Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gardens of Struggle

Excerpt from Long Walk to Freedom

The Bible tells us that gardens preceded gardeners, but that was not the case at Pollsmoor, where I cultivated a garden that became one of my happiest diversions. It was my way of escaping from the monolithic concrete world that surrounded us. Within a few weeks of surveying all the empty space we had on the building’s roof and how it was bathed the whole day, I decided to start a garden and received permission to do so from the commanding officer.

Each morning, I put on a straw hat and rough gloves and worked in the garden for two hours. Every Sunday, I would supply vegetables to the kitchen so that they could cook a special meal for the common-law prisoners. I also gave quite a lot of my harvest to the warders, who used to bring satchels to take away their fresh vegetables.

A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a taste of freedom.

In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed. ~ Nelson Mandela

Monday, December 15, 2014

Green House Clutch

Sabrina Granados

My day with Clutch was informed be placing Clutch within a small greenhouse. This greenhouse is devoid of any flora since it attempts to show clutch flowering from the green house planters. I shared this view with my architecture class where clutch was well received. It was an interesting view since the unexpected nature of Terra/Form condensed in the 5x5x5 space surprised viewers. Students who are traditionally used to making small models that imply larger spaces, were puzzled at the complexity of Clutch.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jean Arp, Growth

Each member of the Education and Outreach team toured the Art Institute prior to the opening and selected artworks that they felt pertained to the themes present in the show Terra/Form: Cultivating a Community.

My talk as a member of the team was based on Arp’s Growth and how it relates to our own exhibition Terra/Form within Clutch Gallery by creating gestures that encourage humans to reconnect with the earth.

The following was an informal talk I gave in the Art Institute of Chicago galleries on Jean (Hans) Arp’s Growth in conjunction with the opening of Terra/Form: Cultivating a Community:

Jean or Hans Arp (Jean for when he spoke French and Hans in German) was a Surrealist artist and major contributor to the Dada movement. In the early 1930s, he started a new direction in his art-making---that of rounded, curved sculpture.

Arp took a leading role in developing what has become known as biomorphic or organic abstraction. Biomorphism was an art movement that implemented design elements that used models of the naturally occurring patterns and shapes of the earth.

These new sculptural pieces represented a change in his work as well, emphasizing nature as a model and inspiration.

Growth represents a transition for Western sculpture. Before, the human figure was the medium’s primary subject. Growth’s reference to nature and landscape was a breaking from this tradition.

In the past, Western sculpture had been focused on separating and categorizing man from animal, animal from man. Arp was concerned with creating a space to let go of this way of looking at not only art, but of the world. He was interested in human self-image in terms of narcissism and challenging this in his work.

He writes, “Reason tells man that he is above nature, that he is the measure of all things. Thus man thinks he can create against the laws of nature and he creates monsters instead. Through reason man has become a tragic and ugly personage...Reason has separated man from nature.”

Arp advocated for a new kind of art that would restore man to his proper place within the natural order.

Growth is divided into three curved shapes or appendages. Two of the appendages resemble legs that are cut at the thigh. The sculpture becomes a slim trunk that bends outward like knees or elbows and then into bud or breast like shape. Growth combines the human form, here of a female body with that of plant imagery. This appearance gives the sculpture movement. Growth can be seen as a combination of a human form with those of a tree or plant. The upward growth of a tree and the curves of a bud or fruit.

The experience of giving a brief talk on an artwork in the Art Institute of Chicago was an exciting and fruitful (no pun intended) experience. I am grateful to have worked alongside many talented individuals to help form this exhibition and am hopeful for the community it forms.

Adapted for the talk from: A New Unity of Man and Nature: Jean Arp's "Growth" of 1938
Margherita Andreotti
Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1990), pp. 132-145+178-180

Grocery Store

Sung Moon

For Clutch attendants, there is the responsibility to carefully represent the gallery and the artworks to visitors, but also to ensure that the theme of Terra/Form, is delivered to the public. To do this, I was interested in taking Clutch to its most natural habitat. For me, that meant disarming Clutch from my hands, and placing it within the context of the environment. I had to make sure that there was a correlation between the environment and Clutch itself. The environment and Clutch together had to create a harmonious narrative that allowed people to understand the exhibition without any descriptions and by relating it to their everyday lifestyle, thus making it seem familiar to them. But in order to do that, the clutch had to pick its own location, not me.
When I walked inside a grocery store one day, I picked up a bag of turkey ham from the cooler for my sandwich. As soon as I took the turkey out from the compartment and held it in my left hand, Clutch on my right arm,  I couldn’t stop but notice the empty space that now separates the bacon and the original swiss cheese in the compartment. This negative space that I created, by taking out the turkey ham broke the rhythm of all the artificial colors and produce that the grocery store lined up for its customers. Therefore, I thought it could be the most natural thing for me to now place Clutch between the bacon and the swiss cheese, replacing the turkey ham that I was going to eat for lunch.
It was Thursday morning around 9:00 AM, so people were grabbing their juice and their muscle milk, their mind fresh like a blank canvas- it was the perfect moment for me to step back, close to the nachos and observe the gallery opening. One guy walked in and I think was looking for turkey ham as well, but since I took the last one, and Clutch was sitting in the spot for the turkey he naturally took Clutch out and opened it to see if there was turkey inside. Realizing that this wasn’t what he was looking for, he gently placed it back where it had been. What he saw in there, and how he interpreted the artworks, while critical, will remain personal. This is important because we are accustomed to everything being shared on social media today. The moments that people digitally share these days, create a chain of a digital map that can never be tracked. But the beauty of it is its purity like the beauty of infancy. I think the feeling of finding something new and remembering that moment, in its relation to the placed environment is  critical to the theme of  Clutch. And if people start to see  Clutch again somewhere else, carried by a different person, that overlapping experience could be powerful enough to change his or her pattern for the day. “Will I see that Clutch again at the corner of Michigan and Huron?”
 In conclusion, I do not think this interaction was coincidental at all, although I am fortunate for deciding to have turkey ham sandwich on that day. I believe that if the environment presents itself to the clutch first, the Clutch would take in the features of the built environment and present itself in its natural form and that provokes the emotion of the exhibition: Terra/Form. For future clutch carriers, every moment with Clutch should be a grand opening as it finds itself in the context of the nature that we live in. Although it’s temporary and constantly mobile, sometimes I believe that a glimpse creates more curiosity than anything else.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Clutch in the Everyday

Diana Yukari Pereira

I carried Clutch with me for an average day: work, classes, walks and train rides, and carrying an
object that had to be displayed made me hyper aware of people, spaces and my own place in
everyday conditions. As an introvert, it is hard for me to fully understand the concept of community
and discussing it is very complex for me since I don't always feel I experience it. However, the act of
carrying Clutch made me think of the environments I am constantly immersed in and how they
constitute communities that I am part of without even realizing it. More than that, I realized how
Clutch can not only create a community around it, a class or a group of people that get together to view the art pieces in it, but it is also a contribution to existing communities.

The connection it creates between people through the momentary shared interest was one of the most rewarding parts of carrying clutch. During my time with Clutch, I also observed different kinds of reactions from viewers who were not interested at all to those who started intense discussions over its concept. I noticed that people would react with more enthusiasm when they were approached in a situation where they were not alone, and the interest would hardly ever end with the closing of clutch’s lid. I saw many conversations starting from the end of the performative act that is opening and closing it, and the performative act itself was the topic of many conversations I had. The moment of unlocking it, right before opening the small gallery is very exciting for everyone who saw clutch, even if the interest in it did not continue. I was aware of that beforehand, but to realize that there was not a single person who reacted indifferently to this moment was to realize that we are all part of at least one community, the one made of human beings.

Clutch Gallery

Justin Jun
    Clutch Gallery travels through the different hands of different people and through different moments of time, and it is somehow always able to spark a light in a person's eye even for a brief moment. To witness the curiosity of the viewer is an integral part of the gallery experience. As the carrier of Clutch Gallery during the time period of November 28th to December 1st, I was given many opportunities to share the wooden purse of secrets with creative people, who were all celebrating the festive weekend of Thanksgiving. Since Clutch represents community, the human interaction with the space itself is crucial in showing others what Clutch Gallery and its artists' intentions are. 
Clutch Gallery spent the Thanksgiving weekend at a number of different locations, some more appropriate to the viewing experience than others. For example, starting chronologically, I took the Clutch Gallery to the Millennium ice rink on Friday where many families, tourists, and artists could be found. To be honest it felt quite odd in the middle of the cold, foggy day to be carrying around the wooden box through the crowd of people wearing ice skates. It was daunting to charm strangers to look into my secret box. I found a table on which I propped opened Clutch's lid, and set it on its side for people to see, and waited for comments. As many, many park-goers glanced and walked away, a  child ran up with her face level with Clutch, looked inside, and up at me and asked “how come the tree is growing out of the wall?” Everyone one else who asked about the gallery received an explanation of Terra/Form as a portable gallery experience with each work of art representing the artists’ relation to the growth they have experienced in community in Chicago.
The one comment that stood out from the others came from an artist by the name of Patricia Hutabarat, who mentioned the fact that “the viewer cannot BE inside the gallery, but still experiences the gallery as if one were inside the structure.” The impossibility to scale the audience to the inside of the gallery really makes it a unique surreal experience, where the mind attempts to warp perception.
 “However, its miniature scale in relationship with its holder gives a certain level of intimacy—where only one person can experience it at a time. Its surreal element lies in its atmosphere, as if here is an oneiric space. All your focus goes into this space, and the experience is given to you in secret.”- Patricia Hutabarat 
On Saturday evening following I took Clutch Gallery to the Christkindl Market, on 50 West Washington St, where the giant orange Calder statue, entitled Flamingo is found. The city of Chicago hosted their annual German influenced vendor market. The shops were of the same exact woody, soft comforting color the Clutch purse is made of. Lighted, the shops were in a sense little boxes filled with wonderful secrets waiting to be opened.It was quite crowded, with shoppers shuffling in and out of shops and stalls, making the site a perfect place for Clutch viewers. Indeed, people were fascinated with the gallery space as well as with the other unique merchandise. The booth at which I chose to display Clutch was a woodworking booth with all sorts of carvings, where each artist had a themed niche, for example one carver specialized in animals, another in human figures, and some with out-of-this-world fantasy carvings, like those one may find in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. 
The fit for Clutch was splendid, with many people walking up to get personal with the gallery. It was a merry time for all, and the second day of Clutch Galleries being on display proved to be better than the first. 
  The Clutch Gallery had an unexpected performance factor that I had not experienced beforehand, and it was due to the social implications of an (assumed) male with a purse, or in this case a purse-like object. I definitely felt the discomfort when holding the top handle directly with my hand, and in honesty when I received Clutch Gallery from Zara, I made sure to bring a plastic bag to place the purse into so as not to reveal the object to the public. Then I began to realize that the wooden container does not only emulate the notions of feminine designer handbags. I don’t believe women would actually view the container as practical or see it as fashionable. What I experienced was instead the discomfort of simply the word “purse” and the reality that I am the owner of said “purse.” If the class initially were to refer to Clutch Gallery as a “briefcase” I possibly would have not even brought the plastic bag to cover the container in the first place. The gendered friction that I experienced was my own social conditioning about a term that has feminine connotations.

Clutch makes a house call, puts up a tree and goes out to eat.

Judy Radovsky

Having been hard at work community building and making appearances around town all month, Clutch wanted to spend an evening with family by the fire and go out for a meal.
Seen here as part of a seasonal ritual, Clutch participated in the raising of the tree; afterwards sampling some delicious food and making friends. On a cold December Evanston evening, Clutch knows indoors is the place to be for cheer, and hopes you all find time for these brief timeouts from responsibility.