February 17, 2008

Collaboration and Competition

I lead a class focusing on the idea of collaboration for the social practice critical theory independent study group.

The more I learn about negotiation (which is my elective this quarter), the more I am starting to think of each interaction we have as artists with the audience as a kind of negotiation. Negotiators are trying to "create value" for the other side and to persuade them into thinking about the issue at hand in a new way. So in theory, as artists, we can decide to have a collaborative style or competitive style or avoidant style with our audience, or with other artists, or with funding institutions. So, instead of thinking of negotiating as something a lawyer does, we might have fun seeing negotiation as something each of us does in every interaction we have with another person. I have been wondering what it would be like to try and match different artists with different conflict styles. Do painters negotiate with their audience in different ways than social praciticioners? If so, how?

For the class, I had people:

1. Take a Confict Styles test. We read through descriptions of five different conflict styles - competitive, avoidant, com
Linkpromising, accomodating, and collaborative - and then tried to come up with examples of specific situations where different conflict styles would be helpful or not helpful. For example, we talked about how being competitive is helpful in a military or sport situation, but maybe onot in a situation where you want to build a relationship. We also talked about how this test is really only relevant to Western individualist cultures and not to people from Eastern Asian collectivist cultures, such as Thailand where Varinthorn is from.

2. After the discussion of conflict styles at a personal level, we moved into discussion around the Introduction from the book Collectivism After Modernism edited by Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette. We reviewed how societal perception of collectivism has changed in America since World War 2 and also after 9/11. We talked about reasons why the American government (democrats and republicans) and the mass media might prefer the American population to have a competitive mindset, and what effects that has on our culture.

We also talked about what can happen when the artist collaborates with their audience or
with other artists. We how Varinthorn wonders if using the web and language of advertising in her work is not collaborative enough, and how maybe other parts of her work are collaborative.

I haven't fully wrapped my head around these ideas, but feel like I am headed into rich territory. It is great having this opportunity to look at collaboration from historical, political, economic and conflict resolution lenses, and to then be able to bring this discussion back into the art realm.


February 16, 2008

The Group Group Show

The MOST is preparing to participate in a show with our friends DAMP in Melbourne, Austraila centered around artists who work in groups.
We have decided to display a variety of cardboard reproductions of various 'tools' we use in our work together, such as safety cones, stamps, briefcases, staplers etc.

I spent most of the day Friday trying to get consensus with the rest of the group about what text we should use to represent ourselves in a catalogue related to the show, and what 3 images we should use to explain our process and compliment the items that will go in the show.
We picked the phrase, "It's not a matter of where it is, but how to get there" to represent how we work as a group, both in terms of how we think of Mostlandia, and how we come to decisions collectively. We began talking about this at 7 AM Friday morning and chose the following images for the catalogue at 12AM Saturday morning:



During this Committee Meeting, Eric, Chris and I met to begin sketching our plans for Rudy. We drew a lot of pictures and decided on how to visually categorize the information we collected. We also divvied up tasks and developed an equipment list.


Data Transmogrification

After 7 meetings with Rudy, Chris, Eric and I have split off to prepare a document of some kind that provides Rudy with some possible creative trajectories he can take in order to enhance Junior Ambassadors. The three of us met first to come up with as many possible ideas as we could think of. We used the Consensus Workshop technique where you brainstorm individually on small pieces of paper, post those ideas on the wall in groups, and begin organizing the groups. Our process looked like this:

We used orange sticky notes to indicate general categories for our suggestions, and pink to indicate ideas we see as possible "paradigm shifts" as in ideas that would require a change in thinking from Rudy.

After arranging the ideas into groupings, we spent time discussing what to do with the information. As Rudy provided us with two maps showing his desires in relation the food cart, we discussed the possibility of creating a map of our own in which to present our ideas back to Rudy. We discussed ways in which to make this map interactive and three dimensional, in order to mimic the ways in which Rudy can choose to take a birds-eye view, man-on-the-street view or any view in between towards his situation. We are working beyond this point to develop and create the map.


February 4 Critique

For my group critique this quarter, I invited 3 Mostlandian citizens, Violet "Winter" Lakeland, Michael Reinsch, and Mike Merrill, to come speak to my classmates about how they perceive Mostlandia. I gave a short presentation about who the MOST is, how we discovered the map of Mostlandia on our friend Matthew's floor, and about the various instances, such as the Mostlandian Embassies and the Yake Spot Portal where we have offered citizenship to Citizens of Other Places.

I thought that instead of people looking at my website or some pictures and talking about them for an hour, I would instead invite the citizens. This is not because I see them as my art project necessarily, but because I am really interested to learn more about why the have continued to participate in our projects past the time when they became citizens. It seems important to me to include their first hand experiences of Mostlandia in my description of what I do because it seems like their participation completes/expands my activity as an artist. It also seemed to me that like hearing from citizens first hand would be more interesting than me telling the class about it.

I asked the following questions:
- Please give your name, and what you do in your daily life.
- What do you want to tell us about Mostlandia?
- How do you describe Mostlandia to other people?
- Describe what happened when you first encountered Mostlandia.
- How do you participate in Mostlandia?
- What causes you to continue participating?

The feedback I received was interesting to me, however, I'm not sure whether the class knew how to interact with our visitors. I think that this was an interesting experiment, and would like to get more feedback from citizens, but perhaps without an audience.

Another element of this discussion was that at some point Harrell told us that Mostlandia contains, for him, three of the things he hates most in the world: patriotism, paperwork and bureaucracy.

Harrell's other critique revolved around an example Khris gave where someone visited one of our embassies and asked him if he could help them get official paperwork to get their daughter a visa. Khris told the person that he could give them paperwork, but that the Australian government might not recognize it. Harrell's main point was that at that time, Khris should have left his post at our Embassy and helped the visitor go navigate the Australian bureaucracy. Khris's main response was that he couldn't really contingency plan for such an event. My response was that Khris was honest and that it wouldn't have really made sense to leave our show and take on this other project - we needed him at our office. Harrell maintained that we should have contingency plans for everything, anything, but I don't know that I agree with that.

I wrote an email to The MOST describing the feedback we got as such:
Cyrus wanted it to be more fun, and said he didn't like how the audience didn't talk more. He said he wanted to say a lot of things but wasn't sure how to interject or talk about stuff.

Eric thought it shouldn't be fun because it was in the school setting. he also thought that we should all watch the extended version of lord of the rings all three movies together in one sitting. because, "you have the whole light vs dark, and in the end even the golum is involved in destroying the ring, and someone who you didn't expect - samwise gange (sp) - was the hero to the end. and this struggle is really about the end of the world, and you have the fellowship who comes together to save it"

Avalon presented me with a mathematical equation showing how Mostlandia is real based on variables such as imaginary(I), real(R), mostlandia(M)... if he posts it on his blog like he said he was going to, I'll send you all the link.

Amy steel said that she really enjoyed just watching Violet talk.

Eric and Michael both appreciated how Mike Merrill was able to articulate his thoughts in an interesting way.

Varinthorn said she really wanted Rudy to talk more because she enjoyed listening to him.

The visiting artist, Kate Procrass, thanked us for presenting, and said she thought that our work was really interesting. She said she enjoyed the way we talked about history and place as subjective things.

Violet said she had never thought about art in the way we talked about it in the critique. She wasn't sure how to think or talk about it.


The Committee

In December, Chris Hudson and I started working on a project called The Committee. The idea behind The Committee is that as creative people we can act as a think tank for other people who are stuck or trying to figure out different aspects of their lives. We will form partnerships with various people and help them design various "trajectories" or paths to follow that may be based in present reality but may head into unknown territories.
So far, we've only worked with our friend Rudy as he tries to build his new business, Junior Ambassadors Food Cart. We spent our first meeting thoroughly discussing where Rudy would like Jr. A's to be by the next summer. We spent another meeting talking about accounting, and another discussing a map that Rudy produced illustrating his desires for the next year.
After the first few meetings, we asked Eric Steen to join us, and are now in the process of creating our response to our work with Rudy.

Type the rest of your post here.


February 10, 2008

The MOST @ Pecha Kucha, Feb 11

Khris and Rudy spoke at the Feb. 11 Portland Pecha Kucha night.
The theme for the evening was "Layers: Hidden and Apparent Contstructs".
We went last, and got a rousing reception from the audience. Think Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update meets Mostlandia in all the best ways.

Below are our first 2 slides with text. Try to imagine them read out loud...
"Timeless. In Person. Local depending on where you are located at. It's the KKJR Power News Desk Team reporting in 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.."
Place, intimacy, fun, and documentation: these are the guiding principles of KKJR. Mostlandia is nowhere and nooooooowwww here.

In tonight's headline story, the Misplaced Items Authority has successfully located many pairs of lost shoes. The Authority is unable to return the shoes to the claimants, as they have since been incorporated in Mr. Ashton Rhodesia's Telephone Wire Museum of Unusual Footwear. Mr. Rhodesia tells the KKJR Power News Desk that he plans on returning them to the rightful owners as soon as he can figure a way to get them down.


February 8, 2008

Visit with Marc Fischer

In addition to meeting with Amy, I was lucky to host Marc Fischer of Public Collectors and Temporary Services and meet with him one on one. I started this visit by showing Marc the 1st edition of the Book of Selected Maps published by the MOST last fall. I also showed him our website after the map book. Marc had a very different reaction to the work of The MOST and Mostlandia than Amy.

His first question was whether there are any real world consequences to Mostlandia, whether there is anything at stake for people who interact with Mostlandia aside from The MOST. We had interesting dialogue around the fact that I refuse to call Mostlandia a fake or fantasy country, in that he refuses to describe it as anything but fake. I have had conversations similar to this one before, however found Marc to be adamant about wanting Mostlandia to have real-world consequences. This makes sense to me in light of the socially-engaged, political, and critical artwork he makes. I also appreciated his honesty about his thoughts. I think that other people have this opinion about our work and I like getting to talk about it.

We also talked about the group structure of Temporary Services, and how they will sometimes break off to do individual projects when one person in the group is more interested in an idea than others. They also will invite other people to become part of the group on a one-project basis, in order to bring in energy or expertise. I have always admired Temporary Services for their writings and thinking on the subject of collaboration, and I valued being able to talk with a group member about these ideas in person.

Here's a little snippet of email conversation the MOST had when I relayed this information:

------------ Original message ------------
From: "Rudy Speerschneider"
> My responses are in blue (if they aren't blue, then they have a T in front)
> On 1/11/08, Katy Asher wrote:
> >
Marc Fischer suggested we try adding people to the group on a single project basis. what do you think about that?
T: In the interesting way of thinking about the vast number of ways we could work as a group and as a necessity to go beyond ourselves, into the mysterious, I think that this ideas would be worth exploring. Right away, i'd say we'd have to have a very specific reason for doing this, it would have to fit into our process naturally in a similar way to that of Matthew (Yake), or Bob (Ice Cream), or Molly (Embassy). They'd have to already be half way there.
He also wanted to know if there were any real world consequences to Mostlandia, and refused to call it something other than fantasy or a fake country. It was interesting. He just wondered if there was anything at stake for anyone who interacts with Mostlandia aside from us. I can elaborate if any of you are interested.
> >
T: That' bullshit! Of course there is. What's at stake??? WHAT'S AT STAKE!!??? Only our ability, as humans, to think and imagine a world beyond the fucking real and known one!!!! To expand our minds!!!!!
From: j_rhoads@comcast.net
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2008 19:58:21 +0000

best response ever re: what's at stake :)
From: katy@mostlandia.com
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2008

That's funny because I had an awesome creative writing teacher in Boulder, Daniel Weinshenker, who would always bellow at us "What's at STAKE?!" He was an English Grad Student and would have us write poetry while simultaneously watching flamenco dancing.
"What's at stake guys?" he'd say, "What's at STAKE. That's right" and pace around the room.
From: Khris
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2008

I think that it would be interesting to talk more about Marc's suggestions. I could see it working out pretty well, as long as we were all on the same page before any sort of project like that was initiated.

Real world consequences of Mostlandia? I've pretty much stopped talking to people because of their ideas of Mostlandia. Mostly because how they understand (or, more accurately, don't understand) Mostlandia gives me an insight into how they think of things. That's a real world consequence, but it's kind of a personal example, I guess.


Visit with Amy Franceschini

In January I had a one-on-one meeting with Amy. I showed her images from The MOST's website and told her about how I am currently trying to figure out how to explain Mostlandia to people who have never experienced it. One thing I noticed during her visit is that Amy takes notes while people talk to her about their work. I appreciated this listening approach. You're talking and she's scribbling furiously but not interrupting. It made for an interesting discussion - some of the notes were just information and other bits were questions.

Her notes for me were:
- The MOST could consider developing and providing workshops as a way of generating some income and sustaining ourselves.
- We should consider the "colonial" aspects of having boundaries or not having boundaries
- Touchy-feely (We discussed how a lot of the kind of work being created by so-called social practice artists these days has a touchy-feely, or feel-good aspect to it. Is it true that the only way people can interact in more generative/open ways these days is through these mediated activities? Aside from the fun aspect of Mostlandia, is there something I am interested in learning about or cultivating?)
- Sami
- Portugese exhibit at Yerba Buena approximately 8 years ago

The most intriguing aspect of this visit for me was discussing what part of making work with The MOST interests me the most aside from the part where we engage with our audience. I think that I am most interested in learning more about how other artists work collaboratively: how they make decisions, resolve conflicts, come up with ideas and execute projects. Amy looked surprised and said that she is pretty sure she knows the answers to those questions within her group Future Farmers, but that the group had never acknowledged it.