I hope you’re well, and having a good week. Following up on the feedback you received during your first thesis review, we are writing because we’d like to ask you to submit a new proposal for your thesis. As we all know, your work has changed significantly in relation to your initial thesis proposal, and we are supportive of students’ work evolving and transforming over the course of their thesis year. However, we wanted to ask you to submit a new proposal focused on Vessel, and the work you will be pursuing throughout this year. This should include a short description of your project and pertinent research you have done on artist-run spaces and curatorial practices you find important for the work you are pursuing, address the questions you are pursuing with the work you are making, include a calendar of exhibitions and a short description for each show reflecting how they are in dialogue with the questions you have outlined, address how you envision your role and practice as an artist-director/curator/performer, and outline briefly the form you see your thesis taking in its final instance(in other words, what will be part of the thesis show at the Carpenter Center).
Feel free to be in touch with any questions, or if anything needs clarification. Maybe you could send me(J) a draft of your proposal when you have it, and we could discuss it in person on Monday before you finish it and send it to your committee, if you think getting feedback on a draft could be helpful?
For people who aren’t familiar, what is the Vessel?
These are questions that are at the core of it. I cannot tell you what it is; I grapple with that question all the time. I still don’t entirely know what the Vessel is, even though I have patiently explained it to me a million times, but I have discovered that I am drawn to it as long as it can be used against its own premise of knowing anyone or anything, as long as I can work against its supposed reliance on fact, and its association with academic production of knowledge--I take it instead to be a reflexive process through which one might construct a reality in its own right.
What are you making at the Vessel?
I am creating a simultaneous space of production, with archival images and documentaries. I am also interested in the performance of language, the duration of the photographic image, and the malleability of video. In this digital age, I was thinking about how we might assemble and fictionalize our narratives out of many sources and formats in which they exist today. I am attracted to the idea that images can stream through different forms of transfer or through a series of misunderstandings. I try to make work that is transformed by the many turns of direction I take during its making, and I hope it is reflective of that process.
Can you address the questions you are pursuing through your thesis?
Yes. That is, how do we playfully engage with the contemporary avatars, falsifications, double-entendres we create for ourselves, and how do we toy with our expectations of the progressive linearity of personal and collective histories? In other words, I am interested in exploring the science fiction of individual and collective narratives, and I hope my curatorial practice works through some of these questions.
How does Vessel engage with these questions?
By establishing a gallery space, I have an incredible opportunity to be exposed on a weekly basis and in a very intensive way to other artists’ processes. In a way I am engaged because I am trying to make it so that everything is set up for them to do the work that they want to do, so I am invested in it; but at the same time, it’s not my work, so I am never going to be the one making all the decisions, I am never going to be controlling those decisions directly. So I am a participant-observer, to use a strange social sciences term. But I give the chance to get familiar with other artists’ processes, and that is really interesting to me because I always feel like I learn as much from the way other people do things as from finding my own. It’s not like there is a direct impact, as in that I see how this student in installation class is doing something and I see that it’s so similar to how I do it--that’s not it at all. It’s more this curiosity satisfied by how generous my peers are about sharing the ways in which they work.
Can you be more specific? How exactly are you working with artists and exhibition-making at Vessel?
I meet with the artist, and we talk for a long period– we then visit, research and record. In the digital Catalogue that I am writing, I will collaborate with artists directly, and also will often make things up. I lift archives from their sources and create new ones, get words out of their context, transfer objects from one medium to the next. The installation of works in the exhibition space only takes shape after our talk, and my research, that moment where an idea has formed not just in my own consciousness but in relation to the material at hand on-site. I always make work that has a dialogue with a specific real site. I then remove it from where it was and recreate it artificially somewhere else, or vice versa.
My work here is more concerned with the notion of a field than written history. Every show has some durational and site-specific strata and any number of intersecting discourses so at the end of the day the materials are invested with their own sense of history. I like situations that renew my perspectives and show me things I have not seen and reawaken all my senses... Kinetic connection to artists is really important to me.