Thursday, January 24, 2008

Visiting Artist, Pam Hall: a wish & a prayer

posted by Pete Hocking


Pam Hall is a Canadian Artist from Newfoundland. She's in Providence as RISD's first Public Engagement Associate. A new program of the RISD Office of Public Engagement, Public Engagement Associates are working across the city -- to develop more conversation about community-based practices in the arts. Pam's residency includes time at RISD, an installation of new work (A Wish and A Prayer) at the Hillel Gallery (80 Brown Street) and a residency with New Urban Arts. Pam has created a satellite installation of A Wish and A Prayer at NUA and invites you to add your wishes and prayers to the wishing wall. As she writes:

Dear Friends,
The Wishing Wall is now installed and beginning its "life" at Brown-RISD Hillel Gallery in Providence, RI.
I write now to invite you to add a wish or prayer of your own to help complete this piece, and if you are distant from Providence, please simply send your wishes and prayers to me (here, by email) and I will inscribe them with care and add them to the wall. To do so, just finish the sentence " I wish for...." or " I pray for...." in the language of your choice.
Know they will join with others as the piece evolves between now and Feburary 21st, when it will come down.
Also note that unless you indicate otherwise, your names will be added to the Acknowledgment Panel in this exhibition, and in other public presentations of the work.
I send thanks to those of you who choose to participate, and attach an image of The Wishing Wall on the first day of its installation. Here also is a link to more detailed information about the project

Please feel entirely free to forward this invitation on to others who might participate. Sending thanks and warm regards,

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

thirteen views: three

Saturday, January 12, 2008

thirteen views: no.2

Friday, January 11, 2008

thirteen views of new urban arts

For the past six weeks, I've been involved in a photography mediation project within my own practice -- essentially taking one photo a day on a specific theme. I've adapted the project here -- offering not meditations, but views of new urban arts.
pete hocking

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Feedback & Critique: pete hocking

My friends at Wikipedia tell me “a critique is a systematic inquiry into the conditions and consequences of a concept or set of concepts, and an attempt to understand its limitations.” The definition comes from a cultural studies or philosophical perspective and it’s interesting to me that Wikipedia makes no reference to the use of the word in the arts. In my experience as a visual artist critiques (or “the crit”) have been a central part of my educational process.

You’ll notice that I note they’ve been a central part of my education, but not necessarily a helpful part.

Interestingly, I think the cultural studies definition provides some insight into the ambivalence I feel about this process. The aim of critique is to understand, define and name limitations. In the visual arts critique I’ve found that those offering critique (and those receiving it) often confuse the object with the artist – sometimes with die consequence.

It’s my belief that education should focus on advancing the abilities, knowledge, self-awareness and criticality of the learner. With this in mind, I’ve adapted my own style for offering artist feedback to begin with the intentions of the artist -- and to assess the success of art in relation to the intentions with which they were created. Although it’s sometimes hard to do, I keep in mind that feedback dialogue isn’t a moment for me to relay what I know; rather it’s a moment that an artist might advance his or her work.

One of the interesting dimensions of New Urban Arts is the way that multiple traditions coexist within the flurry of activity. People arrive with their experience and they share it. Sometimes this means reproducing practices that don’t necessarily serve us. I’ve seen this with critique.

I’ve been asked to lead a feedback session with artist mentors this afternoon – looking at several pieces from the current gallery show of artist mentor work. In preparing, I’ve pulled out two feedback models that I respect – one from Liz Lerman, that’s primarily been developed within the context of dance performance, and another from my Goddard College colleague, laiwan. They overlap in significant ways and also each provide unique insights. I offer them here:

Liz Lehman's Method of Critical Response
Step 1. Look at the work. What makes you curious? What do you like about the work? Always give positive reinforcement.
Step 2. The artist asks the audience questions. Make sure you do not ask yes or no questions. Ask more open questions.
Step 3. The observer asks the artist neutral questions in order to let the artist see the work in a new way.
Step 4. Opinion statement. Ask the artist, "I have an opinion, do you want to hear it?"
Step 5. Ask the artist what will they be working on in the future.

Method for Interpreting Art by Laiwan
1. Describe what you see and only what you see (articulate details, colours, textures, forms, composition, materials, how it takes up time and space, describe its craft, properties and characteristics as an object, the details of each image and the characteristics of the image, etc.) avoid free associations at this time.
2. Describe what the work or object feels like and how it makes you feel -- avoid free associations at this time.
3. Analyse possible meanings of the object or image and/or the intentions of the artist.
4. At this step we can now freely associate possible meanings.
5. Give any possible historical or contemporary art contexts for the art, process, object or image.
6. The artist can now step forward and talk briefly about their own process of making the work or finding the object and/or the image

In my own practice I tend to adapt elements of each of these and some of my own. In approaching feedback I tend to ask questions like these (although not always in a specific sequence):
• What kind of feedback would be useful to you in relation to this work?
• What were your intentions in making this piece? Why did you make it? What aspirations did you have for the piece as you began?
• Are there questions you still have about it? Do you think you’ve resolved the questions that drove your intention in making it?
• In what context(s) (intellectual, social, spiritual, historical, philosophical, artistic, embodied, et cetera) does the work reside? Is the work critically contextualized within a larger set of discourses? Does it establish an intentional new discourse? Does it demonstrate an awareness of the context(s) it's engaging?
• For what audience is the work intended? Is the work accessible to its audience? Does the work engage the audience in their own experience, in conversation, or the construction of new meaning?
• Does the work construct meaning? Is the meaning –either intellectual, emotional, embodied, spiritual, et cetera?
• Does its craft support the work's meaning? Does it distract from the meaning?
• Does the artist think the work is successful? Is there direct feedback they’d specifically like to receive?

I don’t mean to imply with these examples that there is one means of feedback that’s correct. Indeed, the context of the feedback may require different tools at different times. I do think that we all benefit from having a wide array of tools at our disposal and that cultivating a diversity of means to talk with artists about their work can only help us cultivate our own ability to advance our own work, ideas and thinking.

senior mentor blog: Pete Hocking

Today will be my first day back in the studio after winter break. I suppose it’s a time for some reflection. And some planning. I always get excited the “first day of school.” Not that NUA is “school.” But beginnings always speak to possibility. And the possibility of life ROCKS.

Sarah, Tamara and I talked last week about the coming semester. It’s going to be busy – with visiting artists and the regular weekly time. I’m really thrilled about Pam Hall’s upcoming visit. She’ll be doing a brief residency with New Urban Arts in conjunction with her time as a RISD Public Engagement Associate. Some of what she’ll be doing is related to the installation she’ll be doing at Brown|RISD Hillel, titled A Wish and a Prayer.

I’ve also made a commitment to reviving this blog (I started writing for it a while ago but just made some back-dated posts). I don’t know if people read it, but I think it would be great to build a dialogue here. Feel free to post a comment and I’ll do my best to keep up to date. In addition to posting reflections about the studio, I’m also starting a photographic meditation series on my experience of New Urban Arts. Sometimes, I’ve learned, I learn more visually than I do through words.

I never finished the series of drawings I started last fall (well, what is finished? I made some decent drawings!) – mostly because I felt inhibited about the space I was taking up when I made them. I’ve thought a lot about this – what it means to take up space in an active community studio – and I’ve concluded that I need to be subtler in how I work at NUA. I know there’s space for me to work – and even a lot of space for special projects – but that as a regular process I want to be discrete. This semester I think I’ll challenge myself to work small – which isn’t something I think I do well. Perhaps I’ll learn something new.

senior mentor blog: Pete Hocking (2)

November 2007: Presence v. Proving

As a teacher I often fall into the trap of thinking that I have to know everything. It’s absurd. No one can know everything and the process of teaching and learning isn’t about proving my smarts. To my mind it’s about being present to the process of experimentation, thinking and discovery. It’s also about a certain kind of honesty. Presence to people is a lot more important than proving what you know.

I see this a lot at NUA – especially in the way that people support one another. I mean, it’s not explicit or obvious in any way. But it’s clear that those folks who, sometimes very quietly, are present to others provide a great deal of leadership to the community. Equally, attempts to rally attention don’t often go very far.

Is this what it means to be cool? It’s been so long since I was in high school that I don’t really remember.

I read recently that the process of being cool is something of a paradox. If you seek the approval and attention of coolness, you simply aren’t cool. And, no matter how you present yourself, if you’re confident about who you are, you simply radiate coolness.

I think this is what I mean about presence versus proving and part of what I’m learning at NUA. Authenticity and being there matters much more than trying to say the right thing or act the right way.

Senior Art Mentor Reflections: Pete Hocking

From the October 2007:

So, I’m the guy with the beard. You know the one… I’ve been hanging out in the studio on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, drawing/painting at one of the rolling tables, having conversations, hanging out. You can ask me what I’m up to, but I won’t really have an answer for you. I’m just not sure what I’m up to. I’m trying to figure it out by doing it.

I have a long association with New Urban Arts, but until recently it was behind the scenes. As the first chair of the board of directors (back in the day), I was privileged to be part of the conversations that conceptualized the program and it was gratifying to help the program transition from an experiment on the 4th floor of the Grace Church Rectory to the rambunctious program it’s become. Being involved with organizational work has it’s own rewards, to be sure, but I have to admit that I’m having more fun working as a senior art mentor.

The senior art mentor program is new. Our goal is to support the art mentors in the same spirit that they support NUA’s program participants. Andrew and I are working closely with Sarah, Jesse and Tamara to try to figure out the best way for us to use our time. Like so many of NUA’s satisfying outcomes, we’ve approached the development of this new program as a process – and we’re confident that through the process of doing we’ll discover something new and vital.

I think about community a lot – especially about the way that we all want to feel connected to something. A lot of times I think that we think about community the same way that we think about shopping – that somehow community is out there and we can just get it. Yet, I’ve come to know that community isn’t something that’s consumed, it’s something that each of us makes. Starting at NUA this fall, I’m really aware that I’m entering a community that others have made and that, in some ways, I’m an outsider. Before I can feel a real part of NUA’s community, I need to do some work. I need to be present to those who are already part of the community, to those (like me) who’re trying to connect, and to the process of discovery. I also need to introduce myself.

So, I draw.

For me drawing is a way of being present to the community, to share a little of what I’m about (at least to share a bit of my process as an artist), and to be available for conversation. I wrote above that I don’t know what I’m doing with the drawings, but I do have a suspicion. I started with what I’m calling “mediated portraits” – that is portraits of people I’ve met via the Internet, but have no belief I’ll ever meet in person. Over the past few days, I’ve started some self-portraits that are also mediated – by time. In drawing myself as a high school student I’m trying to reconnect to my hopes, fears, and aspirations at that age. Both sets of drawings have something to do with the nature of relationships and presence – across distance and time. I think they might teach me something about presence in the moment.

Writing this, I’ve just completed my second week in the studio. It’s been great in so many ways. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations and the questions. I look forward to many more.