September 11, 2010
and you should come!
You should also check out this article—
This Green Lantern Has Super-Artistic Powers
BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM
I’m thinking of a cultural object: Bigger than a breadbox and founded by Caroline Picard, The Green Lantern harkens to Chicago’s grassroots literary history and DIY philosophy.
Despite coincidental Trekkie and comic book connotations, The Green Lantern has nothing to do with GenCon and everything to do with art. Simultaneously a non-profit paperback press and gallery, GL publishes and distributes emerging and/or little-known works.
Additionally, as a venue, it showcases emerging and mid-career artists of all media. Begun out of Executive Director Picard’s Wicker Park apartment, GL was recently shut down for lack of a business license due to improper zoning. Now, however, the ambitious and newly relocated GL is back with a parade of upcoming projects and Gallery Director Abby Satinsky on board. Picard took a seat in the captain’s chair (ba-dum-bum) to discuss her multifaceted brainchild.
September 7, 2010
Hello! this is my first blog post as the Gallery Director at Green Lantern. We’re really excited about our opening this Saturday September 11 from 7-10 pm for David Moré’s show Normal Bias. For each exhibition we’re putting together a publication that will include things like interviews, essays, and documentation of artists’ projects. Here’s our interview with David, the rest of the publication will be available for download from the website starting Saturday. See you this weekend at our new location, 2542 W. Chicago Ave. And we’ll have open hours next week from Tuesday through Saturday 12-6 pm. Yea, we’re opening! -Abby
A conversation between David Moré, Caroline Picard and Abigail Satinsky.
AS: So let’s start by talking about when you began making instruments.
DM: Probably six or seven years ago?
AS: You were drawing before that right?
DM: Yeah. I think I kind of I came to a realization that “I’m drawing or painting just so I can hang out in my studio and listen to records. That’s real dumb.” I’ve also had this kind of uncomfortable relationship, as far as being a cultural producer, I would go to more shows and buy more records than I did books or go to art galleries. And I actually had an instructor who brought that up and said something like, “You kids buy so many CDs, when was the last time you bought a really good book about artists?” And I think it’s a pretty common thing. But yeah, I’m not a musician. Even though it seems like I should maybe try to be, it seems like the format of being in a band and having this relationship where there’s an audience and you’re presenting your music and asking for peoples’ time is not a natural thing for me. And I’ve played instruments before, so I don’t think it’s a patience issue of whether I should just sit down and learn to play the cello.
CP: Do you think it’s weird to think of these homemade instruments as being your medium? It seems like there is a difference between an artist that works with painting and pens and charcoal versus a musician. But then it also seems like you’re using these acoustic tools as a traditional artist would pens or charcoal.
DM: Yeah that’s nice because I occupy a difficult in-between place. You can’t really play a song on a spring and a piece of wood, but you can produce this other kind of thing and that’s what led to this project [sound portraits]. Thinking “Hey I should find a context for these things I do.” You can’t do like a Beethoven cover record on styrofoam.
CP: Can you talk about how you found or came upon this context of making sound portraits in the gallery?
DM: Well it originated from when Temporary Services did the Fair at UIC’s Gallery 400 and I got asked to do something. And so the fair was mostly people presenting publications or other things they had made or that were easily salable. And so I thought, “Fair, hmm, it’s called Fair. Maybe you can get your portrait done like you do at fairs, like a caricature. Cool, yeah! Audio portraits! Yeah that’s a great idea!” So I took this opportunity at Green Lantern to see if I could expand on it. And like you said, now I have more space to move around…
AS: How did you think it worked at Gallery 400?
DM: It was OK, it was fun. I think it worked alright because it was one day in a really cramped space. I definitely think that doing it at the Fair involved relating to an initiated audience. People knew they were going to an art fair. But here, [at The Green Lantern] I’ve been able to get people who are just passing by. And that’s some what interests me. The way I can relate to them, like “I do this kind of weird thing but what do y’all think, what is this music?”
AS: That’s interesting to me that you say the people at the fair would be the initiated and the people that would walk into the gallery aren’t. Because even though we are testing out ways to be something other than a totally traditional gallery space, for most people this is definitely a gallery. There are a bunch of objects on display that they’re going to look at and judge.
DM: But I don’t think this place is obviously a gallery yet and that’s the sense I get from people coming in like, “Wait, so what is this…?”
AS: Right, we’re still in a state of ambiguity…
DM: …and so it’s only a temporary gallery and you’re going to move in January..
CP: …the space right now is full of plants and furniture and curious tables with unusual homemade instruments…
DM: I also kind of like and hate when people ask what I’m doing. I don’t really know but I’m going to try it first and then try to figure out. That process can be pretty infuriating, but it’s also nice because ultimately I might learn something. It feels like an actual experiment.
AS: Well it’s an experiment but there’s also parameters. The participants know where to sit, how long it’s going to take, etc. Which actually, I feel, is really helpful in a lot of ways in terms of getting people to feel comfortable if they know what the parameters of the space they’re occupying because these instruments are such curiosities too.
CP: I agree. It’s interesting with this portraiture set up that people have so many expectations about what their portrait is going to look like. And then I think that there’s also this tendency to read into how somebody describes you as to whether or not they like you or they think you’re a good person or they think you’re attractive. And I think that by making this soundscape the result is already so abstract that it seems to cut a lot of that stuff out, or at least make it very transparent, you know, because you’re like “Whoa there was that weird squealing sound I wonder if it means that David thinks I’m depressed.” And then you’re like, “What am I doing? That’s idiotic. It’s just a sound. ”
AS: Yeah when I see people come in and sit in the chair, they feel special. It’s even true when I was sitting there, I thought, this is just for me. And it reminds me also of another portrait experience. When I was ten, I went to New Orleans with my family. I got my portrait drawn in the touristy part in town. I remember it didn’t look anything like me and I was so disappointed because I felt like I had just sat there for so long! Somehow I thought the portrait would explain something about me, like it would be the window into my soul or something. And then actually getting it and thinking, “Oh you didn’t get me at all!” That is so sad! I don’t even know what happened to the drawing itself, but I remember vividly the expectation of the portrait to really be me and then realizing that that fleeting encounter failed miserably.
DM: Yeah I have never sat for a portrait like that but I imagine that it would be like the expectation of a kind of truth about yourself which is, I mean, that’s nuts! But maybe it’s a mistake that I’ve entered into making people’s portraits using audio. But I’ve been working on it and actually trying to give it a shot and find some parameters and maybe there’s some way you can gauge like, wow you’ve actually got me! Some people sitting have said “Oh wow that’s actually pretty accurate! You were right on there.” And they’re joking a little bit but there is something there. The idea of someone sitting there making abstract noises and then someone else relating those to their life is actually a pretty wild idea.
CP: Can you talk more about your selection of sounds?
DM: One of my concerns is drawing attention to everyday sounds. I think that is a common theme that there’s all these interesting sounds going on around us and if we start paying attention to them, it can be a really fulfilling experience. I can also make the analogy of when I was drawing a still life or an object or a friend, it would really change your relationship to the person or to the object just because you’re so intensely looking at your subject. You can kind of get the same thing just by walking around with a tape recorder and anytime you click it on, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening around you. I had a really sweet experience a couple of years ago. I was walking around in Havana with this guy, and during a power outage, I said I wanted to make a recording of a generator. When I switched the recorder on he was quiet and when I was done he said, “That was so amazing, as soon as you turned that thing on I just noticed all the amazing street sounds and generative sounds just from taking this walk in this darkened city.” Focusing on surrounding sounds can be a really rich experience.
I want there to be a lot of humor involved too. Yesterday for one of the portraits I took a cymbal and I was bowing it in the bathroom. It was really really loud but at least there was this spatial difference in the sound. Also, with a lot of the work I’m interested in doing, sound doesn’t have to come from two speakers, even though that’s the way a lot of people perceive it.
The only thing I guess I don’t know how it’s going to end. There is going to be a formal gallery opening and I am collecting all the portraits. They are definitely a gift, they are a gift for the person whose portrait I took.
But I am also recording them all digitally and I’m going to have an archive. So on a personal level a lot of the project is getting composition ideas because you have to improvise on the spot to see what these people sound like, right? The project is kind of like a big exercise for me.
CP: Does that mean that over the course of a day before you come into the studio, you think about different sort of compositional progressions?
DM: Well, I think the project potentially builds a more efficient process to describe what someone sounds like which sounds like a completely ridiculous idea. But it is kind of good to make your brain do this thing that doesn’t really make any sense. Just to see if it comes up with anything else, a solution to this ridiculous problem.
February 24, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
Q. Why do you guys think [the film and Philipps walk] captures the imagination and inspires everyone across the globe?
James Marsh: I can only speak for myself and that’s my reaction too, when I encountered the story in all its details and its epic dimensions. It was utterly captivating and I think the challenge then was to get the film to be as close to the experience of the people doing this and of Philippe in particular and to match and measure yourself against the excitement and the setbacks and the human drama that was generated by Felipe’s impossible dream, which ends up being, of course, possible.
Philippe Petit: I completely agree with all of what you say. It’s unbelievable and it’s impossible and probably that’s why I did it.
Q. that takes such courage. That takes such boldness. Did you have an idea of the audacity at the time?
PP: Oh yes, yes, yes. Audacity comes with a good dose of arrogance and I have no problem fitting myself with that. But truly, it was a dream, this was almost like a fairytale, a long, long dream. From the moment I got the idea to the moment I stepped on the wire, it was almost six and a half years. So usually people dream not that long. So yes, it’s an amazing adventure–and on the screen, it catches you with drama tears, laughter. So, it’s an important work.
Q. Now you fulfilled this dream back in the 70s. What’s life like after that, [after] you do the world’s ultimate feat?
PP: Well, if I was collecting the largest and highest and the longest, I would have killed myself after the Twin Towers. But, I don’t have a career. I am a poet, I am a man who grabs life like this, galloping, and I have no problem, and I had no problem, after the World Trade Center, to concentrate on my next dream, even if it was not a highest or longest walk. I have done some very beautiful high-wire walks that were very intimate in a small theatre. So I am not collecting the gigantic, I am collecting the inspiring and the beautiful.
Q. I see you as an artist, and you’re sacrificed a lot for your art. Can you address that?
PP: No, no, no. I am not to be taken into pity and I do not sacrifice. Life is too short to do what I want, so I have to actually decide (what) will I do for my miserable 24 hours a day? But no, I go from project to project with bromides, with avidity and with a certain childlike way of seeing the world, and certainly with the idea that nothing is impossible.
Q. When you were planning this great adventure, did you have any idea how many people you’d inspire?
PP: No, you know, I never thought of the impact, of the after-world. Would they cut my head? Would they put me 20 years, would they cut the wire while I was on the wire? I never thought of the consequences, and I think that a poet, an artist, should not think about the after, they should think about the during, and so I concentrated before on the doing, I concentrated on making it happen and presenting myself on that wire.
But then after that, I had a wonderful gift, that people would tell me how I offered them a gift and how inspired they were. So it had not dawned on me actually, how I would inspire people actually, until this day.
Q. So you did it for the art.
February 23, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
I found out recently that John Updike has passed away. To that end, it seemed worthwhile to point you to a couple of sites, the first an obituary, the second an interview. And then of course, there is an older interview above, about ten years old, with Charlie Rose.
I’ll be interested to see how his books fair in the coming years. Something strange and fascinating seems to happen when a creator, whether of books, a company, a family or even a life leaves us.
February 16, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
what follows is an excerpt from
by William H. Gass
published by Dalkey Archive Press
“How much bitten skin does a man collect in his life? Let’s see. Suppose the lips were chapped one day in five, an estimate conservative enough, and on that day five flakes were commonly taken in, their normal size a thirty-second of an inch, paced off roughly; that would be approximately eleven and four-tenths square inches of skin annually. If an average life dragged on for sixty years, discounting babyhood, since the practice isn’t customary at that age, the amount would come to six hundred and eighty-four square inches, of four and seven-tenths square feet, enough to carpet the average entryway. Of course that didn’ count all the other kinds of skin that might have been bitten off from god knows where. Then fingernails were a covering too. The difficulty there lay in estimating the rate of chew and amount of skin or nail swallowed on average, as opposed to the amount blown, shaken, or spat away.”
You can read more about the book and William Gass himself by visiting Dalkey Archive Press.
Or you can read the first chapter here, where there is also a link to a book review.
if you have any interest, I discovered this interview with Gass on The Believer website. (I was especially taken by this part, and in some way it seems to speak to the passage above):
“So there’s that part of it. But the world of conceptualized ideas is quite wonderful, even when it’s—like Aristotle’s Physics—an outmoded book. The physics is not true. But the reasoning is dazzling. You can learn so much from a book like that about the way a mind might work and should work. I remember reading it for the first time, and it was just extraordinary. When Aristotle is wrong because science has outstripped him, he is so sane given what he has in front of him to work with, that you think, Well. You leave somebody like Plato, whose mind is breathtaking, and you go to Aristotle, who has a very completely different kind of thing, and hasn’t got the style or the panache. And yet, oh, boy, some of the performances are devastatingly wonderful. Same thing with someone like Kant, or Spinoza. And of course one of my favorites, Hobbes. He writes some of the best prose ever. And it isn’t that when one’s appreciating this, you’re just throwing out the aim that they were trying to achieve—to get at the truth. The fact is that even if it isn’t the truth, it’s worth the journey.
“One of my favorites is Plotinus, and, you know, I think he’s nuts. [Both laugh] But it’s always gorgeous, and the language is just spectacular. And the same is true of the Tractatus [Logico-Philosophicus, by Ludwig Wittgenstein]. The German is exquisite. So what you’re dealing with is a certain quality of mind. I think it is important to realize when you’re studying philosophy that what you’re getting is not simply that they got it right. What they got right was the going after it and showing you how it works, and imagining this and that. Usually, doing what Emerson suggested: capturing the world as it might seem from one point of view. That tells you a whole lot about that point of view.”
February 7, 2009
Reba Rar Rar, aka Rebecca A. Rakstar, is a crafty motherfucker. She sells her letterpressed postcards and posters on Etsy, at Permanent Records, at craft fairs nationwide and at No Coast, a muli-use space and studio that has a sincere interest in building on the artistic community in Pilsen with workshops, potlucks, book and record releases and hangouts. She keeps track of her comings and goings at rarrarpress.blogspot.com. She gave me the low down on letterpress over a delicious dinner of fake sausage and shell pasta with escarole and raisins. Oh, and pinot grigio.
If I had a present to give you, which would you prefer: a ceramic breast-shaped mug, a Mercedes Benz belt and buckle or a bag of avocados?
Reba: That’s the funniest question ever. I guess a bag of avocados so I could make some guacamole.
That’s what I would have chosen too. On your Flikr pages I saw pictures of the Hamilton Type Museum. What is the Hamilton Type Museum?
It is a museum in Two Rivers, WI and they actually produced a majority of the wood type that came out back in the day and now it’s a museum. They have the equipment to make type and they still do cut type, it’s pretty pricey, though, and then they just have cases and cases of type. They have a huge warehouse of stuff they haven’t even gone through yet. I went there with Columbia for a weekend. We took an area and went through the boxes, figured out what was there, and put some stuff into drawers
Can you explain what letterpress means and the process?
Reba: Letterpress is basically just individual letters that are put into sentences, put together. They are metal, sometimes lead or wood. So let’s say you have a paragraph of type that you want to print, you hand set all the letters. Each drawer of type, it’s called a California case, has a basic set-up. The letters are always in the same place. There were lots of different case designs, and they tried to figure out the one that made it go the fastest because the newspaper was completely in letterpress. So they figured out to write the, which is such a common word, those letters are all in a line with each other. And the i and s are right next to each other for is, and a and r are right next to each other for are, you know, ar is kind of a typical combination. And then you lock it into the press and you have to use pieces of wood, which are called furniture to make a solid block to hold it all in place tightly. And then there are inks and rollers. I use Vandercooks mostly, which are actually more of a proof press.
What is a proof press?
Reba: A proof press is [used] to do a test run, make sure that there’s no spelling errors, and then you put [the type] on a larger machine. You know, because letterpress evolved and there was a mechanical mechanism that came into it where paper would feed and it would run more on its own, instead of doing it manually.
Which is what they had for newspapers?
Reba: Yeah. Actually for a while there was a system almost like a typewriter that would cast a whole line of text at once. And that metal would get melted back down and made into the new type the next day. It was called linotype. And then after that they started doing more photo processed and that’s when offset press came into the picture. My big complaint with letterpress now is that you can easily design something on the computer and then have a plate made – send someone a file and they’ll make a zinc-based plate, so zinc mounted on wood, of what you want to print, which you do a lot for images. Or you can do linoleum cuts and print them on the press but they’re not as crisp. And then there’s also photopolymer, which is another process, this plastic plate kind of thing. A lot of people do that now. I don’t know; I kind of have a hatred for that. I think it’s cheating.
So what do you love about the letterpress type that you do? Is it that sense of history?
Reba: It’s the history and I think that it’s also like I’m touching the letters. I feel certain type speaks a certain way and has a certain kind of thing to it. I love the fact that I can touch everything and I’m putting it in place. There’s a lot of care that goes into it.
Yeah, it’s very immediate.
Reba: Yeah, I’ve done a couple postcards with the photopolymer, but I try for the most part to hand set everything because I feel that it’s more sincere, more of a craft. Because anyone can just throw a plate on the press and print it. But also there’s the fact that a lot of stuff nowadays is over punched, you know that punch that you can sort of feel the letters on the page, that’s overprinting. If you were using real type, especially metal type, you would destroy the type by over punching it. But I think because these people are just making plates that can just be thrown out they don’t care; they just punch it as hard as they can. So that really bums me out. Because when letterpress first started, you know, with the Guttenberg Bible, they wanted to just have it be on the page. If you touched it you wouldn’t feel that it was letterpress, it seemed like someone just hand wrote it.
How do you work: do you set deadlines for yourself so you can work on a schedule or do you make things as you’re inspired?
Reba: It’s weird now. I think I’ve set it up now that there’s a period during the holidays or even a little before that, probably September to December, that I just have to be doing the finishing touches: sending out orders, going to craft fairs, maybe have books, the covers printed and then me just sitting around and binding them. And right now I’m going to start, every Tuesday, to print something and get my stock back up. And then do another set of craft fairs!
Do you travel regularly to Seattle and New York?
Reba: I did Seattle this year. Me and my friend, actually my only friend from undergrad, she makes shadow puppets and we’ve sort of teamed up because we both do paper work. But that’s kind of funny because her work is kinda kid-friendly and my work says Fuck everywhere. There’s a weekend where there’s a bazillion craft fairs going on, and she really wanted to go to Seattle and visit a friend – that’s the good thing about craft fairs, it’s kind of an excuse to visit friends and pen pals and old friends and get paid in the process. So she went to Seattle and visited a friend and took both of our stuff, and I took both of our stuff to Minneapolis and visited my friend there. I want to start to not have to travel as much. In the last year I’ve done the most traveling for craft fairs that I’ve ever done and I’m really busy still right now. I thought I’d be really dead right now and have no orders and have time to work on stuff, but I sent out stuff [two days ago] and I have ten orders already to send out tomorrow.
Awesome! Is that from Etsy?
Reba: From Etsy. I sell pretty much on Etsy. I do have a couple stores but I’m really bad at contacting stores and getting my stuff in their stores, you know. I’m not very professional. I don’t have a product list. It’s just really weird. I’m an artist, but I’m not into treating my art as a business and I’m more in the craft world. I do a craft fair that’s actually called Art v. Craft in Milwaukee and it’s sort of funny. It is that sort of like “yeah, this is my artwork,” but it’s sort of crafty.
How do you see that difference? Is craft a lot more commodified, to you?
Reba: Letterpress is a craft; it’s just something you have to do to print the newspaper, you know, there’s machinery involved. But because I’m doing a conceptual spin on it that sort of makes it artwork.
You are heavily involved in keeping No Coast going. How does your work foster this sense of community or do you find that it’s more the philosophy behind the art that fosters that community?
Reba: Because I have a very strong d.i.y. background and am very involved in the punk scene, you know, moved to Indiana, started working on this anarchist bookstore space that had shows, started booking shows there, made zines. I’ve been doing things myself for a really long time. And I like to be involved in the community. I like the idea of No Coast because it’s more of a community vessel. It’s a community space that I could teach bookbinding at, that I could teach people how to screenprint at and I’ve actually started to screenprint myself again; I’ve started making t-shirts with a lot of my postcard designs. So that’s really exciting to be back into that and feel like I’m finally involved in the Chicago art community.
Do you have neighborhood people come in to No Coast for these workshops or are most of your attendees from the community you come from?
Reba: Yeah, there’s a kid that lives a couple blocks away that just kept walking by the space, and was just like “aw, fuck it! I’m going to go in,” I think he’s a design student. But then he came to the lock-in and he came to the bookbinding class I had. He’s a musician, too, so he got really into trying to pick my brain at like how he could make some alternative packaging for his cd. I like being able to help people figure out their projects. I mean, now that I have a Master’s Degree I could work at a University, but I don’t want to. I just want to help smaller groups of people figure it out. You know: “I can use my skills to help you make this cool thing, help you out!”
Do you think it’s working? Do you feel that community at No Coast?
Reba: Yeah, there’s people that always come out for stuff. And we have a lot of bands that come through, and we help them produce their merchandise. These Are Powers came and made their t-shirts there. Like Bird Names- we printed their LP covers. It’s cool helping the music community, too, make stuff themselves.
One of my favorite designs that I’ve seen of yours is “My Bike is my Benz.” Does your bike have a name?
Reba: No. It’s funny. All of my work involves little sayings. I do say some funny shit sometimes, and my friends say some funny shit sometimes, or I hear stuff in a hip hop song or some pop radio song and I think that’s hilarious. I think “my bike is my Benz” came from a conversation with someone about our bikes, and they were a big fixed gear kind of kid, always pimpin’ their bike. Yeah, your bike is kind of like your Benz.