Joan Watson, Professor of Art
Interdisciplinary Sculpture, Art History, Foundation Departments
Maryland Institute College of Art
Up From Down Under . . . Just a Hop, Skip and a Jump (parts 1a1, 1a2, 1b, 1c, 1d)
The Artist as Museum
Up From Down Under . . . Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump (parts 1a1, 1a2, 1b, 1c, 1d), or the more highfalutin' title of The Artist as Museum, is an ongoing and forever expanding project in four parts re-presenting the interactive and collaborative spirit that I've been committed to for more than 30 years. Each part of the project is the result of my investigation into the basic building block units involved with the systems that most intimately affect the quality of our everyday lives and our artwork. This for me has been a way to realize the ‘ecological' (i.e., the ‘aesthetic') ideal. My ‘aesthetic' pursuits -- the teaching, the making of art, the community service -- have combined to become this continuously unfolding saga of life on earth amongst others in the midst of all the rigmarole our social systems have to offer. Driving me have been ideas such as: 1) "The self as a puzzle: to be deciphered...the self as a project: to be built" (source unknown); 2) "So then are we really thinking when the subject upon which we are thinking cannot be thought out" (Goethe); and 3) the following diagram of the creative process demonstrating the polyphonic qualities involved with art (art historian Anton Ehrenzweig via the artist Robert Smithson).
I initiated Up From Down Under…Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump (parts 1a1, 1a2, 1b, 1c, 1d) in dialectical response to all art and societal phenomena I've experienced and documented since 1977. My interactive collaboration with these documented re-source materials has instinctively become the living manifestation of the original, dynamic meaning of the word "re-source" ("to rise again, to recover") and has evolved into a number of different parts over the years. Part 1a1 AH412 (link 1) and part 1a2 IS300 (link 2) are presently constructed as a series of multi-media in-class presentations aka art historical combines using the ‘collaborative authoring - open-editing function' of the PmWiki application for my Metaphorical Aspects of Contemporary Art (AH412) and Junior Seminar (IS300) classes with emphasis on the idea of the Artist as Museum. I use the academic forum as a creative platform -- the goal is never merely informational; it is transformative! Not didactic, dialectical! The presentations are continuously growing and meant to organically culminate in the distant future as an immense network of multi-generational correlative states-of-being moving far beyond the confines of any one established preconceived system. Part 1b (link 3) is the storyboarding of certain of my re-source materials including images of art graphically intermixed with pertinent words and phrases, along with a disparate array of topical imagery in the form of headlines and advertisements; everything working together to demonstrate the "good, bad and high, low" aspects of humanity. It is an epic story with a cast of thousands depicted in various states of misbehavior, but always with a glimmer as to how life might be. Part 1c (link 4; under construction) is the Combined Sewer System Overflow (CSSO) Chronicles/s -- seven years of documentation referencing the chronic mismanagement of the sewer system in Jersey City, N.J. that I affectionately refer to as "The Tidewater Reclamation Project". Part 1d (link 5) is my attempt to personally actualize Walter Benjamin's notion of "metaphor as a transference process" through the practice of Chi Kung, Chi Kung Tai Chi, and the study of various energy flow systems (acupuncture-shiatsu), which then influenced my choice of re-source materials to be used in Metaphorical Aspects of Contemporary Art (part 1a1) and IS300 Junior Seminar (part 1a2).
My initial idea of part 1a1 and part 1a2 as communities comprised of "innumerable Artists as Museums going bumpity-bump -- inflecting art history this way and that -- throughout the semester in a classroom" has now been expanded as publishable multi-media presentations (art historical combines) for use not only in- but also outside the classroom in the form of online ‘collaborative authoring/open editing' websites (faculty.mica.edu/jwatson and artistasmuseum.info -- password protected due to copyright issues). Through these websites, I am attempting to create a convoluted and endless series of correlative art events seminal to the enhancement of our interactive experiences. Conceptually speaking, my intent is to collect as many events as possible within not only my lifetime, but beyond! The PmWiki software in use at my websites allows others to participate as ‘collaborative authors' throughout each of the multi-media presentations (art historical combines) within parts 1a1 and 1a2. This then extends the perceptual-conceptual situation beyond myself within my own personal space and time to include a larger community in a more expansive space-time continuum. This opportunity has also been extended to students enrolled in both AH412 and IS300 at their own PmWiki website (faculty.mica.edu/jwatson_student -- password protected for student privacy and copyright issues). All students enrolled in each of these classes construct personal Visual Verbal Journeys that re-present their perceptual-conceptual relationship to the history of art and the aesthetic realms in which they choose to work. In essence, students aesthetically pinpoint themselves as they construct their distinct "web of relationships" (i.e., their Visual Verbal Journeys) -- and -- in the process, discover new navigational skills for generating the "body of work" each needs to create. The posting of all students' Visual Verbal Journeys to the student PmWiki site has had a tremendous affect on the educational process for some of the following reasons. 1) The "read-only" access available to all students enrolled, as well as the continuous online availability opens up the lines of communication between many different students over many years, as well as opening up things interdepartmentally. The availability extends now to students, not only in the same class section, but also from section to section and from year to year . 2) The increased access to innumerable/diverse aesthetic positions expressed within each of the Visual Verbal Journeys promotes a more open and tolerant attitude toward one another. 3) The level of art historical awareness increases for each student as they're exposed to an increased number of artists representing the various; sometimes even disparate aesthetic concerns expressed by each of the students given their distinct conceptual frames of reference. 4) The 'collaborative authoring' function of the PmWiki application represented by the "comment box" that is located at the bottom of each student's Visual Verbal Journey page opens up the possibility for any other student to contribute relevant correlative offerings, thereby, expanding the number of correlative situations; any one of which might provide an important insight. 5) And so on and on…
The idea of art as a living entity -- an organism forever expanding and contracting, fluctuating this way and that, given its all-inclusive nature -- is now a reality. "Fluxus" is the norm. The context of art fluctuates with each new bit of info. Each new collaborator using the ‘open-editing' function of my personal PmWiki websites adds another piece to the puzzle. The idea is to actualize the vast - immense - fluid nature that is true of all concepts! ...Together we can demonstrate a more complete range of ‘inflective' possibilities as we re-cognize (re-think) the revolutionary aspects of our radical history of art. "The real question is: to whom does the meaning of the art of the past properly belong? To those who can apply it to their own lives, or to a cultural hierarchy of relic specialists" (John Berger ‘s "Ways of Seeing" via Walter Benjamin's "Illuminations").
The ‘collaborative authoring - open-editing' function of the Up From Down Under...Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump (Artist as Museum) website actualizes the permissive, open, tolerant and energizing (consciousness-raising) environment that has been my life's work. Once again, the simple functioning of all things serves to support an aesthetic re-volution -- a flip-flopping of the existing situation as we together in the space of the AH412 and IS300 websites demonstrate the collective consciousness that is our art history;
i.e., innumerable "artists as museums" inflecting art history this way and that.
"And Away We Go..." (Jackie Gleason x 2 + directionally flip-flopped to reveal all that lies between the polarities)