Catalog bfa 2012

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  • a+ D

    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.




  • 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. 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