures of people making the paperclip net.] Very happy mood. And they can work with a lot of people around them. I’ve been doing this art for four or five years, so everyone knows everyone and they can joke…So the paperclip net was used in this installation

[shows an image of Handle with Care (2004)] and you see three tripods under the nets with alt recorders mounted on top of them. It looks like microphones, or maybe guns—you know in Israel, everybody sees guns everywhere—or telescopes. You think about sound, when you look at them, but there was no noise in the exhibition.

You’ve also worked with large truck tires, also ready-mades, and transformed them in some way.

Yes, I’ve used tires in several works. Here’s Untitled (2006) [large truck tires stacked vertically, like a totem]. You can see how the tires themselves are shiny. And in the treads I put blue modeling clay, so you can see the beautiful different designs in the tire treads. These are things of beauty, of glamour, that we never see, that our eyes never stop to look at. And those smooth, worn areas of the tires tell a story. I like that, too.

You’ve transformed tires into aesthetic objects, but are they also intended to signify political conflict or guerilla resistance?

That’s [the tire burning in Israel] the seventies and eighties. Now they bomb buses. To do art in Israel, you never do art with any connection to the political situation. You just can’t do it because you live it. I don’t think of myself as a political artist. Maybe I react to the political situation, but it isn’t conscious.

Why can’t you do art related to the political situation in Israel?

I’m not saying that I can’t do it. Maybe I do sometimes. I’m sure it must be in my work in some way.  But if you’re an artist, you can’t do art [about a relationship] when you’re right in a relationship and living the situation every day.

You have BAs in psychology and geography, and an MFA in Industrial Design. Tell me about your journey from there to here.

Sometimes you find very quickly what you want to do in life, and sometimes you need a lot of options; you need to touch everything. It’s been an interesting journey with beautiful treasures and a lot of fun along the way, but every step was to get closer to the right thing for me. I got a very big scholarship to get my MFA, so I thought I’d do something fun while I was there [in school]. I took sculpture and drawing classes, and after a month, I was in love. It is a big passion. I finished by MFA in ID but it wasn’t the real thing for me.

From an early age I always had a passion to draw and to make sculpture; I worked with ceramics, with clay and a wheel. It was in the air all the time. Sometimes you really need to do some things [in order] to see that the things you really want to do are right under your nose. ID was enjoyable but it wasn’t enough. For my thesis, I developed a low-tech game for children that taught them how to use a map. They need to use their bodies to understand the cardinal directions and the directions right and left. Most children get confused. It’s a creative game  that incorporates psychology, geography and design. In my MFA installation, I dealt with wayfinding, which is a huge subject. For example, how do we find our way into a garden. And maybe my performance are like that: “What will be the distances between the people if they will stand close to the dancers, or the guide, or the performers. Those are the things that interest me.

Tell me about the performances that you choreograph and script in Israel?

I’m doing a family of performances that are tours of nature or sites, like the tours I did when I was in the [Israeli] Army [In Israel, all 18-year-olds must enter the army and  serve three years.] A friend of mine is the tour guide for these performances. I’m using the prototype of the Israeli guide: They are very tall and very beautiful. I don’t know what the rangers look like—here maybe they are all men—but in Israel, usually they are always women. The tour guided are at various sites throughout Israel. I have to learn about each site in order to write the performance script, and I use the information that interests me. It could be ironic or political. Sometimes people don’t think about a place, but if you connect the information for them, to get them to think, not just telling them the facts about a place…In this performance [shows a digital photo of a woman in an official-looking green military shirt and skirt], the tour was at a big [electricity-generating] power station  in Tel Aviv. The guide talked about the connection between men and power—as in we do not have a lot of women in our government. She also talked about how the power station was built by men. She was very ironic. If you went with her to the end of the tour, you’d understand that she was talking about two types of power.

Are the spectators told these “tours” are performances?

No, they don’t know it in the beginning. They follow along because the see a guide and they want to learn more. Every performance has a different theme, but we always use just feminine terms in every performance. In Hebrew, we use different terms to address men and women. And I think there’s a problem in Hebrew, because the grammar dictates that if there’s a group with ten women and one man, you need to speak in male terms. If you are a child in kindergarten with boys and girls, the teacher will speak as if all the students are boys. That really builds perceptions, and the girls are not really aware of it, but they begin to feel like they are always underdogs. The people speak as if the girls are not there, and that’s very problematic.

In these performances, the guide always speaks as if only women are in the group. Men can get very embarrassed, because the men in Israel are very macho. The  tour guide makes the men feel like they are invisible. You know what is really interesting? For the guides, this is the hardest thing to do.

Filed under: Interviews, , , , , , , ,



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