June 9, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
I was lucky enough to get interviewed by Meg Onli over vacation and the interview posted! So. I thought I’d post the beginnings of it below. You can read the whole thing in its entirety by going here.
During the golden age of comic books, All-American Comics debuted Alan Scott as the Green Lantern in 1940. At the time, Scott was a railroad engineer who, when in possession of a ring had multiple powers. In Chicago, The Green Lantern is a gallery and press that exhibits and publishes emerging artists and writers. Although Founding Director Caroline Picard lacks the ability to walk through walls and read minds, she has acquired the ability to balance artmaking, running a gallery space and press, writing, and co-producing a podcast about literature.
Meg Onli: The Green Lantern operates both as a gallery and as a publisher. Did you initially see yourself having an exhibition space that also published books or did it begin as one idea that sort of grew into a larger project? Do the two projects ever cross?
Caroline Picard: Yes, actually. I’d been thinking about running a print project for years before The Green Lantern took shape in Chicago. I’d also been exposed to different gallery environments — as an undergrad, I happened into a Baltimore warehouse that had been converted into a gallery where a bunch of artists lived. And then, of course, I worked at threewalls and frequented unusal exhibition spaces here. My impression of those spaces conspired so that when I happened into the loft at 1511 N. Milwaukee Avenue, the idea of opening a gallery/press hit me all at once. The space, the press, and the gallery became a single idea at the same instant, despite being vague notions before. Having said that, my interests in writing and visual work stem from the same place. Because I’m interested in how ideas and mediums influence one another, I like drawing connections between those mediums. It’s the same with public programming. I hosted live music events, performances, screenings, lectures. I started thinking of the space as a gateway for independent and emerging art practice — practices that were not often accessed outside of more traditional, specialized venues.
MO: In the past year, The Green Lantern closed its exhibition space. There has been some discussion about the sustainability of apartment galleries if the city of Chicago continues to regulate how they are operated. What are your future plans for The Green Lantern’s gallery presence?
CP: I love this subject. I find it incredibly interesting that there is an inherent, legal conflict between the apartment gallery and the city. While the conflict seems unnecessary (and silly), it points to the way in which apartment galleries defy traditional models of business classification. The city’s laws are accidentally prohibitive of apartment spaces. The city prosecutes them because it needs money and some dude walking around wants to make his ticket quota to keep his job. To change the laws would mean navigating a bureaucratic mess of red tape. While I think it would benefit everyone to create legal avenues for idiosyncratic, non-commercial exhibition practices, I nevertheless appreciate the way that this relatively self-sustaining community defies civil categories. There is a mix of domestic and public space in which the public party becomes an intimate one. There is very little (if any) money earned from these ventures and as such, the apartment gallery illicits confusion and disbelief. When I talked to people at City Hall it was sort of like, “If it quacks like a gallery and looks like a gallery, what do you mean it’s not a gallery?” or, “You don’t sell artwork? But in these pictures, there is art on the wall. What do you mean there isn’t any revenue?” What I find most interesting, however, is that the community that attends those spaces understands how to relate to them.
June 2, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
From Newcity’s 411 section:
You can read the whole piece by going here.
It’s a gallery! It’s a performance space! It’s a bookstore! It’s a café! The revived Green Lantern Gallery, temporarily housed at Chicago and Maplewood in Ukrainian Village, permanent location TBD, is aiming to be Chicago’s answer to Gertrude Stein’s living room. It’s an expanded vision of the original Green Lantern Gallery, which director Caroline Picard once ran out of her apartment. When the city shut it down due to an ordinance against such ventures, it left Picard with a choice: go big or go home (no pun intended). She’s going big. The new dream is a joint collaboration with featherproof books, another independent press interested in books that cross the boundaries between visual art and literature. “It’s like a high-school mega crush,” featherproof’s Zach Dodson says of the relationship between the presses. Picard recounts their fateful meeting at the NEXT art fair as a “marathon… of gossip and story-swapping and big-bang idea speculation.”
April 16, 2010
posted and written by Caroline Picard
This was published a few years ago in PHONEBOOK, (published jointly by threewalls & the green lantern press) an index/archive of “alternative” art practice across the country. I’m revisiting all this stuff at the moment as I work to put together some thoughts on the next incarnation of The Green Lantern.
Last fall I met a Canadian fellow in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was in the middle of a meditation retreat and he happened to be there for the same. A few of us in the group woke up early one day, before the sunrise, to hike up one of the peaks. We wanted to get to the top in time to see the sun kiss the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We woke up in the middle of the dark and made our way through the woods, tripping now and again on stray roots in the ground. Aside from our footsteps everything was terribly still, the dark a thick cloak of ink around everything. While I could feel my companions close, I could not make out their faces. One woman was wearing a white sweatshirt and aside from the tiny flashlight orbs, trained on the ground, she was the thing to follow. Her shirt a ghost.
At a certain point on the hike, I realized that Henry regularly referred to a woman in his life. Jill, her name was. She lived in New York. He lived Vancouver. He didn’t call her his girlfriend. He only called her by name. And yet she frequented enough of his stories, as a sideline, not the subject, that the intimacy of their relationship became clear.
Finally at breakfast another one of the hikers, Mike, asked about her.
“Who is Jill? Is she your girlfriend? She sounds important.”
“That’s funny that,” he said. The way he spoke, his words were flecked with a European inflection, what I at first assumed was part of the Canadian way. “We spent forever trying to work out what to call ourselves. We tried everything. We weren’t happy with any of them. Girlfriend/boyfriend. Lover. Friend. My parents are Dutch immigrants, so we even tried some other words, amore, leipschen. Cabbage. Each thing seemed too limited, too entrenched in a system of expectations and roles and obligations. Obligations that were imposed by society, as part of the definition of those terms.
“Each name seemed to come with a job description, and yet we felt ourselves distinct. The joy of our relationship has come from the sense that we have a non-traditional bond. It felt important to represent that. And finally we decided to create a name for ourselves, a title we each agreed to.”
You can imagine, of course, at this point in the conversation the whole table was waiting, the knives and forks suspended for a moment; steam from tea rising, a few peculiar smiles on the faces of his audience. Many of them wore wedding bands.
“We came up with Companeres Amores. It seems to best fit how we feel about one another.”
To my mind, it is additionally perfect because the name belies certain awkwardness, acknowledging the need to appropriate another language, reaching outside of one tradition to another, in order to transplant another set of terms that might function as a blank slate. It wouldn’t do to make up a name from gibberish, for in doing so one runs the risk of denying a certain degree of importance in the relationship being named. Instead one looks for name that carries with it enough meaning, a meaning that is nevertheless ambiguous, so that the power of defining meaning clearly is in the hands of the founding members.
After the release of last year’s PHONEBOOK, I heard concerns, nothing directly, but maybe in the way that these communities operate, through a chain of conversations that traveled like a brush fire through the community. One group started talking about the problem with the title “Alternative Art space,” and whether or not they felt comfortable being represented under that moniker. Members of that conversation ended up at a bar, perhaps, a few weeks later and the subject came up again, and so on. The obvious failings of the term came to light within the same community our index is trying to represent.
I believe that in this way, in discovering the limitations of this or that, we might discover, collectively, through dialogue, more common ground. Through these conversations we might reach toward a clarity of vision, something that will both further define the unique and peculiar manifestations of each space, while also demonstrating something common: an impulse, one or several goals, a questioning of culture as it is. While developing that dialogue, mapping out intentions and choices, we may actually empower ourselves as well. In my mind, the most important thing to recognize is that there will never be one name that incorporates each space. If anything each space is like it’s own family, operating like a tribe within each city. At the same time, there is at least one thing that we all share: that is, we are creating different kinds of cultural venues, providing new and idiosyncratic personalities in the midst of an increasingly homogenous cultural landscape.
Nevertheless, I think it’s important that we don’t let our differences prevent collaboration. If we are to celebrate community, personality and culture outside of the mainstream, if we really want to influence the world in which we live, we must embrace and celebrate one another as much as we do ourselves.
In some sense this is an apologia. Apologizing up front for the invariable ways in which PHONEBOOK will fall short of a complete and perfect categorical index. We don’t even scratch the surface. I’m sure about that. Furthermore we are celebrating a myriad of practices, and imagining that one term would sufficiently sum everything up would do us a disservice. It is precisely because the venues listed here provide different colors, emphasese and aesthetics that they accomplish so mean so much to the communities involved.
I’m additionally sure that, despite our best efforts, PHONEBOOK 2008/2009 will make other blunders, an issue not addressed that perhaps misrepresents one or another of the organizations listed. In anticipation of those instances, I would invite everyone to send us an email, write a letter or even just talk to your peers. We want to hear them. Those moments are opportunities for better understanding.
Like Henry and Jill, a number of these organizations, if not all, are working to redefine their relationship in society. There is a great power in naming things. I would argue that, through the naming things, we define our world, isolating traits that seem most prominent and then, through the exercise of that name, those traits seem to best embody the thing itself. Whether one calls the world ugly, or beautiful, for instance, affects the way one sees that same world. More importantly though, names reflect the way we think about things, and way one thinks about his or her community, its extent, its bounds, will influence the impact it might have. We have kept the name Alternative Art space on the list. Some spaces use it. It is also a name recognized by the greater public, one with perhaps less access to these watering holes. It is important to give that public a chance to see these spaces, for it is likely that more opportunities to experience divergent cultural media will have a long standing impact on the world we live in.
center for development of contemporary aesthetics
December 13, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
This was published a few weeks ago in the weekend redeye…..Go here to read the whole thing.
Roommates turn Logan Square apartment into art gallery
By Ryan Smith
Most curators don’t make a habit of sleeping next to their exhibits, but Katherine Pill and Francesca Wilmott wake up to their art every morning.
When the roommates take a few steps out of their bedrooms and beyond the kitchen of their second-floor apartment, they enter a living and dining room virtually devoid of furniture.
Where a table and chairs might normally sit, a few colorful, spherical objects are carefully arranged on the hardwood floor. And on the wall, where you might normally find framed family photos, there hang a volcano made of denim and a computer-generated image of faceless sheep floating in a dream world.
August 18, 2009
posted and written by Caroline Picard
It only just occured to me that probably one of the reasons I’ve been so negligent with blog posts is because I’ve been working on these longer pieces of writing. This one in particular, I toiled over a little. Here is the latest and almost-almost last draft. (there are a number of footnotes that didn’t translate in my copy/paste, so i’ll likely post them as their own posts over the next couple of days. the footnotes refer to private/personal experiences and examples that flesh out, albeit obliquely, the following essay)
on the matter of public vs private space
“ ‘Oh, you have a roommate?’
“ ‘Yeah, she’s actually here right now, but she’s sick….Don’t do that—she’s trying to sleep.’
“I heard them but pretended to remain asleep by keeping my eyes closed; [closing your eyes] is what passed for privacy then. My ‘room’ was in a corner of the kitchen on the other side of a folding screen. If you were tall enough, you could see me from either side at any time. The above exchange took place during the installation of a show when I happened to have a cold. I lived at the Green Lantern from 9/06 to 8/07. Recently out of college, I moved to Chicago to get my bearings. I had just spent two years living in the French countryside with no heat, no car, no Internet, no noise, no zines, no sushi, no shows, no jargon. When I moved in, I had never owned a computer. Suddenly I was in the middle of an art scene.”
“Any Chicagoan who’s hip to the jive knows that an apartment gallery poses a unique set of problems. Someone actually lives there—sleeps and cooks and poos there—and yet the obligatory neutral space of the gallery must remain white-walled, spacious, antiseptic. At the GL in the earlier days, the gallery was clean, airy, spare, while on just the other side of a makeshift wall was a seething and barely-controlled chaos. A visiting friend once described the living space as ‘under a great deal of pressure,’ like the lack of density in the gallery half had to be balanced by ultra-density in the living half. This density consisted of, among other things, a large mounted buck complete with antlers, a five foot plaster statue of a fat man with an umbrella, a bong made out of steak shellacked to a milk carton, a taxidermied rooster, two large Chinese screens, many works of art in various stages of undress, two living cats…enough plates and stemware to host a diplomatic gala, a sink doubling as a bookshelf, a home-made up-ended ‘bar,’ an enormous vintage fridge, a miniature vintage stove, an easel, double-stacked books, innumerable trinkets ranging from delicate Eastern figurines to an ancient can of spam, an old-fasioned sandwich press, two dictaphones, one enormous toaster (not in use) and a tiny one (in use). People liked throwing around comparisons to Alice in Wonderland, but that was legit. The fact that the two-foot high pepper-mill was three times as tall as the delicate tea-pot, for instance, made me wonder if I’d accidentally swallowed a pill. And keep in mind that I’ve listed perhaps a sixteenth of the contents of those two or three improvised rooms. I haven’t even mentioned the huge quantities of building supplies, the aluminium ladder, the planks and tools and cans of paint…”
This book is filled with the evidence of relationships. It is a book of conversations, including conversations about conversations and, sometimes, conversations about conversations about conversations. Each perspective constitutes one piece of an artist-run community reflecting on its endeavors. While it is important to archive these conversations for the community to which it speaks, it is also important to examine the consequences of such a culture in the context of a larger world—a world unfamilar with the pattern of organizations described herein. Particularly if the conversations outlined here claim to cultivate new models for achievement, one must consider what the artist-run community looks like from the outside, from the vantage of a stranger.
What, indeed, is transgressive about artist-run exhibition spaces? Certainly those contained in this book will have their theories and while some of these organizations were constructed as political experiements, a number of them won’t characterize their activity as political at all, saying instead that running a space is done for personal/professional experience, or as an experiment, or a labor of love. And yet. Regardless of stated intentions, all action is political. Such an opinion comes from within a community where the practice of running an apartment gallery is fairly common. In order to categorize such activities as transgressive or political, one must label them somehow. In doing so, necessary comparisons must be made to the world at large. Generalizations must be made about what the world at large consists of, what expectations it places upon members of its society and, ultimately, how its constituents measure themselves.
When compared to the world we watch on television, the practice of apartment galleries seems absurd. Compared to the stories told via sitcoms and commercials, all young women want to get married, everyone wants to be famous and all clothes look brand new. Obviously the average viewer is literate enough to know that television is a fictionalized hyper-reality. Nevertheless as a primary source of cultural consumption, the average viewer does not likely recognize the more subtle conventions that support the more prominent story lines. One does not watch typically watch television with a rigourous, critical appetite. A home, for instance, means something specific. As a cultural symbol it provides the framework for countless many sticoms—a framework based on common expectations of what a home should supply to its occupants. The viewer won’t likley concieve of their living room as a potentially public place, a place for cultural distribution. Building a public environment of cultural creativity in one’s home challenges traditional boundaries between public and private spheres just as it encourages intimacy between the art object and its epicyclic community. In such a community, relationships become as important as the work on display and validation occurs through the communal support of such spaces.
The collusion of public and private space, mixed with a living contemporary art and the communities that support it, is transgressive in and of itself. Such a recipe breaks down the societal expectations of public activity. Furthermore apartment galleries agitate common definitions of “home” and “domestic space.” The people who inhabit apartment galleries organize thier homes according to the possible descent of an unknown body of people: the public. Meanwhile the public modifies their expectation of public space such that they are sensitive to the generosity of their hosts. A code of behavior has manifested between the host and the public. That code, while organic in its inception, facilitates the relationship between the audience, the art and thier administrative hosts. While not readily apparent, Sarah Stickney witnessed that code as a newcomer only to embrace it as a resident.
In Chicago, the public consumption of visual art is not allowed by law to exist in intimate settings, (the house, the apartment, the garage, etc.,). The apartment gallery is essentially illegal. The illegality of these spaces occurs when they struggle for some shred of sustainability (i.e. through the selling of goods), attempt to operate legally (by way of purchasing the necessary licenses and tearing through the ensuant red tape of beurocacy), or when they attempt to avail themselves to a larger audience, one not restricted to facebook friends.
Obviously that isn’t to say apartment galleries don’t happen, or (even) that the city doesn’t in some blind-eye-manner endorse cultural DIY activity; the city of Chicago seems to enjoy identifying itself with those practices. Nevertheless, said practices are not technically allowed. Thus, while a private party is acceptable, a publicized, public exhibition is not—especially when money changes hands. The city maintains its ability to control the watering holes this community frequents; the city can shut apartment galleries down.
In our day and age much of the cultural production that takes place within the art world has been tamed and funneled into pre-existing power structures that support the larger mainstream. Artists often seek gallery representation, striving to achieve standing in the commercial market, such that they might support and (thus) justify their art making practice through the pursuit of public acclaim and monetary compensation. It makes sense. It is almost impossible to expect anything else. After all, how does an artist justify spending hours reading, thinking, painting, and writing in a studio while his or her significant other goes to work sixty hours a week in order to support both of them? And what if the artist has a child? How does the artist explain his or her non-commercial and largely interior processes when a kid needs school clothes? It is perhaps impossible to strive through consumer culture, where legitimacy is typically measured by purchasable signs of success—cars, televisions, clothes etc., making objects that are neither compensated by monetary sums nor attributed with an inherent non-market value. Indeed, on such a quest the consumer landscape becomes a veritable wilderness.
It is thus essential to creat new methods of public validation. Exhibitions are one way to take a potentially monkish studio practice and drop it into the public sphere in which an audience can respond. Apartment galleries, while affording meagre monetary relief, at least appeal to different values, values determined by the community in attendance. Within such a community an artist with little to no interest in (or access to), the commercial world can relate to an audience comprised of other artists, art enthusiasts and, sometimes, naives. Further, they can contextualize their efforts to their family, the same spouses or parents that might support them. The apartment gallery provides a different criteria for validation and empowers small groups of individuals to cultivate unique and potentially iconoclastic aesthetics.
Meanwhile, most cultural activity is distributed via mainstream arteries that reach millions of people at once. The same television is watched, the same movies, the same news sources owned by the same parent companies. Most people listen to the same music, read the same books and, therefore, refer to the same common body of knowledge. Contemporary America has a common vocabulary of cultural symbols which comprise the dreams of the invidual. It is possible, for instance, that Tom Cruise made over a million cameos in dreams across the country last night. While the peculiar context for his manifestation varied, he is nevertheless saddled with very similar assocations, associations that stem from the celebrity of his public persona. As the mechanism of such a society continues, as the material for our thoughts sets, it will be harder and harder to transcend ourselves and the ideas that we take for granted. It will be harder and harder, therefore, to have new ideas, moments of inspiration, and innovation.
I believe that small hubs like the apartment gallery, the small record label, the small press, the underground movie theater: such venues generate and sustain micro-cultures that encourage unpredictable thoughts, ideas and enthusiasms. If anything, they might simply encourage people to believe once more in the capacity of the individual to influence the world.
The exploration of that tension between public and private, commercial and non, commercial and non-commercial regulated and non-regulated business is good and valuable. It’s worth always carving out our own identities, our own terms and communities and means of support.
July 21, 2009
posted and written by Caroline Picard
What is interesting about the form of the Apartment Gallery is that it is essentially illegal. At least in Chicago, the public consumption of visual art is not allowed in intimate settings, such as a house, an apartment, a garage. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, or (even) that the city doesn’t in some blind-eye-manner endorse cultural DIY activity; in fact the city of Chicago seems to enjoy identifying itself with those practices. Nevertheless, said practices are not technically allowed and therefore the city maintains its ability to control those same DIY activities. Ultimately, the city can shut them down.
You may or may not be aware, but lloyd dobler is presently undergoing business license issues. Reported anonymously to the city of Chicago, L.D. was served up with a ticket and a court date.
I don’t think the tension between self-motivated art practice and institutionalized civic life is accidental. Which admits an essential premise I’m beginning with: namely that within our civic context (and from a buerocratic point of view) apartment galleries are benign at best. At worst threatening. While I don’t believe in conspiracies, I believe that things take a natural course; there has always been tension between contemporary art practice and the contemporary status quo. In our day and age, however, much of the cultural production that takes place within the art world has been tamed and funneled into pre-existing power structures that support the larger mainstream umbrella.
Namely, artists seek validation through public acclaim, fame and monetary success. Artists seek our gallery represenation, striving to achieve standing in the commercial market, such that they might support and (thus) justify their art making practice. There is nothing wrong with such hankerings. On the contrary, it is almost impossible to imagine anything else. Afterall, how does an artist justify spending hours reading, thinking, painting, writing in a studio or at a desk while his or her significant other goes to work fourty hours a week in order to support both of them? And what if the artist has a child? How does the artist explain his or her non-commercial and largely interior processes when a kid needs milk money? It is perhaps impossible to strive through contemporary capitalism making objects that do not concern contemporary capitalism; indeed, on such a quest contemporary capitalism becomes a wilderness.
Unless of course there are apartment galleries. Which, while boasting no monetary compensation, appeal to different values, those based on the community in attendance. Within such a community an artist with little to no interest in the commercial world can relate to an audience comprised of other artists, art enthusiasts and, sometimes, before-unexposed ignorants. As such the apartment gallery provides a different criteria for validation. The apartment gallery therefore empowers the individual and small groups of individuals to cultivate their own aesthetics and areas of interest.
Most cultural activity is distributed via mainstream arteries that reach millions of people at once. The same television is watched, the same movies, the same news sources, most people listen to the same bad music (I realize that those of you who read this probably do have access to idiosyncratic, independant, small-run, DIY culture, but I think that we stand in the majority. Argue that point if you like…it seems to me most folks still listen to bad music radio). Therefore the vocabularly with which each of us might dream is very closely the same. And it seems to me, that when you are trying to keep a large population of peope organized it is much easier to organize them if they are more or less the same.
I believe that small hubs like the apartment gallery, the small record label, the small press, underground movie theaters, such venues generate and sustain micro-cultures that encourage unpredictable thoughts, ideas and enthusiasms. If anything, they might simply encourage people to believe once more in the capacity of the individual to influence the world.
To that end, and returning again to the idea of whether or not civic bodies like The City, for instance, actively stamp out independent cultural production: The Apartment Gallery poses the same threat as a house party, until its audience extends beyond the immediate circle of intimates. It was the sandwich board that called attention to the Green Lantern. Because of a sandwich board, the city noticed us and shut us down. Had we never placed a sandwich board on the street we never would have been seen. And yet, it was that same sandwich board which created an opportunity for such pedestrians who have never heard of an Apartment Gallery to come and experience a sub-section of culture. To my mind they were some of the most important visitors, and the people we ought to constantly reach out for.
It has been nice to have my house back. It has been nice to take a break from walking the line between the personal and the private. I’ve made a few meals and had some friends over. I’ve slept late and left various piles of clutter in various corners, where like a teenager, I suppose I’m proving my newly-extended personal domain. Nevertheless, I think the exploration of that tension between public and private, commercial and non, commercial and non-commercial regulated and non-regulated business is good and valuable. It’s worth always carving out our own identities, our own terms and communities and means of support.
And fyi (the culinary tip for the summer) putting bitters in your whip cream is fucking good.
February 24, 2009
posted by caroline picard
NewCity wrote a little something about the business license situation, which is much appreciated. You can see what they wrote by going here.
I’ve got a second court date this Friday to look into the matter — what I anticipate will result in some kind of conclusive action. At that time I’ll be sending out a larger, longer email with details and whatever else, so stay tuned. In the meantime I continue to talk to people at City Hall- so. On va voir.