CIM DAY 2: Excerpts from Transcript
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
[Class begins with all 12 participants. We introduce visiting artist, CSUSB Professor of Art, Katherine Gray, a glass artist who also makes and teaches installation art. Katherine will give a presentation on contemporary artists with a focus on installation.
Annie asks the class to share what they learned last week then adds: “By the end of the day, we will all come together and decide on our project idea!”
We review the itinerary for the day and Katherine begins her presentation.
Katherine: “As Annie said, I mostly work in glass, but I have explored installation and have taught installation art at the university.”
Can anyone tell me what installation art is, or what they think it is?
Is it like setting up a show?
Yes, in a way, definitely, it’s more than a single art object. It can be site-specific in which the components and elements of installation are specific to a particular space. In an installation, there is the opportunity to become part of the artwork.
[All participants are focused on Katherine's presentation.]
“Installation defies traditional conventions of the art world.”
[Katherine passes around photos of installation art by several contemporary artists: Chris Vatrop, Jacob Hashimoto, Kara Walker, Gabriel Dawe, Shelia Hicks, Tom Friedman, and Leslie Dill. All the artist shown make work using cheaper, readily available materials such as paper, string, and fabric.]
[Participants ask questions about the materials. Excerpts from discussion follow:]
Participant: “What happens if air from an open door or the A/C moves these pieces?”
Katherine: “Most of these aren't designed to be displayed outdoors, in a controlled environment such as a gallery space it is easier to keep outside elements under control.”
“Are the threads different colors or is it from a light source?”
Katherine: “The threads are different colors, from a distance it seems like something magical, it looks like a rainbow, but up close you realize it is in-fact, just thread, and everyday material that Dawe used to define this space”
“Is using linen an environmental statement?”
Katherine: “It could be - she could possibly have an opinion about using something like plastic which can be environmentally unfriendly.”
[Katherine shows another example of installation using paper]
“How did he do that, is the paper cut?”
Katherine: “Yes it is stacked up, and then cut creating that cascade like effect, it is time consuming, but artistic value is the labor you put into it”
“To me an installation is best defined as the juxtaposition of something being where it is not supposed to be.” [He recalls Alcatraz Ai Wei Wei piece with porcelain flowers in a porcelain sink]
“Is the idea to make something that will occupy this space? [Gym]”
Annie: “It is up to us (us as a class) we can present the work in the gym or find a way to present it outside.
“Did anyone have any questions for Katherine on the art or any questions for her?”
“She gave us a lot of ideas, a lot of stuff to think about!”
[Annie discusses the project and encourages the group to think of a project together that can be completed with the time allotted, and if they decide to continue to expand on it after the classes and complete, that is something they can definitely do also.]
“Let’s discuss project ideas. What could be the theme, main idea?”
“We should decide the idea before the content.”
“We also need to figure out location, or how it will be presented”
“We recently were given an easy-up awning if we need a shady spot or even something to hang something off of if we decide to make some sort of mobile.”
Annie shares some of common responses from the reflection sheets that the participants filled out: anti-war, anti-violence, empathy, and open-mindedness.
She asks: “What is empathy?”
“Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”
[Other common responses/topics from the reflection sheets include self-expression and the desire to communicate, anti-selfishness, anti-greed, anti-hatred, ideas of freedom, Love, the gap between wealth and poverty, the idea of fair trade, spirituality, and family]
“Health would be something to add to that list I think”
“The [Kara Walker] silhouette installation Katherine showed us makes me want to create something about family”
“I was impressed by the Thai shadow puppets Phung showed us last week, I made up a story we could tell using Thai shadow puppets.”
Life and what you do with it, the Thai puppets inspired me that we can tell a story about life using puppets about all of our lives - a story of triumph - some of the best art comes from dark times. We can tell a story that is about life itself.
“A story through puppets, empathy, putting yourself in someone else shows, a story of the journey that got us here, something maybe with shoes where you take off the shoes and pass it to the next person”
“Mine idea is a little more directed at how our liberties are challenged everyday (shows a photo of the statue of liberty with hands covering her face) using puppets or paper sculpture”
[The group takes a break to brainstorm, sketch, and discuss ideas. Following are excerpts from the conversation.]
“We should use mobiles…everyone can create a mobile and we can put them together, a collaboration. We can use paper bags, strings, cloth, even dry orange peels…include the musicians by putting music behind it or even storytelling.”
We could use storytelling about all of our journeys using more than one medium/discipline
A puppet musical is my dream idea, but a more practical idea I had was making a background of the stand-up line..all of us holding placards with the regular prison info on the front and when we flip it around it has all the stuff about us as an individual.
[This idea is well received by other participants]
“Something about love in all its aspects (Participant tells a story he wrote about a little girl befriending a monster).”
“I do like the idea about mobiles or things suspended in space, incorporating the journey and nature.”
“We need to make sure we incorporate the musicians.”
“I like the ideas of a silhouette place, making a pathway using silhouette cutouts.”
“I want to make something that opens a door to conversation.”
[At this point everyone is interested in the idea of a sort of background using a prison line-up. Other ideas discussed include a stage/photo booth, storytelling through puppets, and mobiles.]
“[if we do the prison standup idea] We can personalize our own height with a word, or maybe the line is a word.”
“You come in with your name card a move into what art you like doing.”
“Start with showing your placard then you go and do what you want to do.”
Annie: “What are we thinking is going to be the social issue?”
“How society views people in the prison system”
“We all have something to express, the world views us as one way and does not see who we really are and how we feel”
“I like the idea of creating something to walk through”
[Annie gives class a homework assignment before leaving to the women's prison. She asks participants to to take notes and sketch around the idea of the two-sided prison placard and to think about an invitation for the final project opening.]
[Groups are created to allow participants to work on parts they are more interested in, the three groups are Music, Performance, and Stage design.]
Break for Lunch, Annie and Katherine depart to the Women's site.
12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
The three work groups are updated to: Music & Performance, Stage & Set, Concept & Narrative (writers). Some participants elect to be in more than one group.
Some participants are unsure about the idea of the prison line up and the idea evolves.
“Maybe if I write a song and in the lyrics I can tell all of our stories”
“What is this all going to lead up to? A performance?”
“We should narrate the story and go to a puppet show/light show.”
“Based on time constraints we should maybe use ourselves as the performers instead of puppets.”
[A lot of discussion ensures on how to execute ideas.]
“We can do a walkway leading up to the performance stage, silhouettes lining the path”
“For the performance we can use a table with a sheet over it so puppet performers can sit and use puppets”
“Can we have everyone write down a few words that are important to them and submit them to the writing team?”
[Class breaks up into their chosen groups]
 The performance piece should be representative of transformation.
 I want to make sure each person’s story is told through a single performance.
The stage and conceptual groups come up with an idea about an installation using vines and words that viewers will walk through to get to the performance. The vines will have words starting with negative concepts, such as violence and hatred, and transforming to positive concepts, such as redemption and forgiveness.
The writers and story tellers invite each participant talk to them one at a time. They are interviewing each person about the journey that got him here and what part of it they want included in the collective story.
All groups come back together and discuss blueprints for the hanging vine installation. The performance aspect of the project is not yet finalized but the story writing team says that they will have a clear story after they get everyone’s input. A few of the musicians pass out lyrics to a song they will perform sometime during the performance. Groups are discussing the best ways to start creating projects until the class ends.
It is awesome to see such willingness to collaborate among the participants; there were many times when someone disagreed with someone else but they never let their temper get to them and had respect for one another and kept and an open mind when someone expressed their idea(s). The class has a lot of ideas but they are doing well at reminding each other about the time constraints we have to present something. I was extremely impressed with the hanging vine idea for an installation I think it could work really well and create an effective piece of installation art. I am excited to see what the writing team presents next week regarding the performance aspect of the project.
This project is generously funded by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works Grant in the category of Multidisciplinary and Presenting — Additional support comes from Arts in Corrections, an initiative of the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This project would not be possible without the support of the Department of Art, the College of Arts and Letters, and Research and Sponsored Programs at CSUSB. Accounts and administrative services were provided by the University Enterprises Corporation in association with CSUSB.