[-empyre-] Thanks but one more thing for Paul: humor/play/irony

Paul Vanouse vanouse at buffalo.edu
Wed May 22 12:12:15 EST 2013

Hi Renate,
Sorry to leave this question unanswered for a few days...

So you were asking about the PED collaboration originating with Millie Chen and Andrew Johnson, which had its first exhibition in 2001 at the University at Buffalo, Center for the Arts.  To describe briefly, we set up a service center at the UB gallery that loaned bicycles for public use on a series of ten marked trails through the suburban campus.  Each tour had a unique pedagogical lecture soundtrack that riders heard emanating from an on-board peddle powered cassette player that corresponded to the route and deconstructed the projected image of the university, particularly in relation to issues of land-use.  see: 

That project fits well what i mentioned earlier about collaborating based on parity and shared agendas:

> (1.) Shared Agendas:  Pose project collaborations in terms of shared goals and agendas, or even shared sense of process.  Avoid collaborations based on some notion of a fixed form or final outcome.  It can be tempting when working with someone that you don’t know well or have little in common with to try to invent a project based on a shared form/product through which you will each achieve your own separate agenda.  I’ve found this never works because experimental projects never exactly take the form you expected and if goals differ then you’ll never agree on the acceptable changes to the form.   But when agendas and process sensibilities are shared, each new challenge and change of plan tends to strengthen the project.

Basically, we were all three new faculty at the University and we had several axes to grind:

1--Primarily, we wanted to assert new artistic forms in our first exhibition there (to practice what we 'teach'), so we agreed we wanted no art on the walls.  Furthermore, it would be best if it wasn't even in the building.  Finally, it would be best if it wasn't static nor visual.
--we kept tossing ideas back and forth and modifying bit by bit until we came up with the PED project with no visual art on walls, highly interactive (both in terms of human performance as bureau attendants and electronic gizmos on the bicycles).  None of us were wed to a particular form, but by sharing the same agenda it was easy to make decisions about each new modification/enhancement.

2--We wanted to assert our role as faculty was not limited to teaching classes, but as active university citizenry participating in university discussions, governance and planning.
--to this end we addressed the recurring frustration that Buffalonians had with the University's move from the city to the neighboring suburb in the 1980s after student uprisings in the 1960s.  Each of the bicycle tours was named after keywords in adjectives used in marketing suburban property and addressed topics of location and public space in professorial lecture format.

3--We wanted to assert that the arts (some of the last disciplines to be moved to the new campus) had an important and broad function in a university culture.  We wanted to assert the arts key role in interdisciplinary action as well as its progressive voice ... that also could be ironic.
--we designed the bicycle routes and lectures to visit/address not only every academic building on the campus, but also to address the parking areas, the public green areas, future planned construction, the former wetlands.  Many of the cannons of a university eduction, such as Shakespeare, Freud, Kant, Edison and Olmstead were incorporated in the individual lecture tours, their comments (never in their typical contexts) roughly coinciding with a rider's campus location.

But, I suppose, like many of my projects there was also a playful interaction and a rather dry irony to the lecture tours that hopefully was hopefully engaging and unexpected...

Anyway, I hope that is useful to the discussion.  The website I listed above has more specifics and shows how the project changed after 2001 alongside other collaborators like Warren Quigley and Joan Linder, and how each manifestation in a different place led to different kinds of formal and technological solutions.


On May 18, 2013, at 12:35 PM, Renate Ferro wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Paul and Cecelia,
> Many thanks for being our guest this week.  Paul we did not want you
> to get away this week without commenting on the post Renate made about
> PED and your thoughts about activism and humor/play/irony.
> Simon thanks for the footnote on network/contact.
> We are  going to be introducing next weeks guests in a few minutes.
> Hope you will continue though to chime in as your schedules warrant.
> Renate and Tim
> On Thu, May 16, 2013 at 10:47 PM, Renate Ferro <rtf9 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>> Hi Paul, Cecelia, Erin, and to all of our -empyre subscribers,
>> I have been traveling this past week and am just getting caught up on
>> your posts.  Thanks to Ana for nurturing the list this week.
>> Paul your posts made me think about your collaborative PED piece
>> http://paulvanouse.com/ped.html
>> In your summation of your experiences with collaboration I am struck
>> by the fact that at the heart of many collaborative successes is
>> playfulness and humor.  I thought about the PED piece because though
>> there was certainly activist intent humor, playfulness, irony seemed
>> to seep throughout the entire project.  I guess I am picking on PED
>> because it is one of my favorites but I'm wondering if you could take
>> a few minutes and talk more about the playful gestures that resonate
>> in your activist projects?
>> I am really interested n the gestures of play and fun even in the
>> midst of pretty serious subject matter.
>> I am asking Paul this but hope all of you will chime in. At Cornell
>> about five years ago I founded a lab called "The Tinker Factory."
>> Riffing off the word tinker to experiment, mess around, with things
>> that sometimes you have no preplanned path of action for, tinkering
>> with materials or technology or the stuff of creative production.  And
>> the word Factory, I borrowed inspiration from Andy Warhol's
>> performance, collaborative playground in New York City in the early
>> 1960's.  It was a space that nurtured creative practice and
>> experimentation as well as conceptual ideas.
>> The Tinker Factory for my students and me has been a space where we
>> can bring in guests and share work, ideas in both a collaborative
>> workshop production space and a creative mentoring space.  We have
>> brought Kevin Hamilton, Maurice Benayoun, Andrew Galloway, and Mari
>> Velonaki among others. These guests not only provided an opportunity
>> to share their expertise but also gave us license to think about
>> broader issues involving critical digital technology in a relaxed
>> atmosphere.  In the middle of Upstate NY we are centrally isolated and
>> sometimes it is difficult to network.  The Tinker Factory brings
>> together faculty, students, and sometimes even community members who
>> come together even if it is for a brief period of time.  What have
>> resulted are connections among artist's, engineers, and others that
>> ordinarily would never have an occasion to happen.
>> So to all of you what do you think about location?  Just a few weeks
>> ago I heard Ricardo Dominguez talk about his early collaborations with
>> his Tallahassee buddies.  They lived and worked together in the same
>> geographic location.  Is it possible or how is it possible to network
>> using social media, or email, or Skype to enable collaborative
>> practice and thinking.  Anyone out there have some good examples of
>> this that has worked successfully?
>> Happy Friday to all of you and for others Happy End of the Semester!
>> Renate
> -- 
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>     http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

More information about the empyre mailing list