Catalog bfa 2012
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BFA Fine Art Exhibition 2012 | May 4 June 2, 2012
subimago noun the stage of development in an insect in which the insect is winged and capable of flight but not yet sexually mature. Occurs only in Mayflies (Ephemeroptera). With sexual maturity, the insect becomes an imago (Entz).
ART EDUCATION IS TRAUMATIC. Undergraduates struggle to develop a practice creating objects that may be of questionable value to their society. This is especially true for the current generation of american students who face an unprecedented climate of economic and political anxiety. For the graduating class of 2012 at Columbia College Chicago, their final semester is pushed forward due to the close proximity in time and space of the NaTO summit. In this environment, it can be easy to question how the creative practice one has spent years fostering can impact the world in a meaningful way.
ON MULTIPLYING POSSIBILITIES THROUGH SUBJUGATED KNOWLEDGES
BY DOUGLAS GABRIEL
Mike Kelleys Educational Complex, a set of foam core,
fiberglass and wooden models referencing architectural
components of every school the artist ever attended,
was first shown at Metro Pictures in New York in 1995.
Originally, Kelley intended to use a series of drawings of
the infrastructures made from memory as blueprints, but
concluded that they did not contain enough information
to produce three-dimensional models. Photographs were
used to accurately recreate the exteriors of the buildings,
but for the interiors, Kelley used only his inconclusive
drawings as guides, replacing any spaces he could not
remember with solid, obstructing blocks. The project was
part of the artists commentary on Repressed Memory
Syndrome, a topic generating hysteria in the media at the
time. In cases like the McMartin Preschool Trial, evidence
was asserted that abuse occurred in locations of which the
victim had inadequate or no memories. Kelley responded
to his own inability to remember certain areas within his
school with Abuse Report (1995), in which he filled out a
child abuse report indicting his former teacher, abstract
expressionist painter Hans Hoffmann, for institutional
abuse of formalist training.
Kelleys act of turning educational trauma into physical
barricades imagines a situation where the conflicts and
struggles of art education become physical barriers that
limit the possibilities available for a subject to move
through and act in a space. His impenetrable blocks
impose a deadening, restrictive presence. Discussing
limitations, the theorist Michel de Certeau writes in
his book The Practice of Everyday Life that, despite the
organizing function of barriers, a walker also moves them
about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting
away, or improvisation of walking privilege[s], transform[s]
or abandon[s] spatial elements (De Certeau, 98). De
Certeau goes on to cite Charlie Chaplins choreography
as an example of such creative modification of the world,
in that the actor multiplies the possibilities of his cane,
assigning new meanings and purpose to the object (De
Certeau, 98). This example shows us how the function of
objects and signifiers can be revised through creative lived
experience. Subjects who recognize the transformative
power they exert as agents moving through the world are
able to multiply possibilities for being and acting in multiple
environments, rather than submitting to normative modes.
In this essay I will show how these artists develop what
philosopher Michel Foucault calls naive knowledges.
These operate apart from official hierarchies, leading to
new knowledges of the self that diverge from fixed and
established categories. I will then show how this creative
tactic functions to produce what De Certeau calls poetic
geography, space that is liberated and transformed by
subjects who actively assign new meanings to otherwise
fixed signs in the world.
Foucaults postulation of naive knowledges began with
his book Madness and Civilization, in which he discussed
how the Renaissance Madman was not subjected
to confinement or regarded as suffering from disease.
Rather, this subject was considered to exhibit a potentially
revelatory mode of thought apart from the norm (Foucault,
66). The madman was allowed to produce other forms of
knowledge that could coexist with normative modes of
being. For Foucault, the eventual great confinement of the
mad is evidence of the ways in which official hierarchies of
knowledge began to disable alternate modes of thought.
He identified the use of terms like pathological and
delinquent as strategies that divide and limit other
modes of thought through a process of total normalization.
The goal is to continuously produce subjects who think
and act only in accord with correct and functional modes
of being. The term artist can signify a contemporary madman, as this nomenclature gives license to violate
social codes and behaviors in ways that are not available
to other roles in society. While the artist might occupy a
high social standing, the knowledge he produces is almost
always relegated to a lowly position in the hierarchy of
ideas, and is rarely taken seriously as official knowledges.
In addition to demonizing terminology, another strategy
Foucault recognized was the tendency to turn self-
knowledge into pure data. an example is the way in
which medical practice uses a persons performative
but insufficient knowledge of his own body as raw data
from which to make a clinical diagnosis. artists generate
phenomenological knowledge through lived experience,
but hierarchies of ideas insist on the subservient
relationship this discourse has to official knowledges,
like a patient to a doctor. In identifying these strategies of
subjection, Foucault became interested in the knowledges
that have been marginalized throughout history by official
hierarchies of ideas. He called these naive knowledges
What characterizes the class of 2012 fine art students
at Columbia College Chicago is their perception
of economic, political and personal barriers as
instruments that propel and multiply the possibilities
of their practices and self knowledge.
Douglas Gabriel is an artist and critic based in Seoul, South Korea. He is a 2010 graduate of Columbia College Chicago.
De Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Print.
Entz, Chuck. Subimago. BugGuide.com. Iowa State University Entomology. 19 Feb. 2009. Web. (26 Jan. 2012).
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Trans. Richard Howard. United Kingdom: Routledge, 1967. Print.
. Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 19771984. Trans. alan Sheridan. New York and London: Routledge, 1988. Print.
. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 19721977. Trans. C. Gordon. Brighton. London: Harvester Press, 1980. Print.
Miller, Toby. The Well Tempered Self: Citizenship, Culture and the Postmodern Subject. Baltimore: St. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Print.
How then do alternative knowledges function to impose
transformation apart from official discourses? De Certeau
describes a transformative tactic evidenced by subjects
who, walking through a city, give new meanings and
associations to street names: Saints-Peres, Corentin
Celton, Red Square these names make themselves
available to the diverse meanings given them by
passersby. These spaces are liberated by the creative
subject who, in reassigning meaning, forces the signs to
detach themselves from the places they were supposed
to define and serve (De Certeau, 104). De Certeau depicts
liberated space as a poetic geography on top of the
geography of the literal, forbidden or permitted meaning.
The liberating element is the creative act of ascribing new
meanings to signs, which insinuate other routes into
the functionalist and historical order of movement (De
Certeau, 105). Like the street signs that become detached
from their original signification, or like Charlie Chaplins
cane, official knowledges are always open to modification.
This is the effect of unruly subjects. Though the knowledge
production of artists occupies a lowly position, it can be a
very effective force. artists, like subjects walking through
the city, covertly alter meanings in significant ways. Through
the production of naive knowledges, they dismount
signifiers from fixed definitions and reassign meanings
in the spaces around them. as world leaders gather to
reproduce normative ways of thinking and relating to the
world, the artists in Subimago demonstrate alternatives
available to us through creative, lived experience.
The impervious blocks of traumatic space in Educational
Complex extend from Mike Kelleys map drawings. Maps,
according to De Certeau, assume an all-seeing birds-eye-
view, similar to Renaissance painters who represented
the city as seen in a perspective that no eye had yet