I propose a solo exhibition titled “Public Bathrooms” that will be about access to accommodations for basic human needs for all people. Taking advantage of a prominent but underused feature of 4Culture’s space, the exhibition will include: 1) signs advertising the bathrooms’ accessibility during gallery hours, 2) interventions in the bathrooms to enhance their beauty and function, and 3) displays in the gallery tracing the history and politics of public bathrooms in Pioneer Square. The latter will feature a partial reconstruction of the decor of the deluxe public bathrooms built under the pergola at First and Yesler in 1909. I will develop this exhibition in close consultation with 4Culture staff to address safety, cleaning and other issues that may result from potential increase in bathroom use.
This idea comes from my experience volunteering at the main offices of DESC, a nonprofit service provider for homeless people located one block north of 4Culture. Seattle currently has the third largest population of people without houses in the nation. Access to free, dignified and safe places to eliminate waste is a pressing issue for those without houses, as well as for many other visitors to Pioneer Square. The absence of accessible bathrooms in Pioneer Square has long been considered a public health and human rights problem. Many public and private initiatives have attempted to address this issue, with little success to date.
In my work I seek constructive positions at often difficult intersections of individuals, communities and institutions. I respond to specific places, developing projects in conversation with communities who have a stake in that place. My goal is to open up access to art experiences and resources to as wide a variety of people as possible.
Submitted to an open call for Gallery 4culture’s 2018 season
I propose creating a vivid animated digital depiction of the Olympic Sculpture Park in ruins: rusted and fallen sculptures, overgrown landscaping, broken windows, cracked pavements, strewn debris, roaming wildlife. Visitors to the park will experience this post-apocalyptic fiction by looking through their cell phones cameras. Cell phones will function as portable immersive windows, superimposing on the screen a ruined view of whatever the camera is pointed towards. Visitors will be able to insert themselves and friends into this fiction, taking selfies and photos amongst the ruins.
An advertising campaign and signs on-site will invite visitors to download a free app to view the ruined park. This app will use cutting-edge augmented reality technology to map visitor’s movements through the park onto a detailed digital model of the ruined OSP. A version of this technology was popularized last year in the “Pokémon Go” mobile game. Advanced image registration algorithms will integrate data from real- time video and geo-spatial tracking to synthesize a convincing combination of synthetic and real-world images. My roles will be project manager and art director, building the digital model of the ruined park using software designed for making three dimensional video game worlds. This project will use a more sophisticated version of augmented reality than has been commonly employed in art contexts to date. For example, the current SAM Seeing Nature exhibition has an augmented reality educational component that uses cell phone images of exhibition paintings to trigger accompanying video and audio files. In contrast, the OSP in ruins will be completely immersive and coexistent with reality, allowing visitors to walk around the park as their camera screens update in real time an integrated view of the actual and fictional.
Washington State is a world leader in augmented reality technologies. There are many large and small companies, university labs and hobbyists in the Seattle area. I believe I will find in-kind support from corporate partners interested in assisting this project as a high-profile demonstration of their work.
Projected budget: Materials / Installation / Supplies (software licenses) $2,000 -- Transportation of work/materials $300 -- De-installation / Supplies/ Contract Labor $8,000 -- Removal of work n/a -- Artist travel to Seattle, if applicable n/a -- Signage $400 -- Artist fee $4,000 -- Other: App publishing fees (Android + Mac) $300. Total $15,000
Submitted in response to a request by the Seattle Art Museum in 2017
Seattle Art Mutual
Seattle Art Mutual is a research-driven, community-based art project with the goal of transitioning the leadership of my local art museum from its current elite board of wealthy donors to a member-governed cooperative.
The precipitous rise in wealth inequity and decline in social mobility is a central problem confronting our democracy. American art museums symbolically bridge this gap by transforming private wealth into public good, and by teaching diverse populations about art as a shared value. However, behind the scenes, many museums contradict this mission with an organizational structure ruled by a wealthy minority. My central question is: how might a museum’s structure instantiate a desire for access, democracy and wealth equality?
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents a unique opportunity to explore this question. In 2006, SAM and Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu) became partners in a shared real estate agreement that allowed SAM to expand its galleries and WaMu to build new headquarters. Two years later, WaMu became the largest bank in U.S. history to fail, leaving SAM on uncertain financial footing. The aftermath of SAM and WaMu’s relationship provides the motivation for this project, and what I believe is real opportunity for social change.
Seattle Art Mutual will consist of sequential two-year phases. In phase 1, I will lead a research group investigating the social, political and economic history of SAM. We will analyze alternative models for corporate administration and creative methods for promoting institutional change. We will place this research in the context of Seattle’s lively history of utopian socialist communities. In phase 2, we will work with museum stakeholders to devise a plan to democratize SAM’s organizational structure and advocate for its adoption within the museum and city at large.
I continue the work of artists like Hans Haacke and Louise Lawler who examined the contradictions between the progressive face of museums and their often regressive organizational structures. Subsequent “institutional critique” artists, prominently Andrea Fraser, used psychoanalysis to excavate the role of artists in sustaining structural inequities. I seek to position sites of authority as multivalent spaces with potential for agency, pleasure and invention. In this, I am inspired by queer theory, especially the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick: “What if there were a practice of valuing the ways in which meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each other?” Two relevant past projects: The Gift Shop (2010), a temporary, autonomous artist-run space with a symbiotic relationship to a university art museum, and Deed of Gift (2015), a gift of feminist and queer artwork by local artists to the Seattle Art Museum’s permanent collection, funded with prize money.
When I talk about my work, I am often asked, “Are you serious?” I love this question because I take it as a sign that I am pushing at the boundaries of what is considered art, or what is considered possible. Seattle Art Mutual is a fresh and boundary-pushing idea that will turn the tradition of institutional critique towards institutional reform, without giving up any of the symbolic, disruptive and potentially risky force of art-power. We need more just, democratic and equitable institutions. Seattle Art Mutual takes a high-risk, high-reward approach, blending research and community organizing, art and action.
Seattle is at a moment of extraordinary physical and economic change with increasingly stark economic divisions. From my apartment, I see at least twenty construction cranes building the high-rise homes and offices of a booming tech industry. Meanwhile, minorities, poor people, artists are being pushed to the city margins. My project proposes to transform the Seattle Art Museum, a highly visible and charged civic site, rich with history and symbolism. I have found that non-confrontational artistic approaches can access and influence existing power structures where political processes may fail. Museums are powerfully symbolic institutions. With Seattle Art Mutual, I am framing the museum’s administrative structures themselves as symbolic forms. My project proposes transforming a very visible and charged civic site, rich with history and symbolism. With each step, it will open up a conversation about wealth inequality and social mobility. In doing so, I hope to transform the way many people understand what is possible for ourselves and our city.
I have a reputation for innovative work that takes hopeful positions on intransigent questions. I am known for an intellectually engaged approach, patience, ambition, and my ability to organize and inspire generative collaborations. Seattle Art Mutual is a risky, high profile project with a larger scope than any of my previous institutional interventions. I believe the proposed transformation of the Seattle Art Museum will result in a radical refiguring of art possibilities in my home community, leading to new opportunities for my practice. I am also excited about its potential for transmitting my ideas to larger national and international stages.
Artistically, I am most interested in the process of consensus-building and persuasion: creating space to talk about difficult subjects such as class and wealth. “Museum stakeholders” represents a diverse set of communities. Roughly 40,000 households are currently SAM members. In addition, there are museum staff, curators, trustees, volunteers, artists, students in education programs and other non-member visitors. Initially, we will focus on the sixty-eight trustees who are SAM’s governing body. This focus is unusual among socially engaged artwork, which has largely partnered with disadvantaged or marginal communities. Seattle Art Mutual poses the interesting challenge of working for social change within communities of privilege.
As the Seattle Art Museum’s governance structure is strikingly similar to that of many art-related organizations, I hope Seattle Art Mutual will become a model for artists working with institutions in new ways, with real social and political outcomes.
My project is conceived for the specific circumstances of the Seattle Art Museum. Its novelty requires inventing methods of non-confrontational institutional engagement. This will take some time. As a result, museum stakeholders are not yet aware of Seattle Art Mutual. However, I have good working relationships within the museum with whom I am currently working on a different project. In addition, I consider public opinion an important venue for this project. The local arts-engaged press will be strong potential allies.
Seattle Art Mutual is many times larger and more complex than my previous work. There is much I do not know how to do as well as I would like: public relations, communication, nonprofit corporate governance, business and legal negotiation. Creative Capital could connect me to a network to improve these skills, and to artists who will help me develop my process. C.C.’s assistance with organizing large-scale project management would be invaluable. In addition, by simply associating itself with my project, C.C. would contribute intangible capital (e.g., prestige, status), which could significantly contribute to its success.
Seattle Art Museum has mounted an exhibition (Rebel Rebel) featuring artworks donated by my collaborator and I in our conceptual artwork Deed of Gift. As part of my on-going effort to increase institutional permeability and lay the foundation for Seattle Art Mutual, I hosted a happy hour at SAM’s bar for Seattle artists preceding artist talks in the gallery. The overwhelming success of that event, combined with the alacrity with which the museum mounted Rebel Rebel, re-enforces the power and potential of my critical, non-confrontational institutional engagement. I propose to scale-up and expand these same methods for Seattle Art Mutual.
EXPENSES: PERSONNEL Artist (1 x 3 years x $30,000 x 40% time) 36,000 -- Research assistants (2 x 1.5 years x $25,000 x 20% time) 15,000 -- Student assistants (1 x 6 semesters x 180 hours x $11/hr) 11,880 -- WORK SPACE Rent (3 years x $250/mo) 9,000 -- Utilities (3 years x $25/mo) 900 -- Office supplies (3 years x ~$100/yr) 300 -- PROMOTION & PUBLICITY Web hosting (3 years x $100/yr) 300 -- Exhibition and presentation supplies 7,000 -- Meals & entertainment 500 -- Graphic design 500 -- publishing 1,000-- INSURANCE AND TAXES 1,000 -- IN KIND Consultants (legal, artistic) 5,000 -- SUBTOTAL 88,380 -- CONTINGENCY (~5%) 4,400 -- TOTAL 92,780
INCOME: In-kind donations 5,000 -- Seattle University McMillen Assistantship program 11,880 -- To be raised 80,400 -- TOTAL 92,780
I recently created this Wiki website as a repository for the research phase of “Seattle Art Mutual”. The Wiki form is useful because it allows many people to contribute to the composition of documents. It is a technology which facilitates community-based research and scholarship. The information gathered here will help to devise a working plan to transform the Seattle Art Museum in later phases of “Seattle Art Mutual”. It contains a dynamic, growing web of documents structured around topics of interest: art, museums, wealth, civic institutions and democracy. Together, these documents create a database for creating, browsing, and searching information. Unlike the most well-known Wiki, Wikipedia, the goal here is not to create highly polished articles for general audiences. Instead, I hope to gather all kinds of related ideas, notes, articles and pictures in various forms, both provisional and finished, artistic and scholarly.
The opening page will give you a good sense of the intention and scope of the site. Please keep in mind that this is a newly established Wiki, and will grow significantly as the research stage of the project begins in September. I recommend clicking any of the green links under “Current Research Topics”, which are pages that have some information filed. (The red underlined links do not have anything filed yet.) For example, under “Seattle Art Museum > Board of Trustees” you can see some transcribed examples of the archival research begun by David Strand, an assistant on the project.
1) Reduce the Seattle Art Museum’s dependency on super-wealthy patrons for support and governance 2) Spark a city-wide conversation about wealth inequality and civic values 3) Model methods of artist empowerment (in relation to institutions) that other artists find useful
1) Inertia/conservationism in institutional culture 2) Indifference/misunderstanding in relation to visual art by non-initiated communities 3) Insufficient access to resources (money, time, people)
Submitted to Creative Capital in 2015