March 07, 2011

Open Space Thursdays: Shop Talk

Stephanie Syjuco, Shadowshop, 2010-2011. Photo: Dominic Santos

Last fall, Open Space began hosting a series of real-time discussions at the museum, and this spring we’re going to do another round, in slightly different fashion, about which I’m very excited.

Starting Thursday, March 24, Open Space and the online journal Art Practical are co-hosting a three-part series of conversations, entitled “Shop Talk,” focused on survival strategies artists develop and adopt to gain recognition and financial viability. We’ll use Stephanie Syjuco’s collaborative project Shadowshop, currently on view as part of The More Things Change, as a jumping-off point to examine the ways artists attempt to re-structure market conditions to accommodate, support, or help further the social reach of the aesthetic and critical capacities of their work. We’ll also look at the ways a general public engages and responds to these efforts.

The first of the three conversations will begin with a series of short presentations contextualizing Shadowshop, from writer and curator Christian L. Frock, Shadowshop participating artist Amanda Hughen, and SFMOMA education and public programs coordinator Megan Brian. We’ll then open the floor in a town-hall style forum, hoping to elicit a broad spectrum of positions on the ways artists approach the “production, consumption, and dissemination of their work,” as well as how a public encounters artist projects that address or reflect larger social questions about economy and autonomy.

The second conversation, on April 14, will home in on the most prevailing concerns raised in the first. The third and final evening of the series, May 12, we envision as a brainstorming session, in which attendees will be encouraged to consider possible models for autonomy—or change—in tough economic times.

Patricia Maloney, AP’s editor-in-chief, and I share the belief that critical dialogue about artistic production can itself be productive. Art Practical is responsive and accumulative, contextualizing artistic activity as it happens, in effect shaping a portrait of one Bay Area arts community. Open Space, on the other hand, is a generative forum, one I like to hope operates as a commons within its institutional framework, inviting individuals to offer their own narratives about art, and engage a shared investment around ideas, activities, and social conditions.

Together, Patricia and I are framing this suite of conversations as both responsive and generative, in a way we hope will allow participants and audience to guide the direction it takes. In addition to the onsite discussions, “Shop Talk” will additionally unfold across both online platforms, in the form of blog posts here at Open Space and with feature articles at Art Practical, tracking, responding to, and suggesting alternative perspectives to those raised in the three discussions.

This Thursday, March 10, look for a post from Renny Pritikin, at Open Space, that will help us frame some questions for discussion. On the same day, Christian L. Frock’s Art Practical feature article will focus on cultivating models of creative autonomy that work within the existing limitations of the predominant system, while Zachary Royer Scholz offers a broad overview of factors that have shaped the Bay Area’s approach to cultural production.

We’ve also invited artist Helena Keefe, poet Erika Staiti, poet and critic Jasper Bernes, and curator and writer Clark Buckner to act as respondents the first two evenings, and their reflections will appear here between programs.

More details are here. Please join us! All evenings are free with museum admission, and start at 7pm in the Koret Vistor Education Center.

Finally, in the spirit of raising further questions, we thought to offer a brief reading list, for those who might want to delve a little deeper before 3/24. Further suggestions welcome and appreciated.

For additional resources, please see Stephanie Syjuco’s reading list.

Comments (2)

  • Following the global art market & SF over the last decade, attended Art Practical’s & SFMOMA’s Shop Talk, which examined survival strategies artists develop & adopt to gain recognition & financial autonomy.

    Stephanie Syjuco’s savvy collaborative project Shadowshop was discussed in detail. Shadow Shop is on view as part of The More Things Change, as a jumping-off point to examine the ways artists attempt to re-structure market conditions to accommodate, support, or help further the social reach of the aesthetic and critical capacities of their work. Great work Stephanie!

    Thank you to the presenter’s contextualizing Shadowshop, writer & curator, Christian L. Frock, Shadowshop artist Amanda Hughen, and SFMOMA education and public programs, Megan Brian. The internal workings of this project were discussed, upside & downsides. I compliment your efforts in working with emerging artists. Those artists with professional ambition & vision for their place in the art world, will grow through this venture.

    I especially loved Christian Frock’s entrepreneurial push in the art world. Making your own rules for your art practice in terms of production, consumption and dissemination takes forethought and planning. Thinking outside the box in the art world creates new ventures.

    The public response has been to engage in these emerging artists wares and respond by buying emerging artists work. The profit of Shadow shop thus far is approx. $86,000. The question in the air was, will the SFMOMA continue to support the emerging artists in their community, via an ongoing Shadow Shop. The art market is changing & entrepreneurial artists will grow their audience in collaboration with each art business opportunity.

    The Shadow shop concept, of an artist producing smaller wares, so to speak, to grow their collector audience into the global art market, galleries and institutions is historical. Reinvention, innovation & creative problem solving & thinking are tantamount in an art practice. It’s high time for the artist as entrepreneur, breaking rules & growing the art world in new directions. Each generation shifts with new materials, techniques, technologies, yet maintaining, keeping it fresh & rethinking ones approach to bring their work to new levels of refinement, new audiences, new dialogue. Art & culture is in action in these moments,
    evolving through an artists “production, consumption, and dissemination of their work.

    Mastering economy and autonomy takes long term vision & strategy. I look forward to further dialogue & opportunities that may come from Shop Talk.

    Thank you kindly,

  • It’s an interesting reading list and should be a good conversation.

    Holland Cotter’s piece in the NY Times remains as much of a touchstone today as when it was published in 2009. Given our media cycle and general attention span, that’s notable. Still, even though I liked what he wrote, Cotter’s critique was informed by the sort of ideological naivete that too often undermines actors in the art world. As I wrote in response to his editorial,

    “Some admirable artists and dealers experienced great success in the boom market of the late nineties and oughties. Perhaps they wouldn’t have flourished without the opportunities afforded them by the fattened industry? Artists have always had an uneasy relationship with commodity, and there’s little sense in championing lean times over relative abundance. We’re now living through an socio-economic upheaval that is quite nearly global. Such rapid and widespread change should, as Cotter expects, force a significant number of artists to conscientiously reexamine their ideals. But let’s not delude ourselves. The opportunity for reflection and mindful action wasn’t precluded by the excesses and superficialities of boom time. Although some artists, dealers, curators, critics and hangers-on acted improperly because the environment encouraged bad behavior, most did so because they wanted to. So even as I cheer Cotter’s call for us to ‘[imagine] the unknown and the unknowable,’ to raise up ‘new ways of thinking and writing about art,’ and to see artists blazing unexpected paths, I remind myself that the burden of proof falls foremost on the individual.”

    But my position is a little changed since 2009, too. Perhaps a group of ambitious, thoughtful artists can, in a group, make some positive change to the market and to the scene? After all, a group is comprised of individuals.

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