Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

The Art of Installing Media

Truth: 24 frames per second took a team of DMA staff to create and Lance Lander, Manager of Gallery Technology & Innovation, shared the nuts-and-bolts logistics of putting together  the challenging installation with Uncrated.

What are some past media installations you’ve mounted and how were they special or different from Truth?
The first large scale installation that I did was Fast Forward in 2006. I had fourteen media based works of art to install and maintain. One of the works was “I like it here better than in Westphalia,” El Dorado 1968-1976 by Lothar Baumgarten which is three slide projectors and sound. The piece is a beautiful work of art that uses technology to convey the beauty found in nature. There is a soundtrack that controls the advancement of the slide projectors. So you have the sounds and visuals of nature and the sounds and visuals of the mechanical slide projectors. The projectors require a lot of maintenance and I spent many hours keeping that thing going. In retrospect, working so hard on that piece made me fall in love with the job.

Other large scale installations I’ve done include Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen, and the exhibitions Private Universe and Mirror Stage.

What were some of the major time consuming tasks that you had to complete before installing the works of art?
For a typical video installation like the Rachel Rose, Omer Fast, or Steve McQueen, where you have a single channel video with sound, I like to have 5 days for installation. For this exhibition with 24 works of art we had a mere three weeks. We worked late nights and weekends all the way up to the opening. Because the exhibition is in two galleries at opposite ends of the building I was walking eight miles a day!

From 16mm projectors to 12-feet-tall LED screens, Truth encompasses a range of diverse technologies. Were there any works especially challenging to install? Do you have a favorite?
I really love the historical connection we made in the Bruce Conner REPORT space. Our Exhibition Designer, Skye Olson, was able to procure 6 original seats from the Texas Theater which is where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.  But the most difficult piece, and my favorite, is Western Flag by John Gerrard. It is also the only piece in the exhibition that is not a film or video. It’s a software based simulation of a landscape. Essentially, it’s a non-interactive video game. Mr. Gerrard sent very precise drawings and stated that if it was even 2 millimeters off we would need to rebuild it. Our carpenter, Josh Harstrom, built the walls of the cube and Tom McKerrow and Brian Cahill built the frame of the projection screen. The preparators stretched and stapled the screen. When Mr. Gerrard arrived he was impressed with all the work we had done.

This exhibition was truly a cross-departmental collaboration that has involved every branch of the Museum. Can you call out some MVPs who helped you knock it out?
Mike Hill was the Head Preparator for this show and he did, as always, an incredible job. He took over the Anne Tallentire Drift and Dara Birnbaum Tiananmen Square installations. He also installed all of the acoustical material and covered them with fabric in the James Coleman space. Doug Velek has assisted me on everything I’ve installed since I started working here. I couldn’t have done it without him. All of the preparators stepped up to make the exhibition happen. John Lendvay, Mary Nicolette, Sean Cairns, Erik Baker, Ellia Maturino, Marta Lopez, and Russell Sublett all served a vital role. Registrar Melissa Omholt was so great to work with. She kept the flow of information going and kept me on track. There was also the design that Jessica and Skye came up with. Some of these pieces require specific room dimensions and I am amazed they were able to make it all fit and have all of the artists agree to it. I would be remiss to not mention Joni and her equable style of managing complex exhibitions with aplomb.

But I really can’t stress enough the indelible impact that Sue MacDarmid had on the exhibition. I first met Sue in 2007 when she came to install the world won’t listen. She represents and installs for Willie Doherty, Phil Collins, Steve McQueen, and others. When we started discussing an all media show I knew that she would be an integral part. I was able to reach her early enough to schedule her for three weeks. She is one the best media installers and she inspires me. I have so much trust in her that whenever she had an idea I would make it happen.

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Contemporary Art at the DMA

Testing for Truth

The Center for Creative Connections has an area designated as the Testing Zone. The space consists of two walls, each with a chalkboard, a large table with stools, and three wires from which items can be suspended for display. The Testing Zone debuted in 2012 as a vehicle for education staff to evaluate the ways visitors engage with various types of art, experiment with potential in-gallery activities, and enable visitors to share their preferences on what objects and interpretative materials are provided in permanent collection galleries.

Prior to the opening of Truth: 24 frames per second, we decided to use the Testing Zone to post a series of open-ended questions and gauge visitors’ interest in a range of topics inspired by works in the exhibition. Unlike most Testing Zone activities, the Truth experiment was challenging because participants did not have the benefit of seeing the works beforehand, nor could we summarize the full scope of the exhibition in the limited amount of space. Additionally, the exhibition resists traditional notions of fine art and consciously avoids a singular narrative, lesson, or point of view.

After reading the series of prompts clipped to the Testing Zone’s three display wires, visitors selected one or more slips of paper to share their thoughts. Each slip contained a single prompt followed by five potential responses that would indicate their level of interest in the topic, whether the prompt was easily understood, and whether the question was something they wanted to encounter at the Museum or discuss in a community forum. The back of each piece of paper was left available for people to write additional thoughts.

Much to my surprise, nearly 350 visitors shared their feedback over two weeks. The responses allowed me to rephrase some of the questions and set others aside. In the end, the prompts became part of the exhibition’s visitor guide and the conversation continues via Twitter (#DMATruth) and written responses which provide the source material for a scrolling LED sign hanging near the exhibition’s entrance.

Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA

Take a Seat

Truth: 24 frames per second opened this past Sunday to the public at the DMA and is on view through January 28, 2018.

The exhibition features 24 works of time-based media, spanning more than six decades. The overall experience is designed to provoke more questions than answers; some of the themes of these works include political unrest, pop culture, and news media. Bruce Connor’s REPORT, created 1963-67, explores media coverage of the JFK assassination, and is the first work visitors will encounter upon entering the exhibition. This piece from the DMA collection is a captivating collage of television broadcast footage, sound, and flickering light, that sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. The theatrical and traumatic portrayal of the Kennedy assassination, when viewed through Conner’s installation, calls to attention how we absorb information through the media.

Each installation in this show was designed with specifications from the artist or artist’s estate as to how it should be portrayed, giving near scientific precision to the subtleties of viewing the work. For REPORT, in addition to those specifications, we were able to obtain historic theater seats from the Texas Theatre. Given that the actual subject matter depicted took place in Dallas, and Lee Harvey Oswald was subsequently arrested at the Texas Theatre–we were pleased to be able to combine efforts with Texas Theatre to add these pieces of material culture and historic connection to the experience of the film. The seats’ vintage dates to the time period when Oswald was actually caught there during the screening of a movie.

The chairs, kept in storage at Texas Theatre since its later renovation, were re-assembled by Lance Lander and our team of preparators, as well as cleaned and cared for by our assistant objects conservator, Elena Torok. The final installation space contains two symmetrical rows of theater seats, facing REPORT, its strobing black and white footage making the setting feel very dramatic and palpable. We felt that adding these vintage red theater seats, with their notorious connection, would lend an authentically Dallas-specific component to the installation.

Thanks to the Texas Theatre and the DMA staff members who made this collaboration possible. Come see Bruce Conner’s REPORT on view through January 28, 2018.

Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer 

Artist Interview: xtine and Sabrina

This fall the Center for Creative Connections invited C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman to design in-gallery activities inspired by unattributed works of art in the DMA’s collection. Meet xtine and Sabrina here and learn more about their thoughtful installation and activities designed to engage a larger conversation about labor.

Tell us about yourselves.
We met in fall 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas, where we discovered a shared passion for embodiment, literature, and workers’ rights. We became fast friends and quickly set forth to merge xtine’s interventions on crowdsourcing platforms with Sabrina’s expertise in literature, history, and labor.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
xtine delivered a talk about her project, Mechanical Olympics, in the C3 Theater during Fall 2015. While at the DMA, she saw that the Center provided a space for connecting the Dallas community with local artists who could leverage the educational team at the Museum to bring engaging art to diverse audiences through interactive media formats. This was a good fit for the type of exhibition that she and Starnaman wanted to create for The Laboring Self.

Tell us how the idea of your project originated.
The Laboring Self grew out of a pilot project, Digital Korl Woman, that we developed in Sabrina’s class “Studies in Women’s Literature: Rebels and Reformers” at the University of Texas at Dallas in spring 2017. Sabrina was teaching Rebecca Harding Davis’s 1861 novella Life in the Iron Mills in class, a book about unregulated labor in a steel mill, and we saw the potential for parallels between critical issues in labor across the centuries.

We initiated an exploratory collaboration in which we asked Sabrina’s students to create a participatory project much like the one we present in the C3 space. First, students hired virtual workers to interpret a section of Life in the Iron Mills by submitting selfies to reflect the feelings that the steel worker character expressed in a sculpture he made out of waste products from the industrial processes. These pictures were then used as inspiration for  a 3-D cardboard sculpture. Finally, the students chose parts of Davis’s book that they found important and layered them on the sculpture.

We were invited to share this project and the process at a number of academic conferences, and now an article about it is forthcoming in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy.

The Laboring Self, which centers on reproductions of human hands—workers are “hired hands” after all—grew naturally from our classroom experience and continues to evolve in ways we find exciting and will be working on for some time. We document our ongoing projects on our website, Visible Women.

What do you hope visitors will take away from your project?
We hope that visitors will see a connection between the detrimental impacts of unregulated labor in the 19th and the 21st centuries. While contemporary digital and crowdsourced work seems different from the industrial labor that became common in the 19th century, there are many parallels. For instance, workers who enter evolving industries have few protections. Laborers in the 19th century were ultimately able to address some of the exploitative and dangerous conditions in their workplace, but today’s crowdsourced laborers have few mechanisms to voice their concerns.

It is important to us that visitors to C3 have a chance to reflect on their own work experiences and how it affects their bodies. Those who are, have, or will work are as much a part of the project as the digital laborers who provided their hands and thoughts for the installation. Through the interactive aspects of our project—all of which involve using hands and words—we ask visitors to create their own “hired hands.”

hands

What have you enjoyed most about this experience?
We love the process! It is an honor to be able to realize our vision in a space that includes participants from so many different communities. While we are excited to bring our families to the tables, trace our hands, our kids’ and spouse’s hands, and make rock-rubbings of the literary quotes on a Sunday afternoon, the journey is the most enjoyable part of the experience. From the day we sat together struggling with how much we would pay the workers on the Mechanical Turk website to the day we created and hung strands of hands on the wall of the C3 space, we learned a lot about ourselves and the world we live in, while making something that engages the community where we live and work.

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Visit the Center for Creative Connections through December to participate in activities and contribute your own responses to xtine and Sabrina’s The Laboring Self installation.

Join us for a reception in the Center for Creative Connections on October 26 and mingle with C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman in C3 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Kerry Butcher is the Center for Creative Connections Coordinator at the DMA.

Exhibition Throwback

More than fifty years after their Dallas debut, several paintings by South American artists are on view at the Dallas Museum of Art. These works first appeared on the Museum’s walls in 1959 as part of the exhibition South American Art Today at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park (DMFA). Now they reside in the terminus of the Tower Gallery, which formerly housed a portion of México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde.

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, selected thirty works from the Latin American art collection and private collections to fill the walls of this T-shaped gallery. The front portion of the gallery contains twenty works by artists living in Mexico from the 1930s to 1950s.

Perpendicular to this space is the high-ceilinged gallery featuring ten works by South American artists. Eight of these entered the Museum’s permanent collection following their presentation in South American Art Today—an exhibition scheduled during the 1959 State Fair of Texas, when the DMFA’s Fair Park building welcomed thousands of fair-goers.

For the assembly of the show, DMFA Director Jerry Bywaters hired Dr. José Gómez-Sicre, a Cuban art critic and writer who was the Chief of the Visual Arts Section of the Pan-American Union (now the Organization of American States). Following the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, public enthusiasm for international solidarity and cultural exchange increased. Though some in the United States still feared the political influences of Communist-controlled countries, Bywaters and DMFA patrons embraced the need to expand awareness of contemporary art practices in South America.

To curate the exhibition, Gómez-Sicre traveled to ten countries and selected works by seventy-one artists. Following the close of South American Art Today, the DMFA purchased sixteen of the works; another four paintings from the exhibition have remained in the collection as long-term loans.

Humberto Jaimes Sanchez, Composition in Blue, by 1959, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1959.57

The eight paintings now on view in the Tower Gallery as part of the Latin American art collection were produced by artists in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, and Uruguay. In his introduction to the 1959 exhibition catalogue, Gómez-Sicre described his intention for the works to demonstrate that “the creative talents of Latin America have acquired a world vision which enables them to express national themes in subtle accents, rather than by raw, literal reproduction.”

Today visitors can enjoy these works from South American Art Today with the benefit of hindsight on the 20th-century movements that surrounded mid-century artists. The art historical context of Abstract Expressionism is readily apparent. Color, scale, and gestural brushstrokes predominate in this throwback to 1959.

Emily Schiller is the Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

Making a List and Checking It Twice—A Day in the Life of a Registrar

The DMA recently installed Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), one of the artist’s immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms. As its name suggests, the room features pumpkin lanterns that are reflected in mirrored panels, creating the illusion that they continue into infinity. The effect is both intimate (a maximum of two guests may enter at a time) and mesmerizing.

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London, © Yayoi Kusama

A lot of planning takes place behind the scenes before works of art go on view to the public. That is where registrars (like me) come into play! Registrars (also sometimes called Collections Managers) are responsible for both the logistics and physical care of art as well as collection-related documentation.

For most exhibitions or rotations of works of art in the galleries, we’re working with multiple pieces that come together as a group; however, with installation art like Kusama’s, we need to keep track of all the details and components that make up the piece as a whole. For this project, it meant coordinating the safe transportation of the many room components and the 62 pumpkins that go into the space once constructed.

First, we double-checked that everything traveled according to the packing list and carefully examined every single pumpkin to ensure they were ready for installation. These condition reports are like an artwork’s health chart. It’s an important ongoing part of our job because a condition report records the object information (also known as tombstone data), a general description or photo of the artwork (or pumpkin in this case!), and, most importantly, a detailed summary of the overall appearance and condition at a specific point in time.

In the months leading up to install, registrars collaborate with team members in other departments to finalize the gallery layout, installation schedules, wall text (or didactics), and any special opening events. Once the installation begins, the registrar serves as air-traffic control to help make sure the team stays, to the best of our ability, on track according to the installation schedule.

Registrars also take step-by-step notes and pictures to document the process, especially for an installation like Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which requires very specific construction. Installations can be a little tiring but the end result is so rewarding! You get to see a project come together literally from the ground up and then share it with the community.

The pumpkin-themed mirror room will be on display from October 1, 2017, through February 25, 2018, with DMA Members getting a sneak peek up until the opening (DMA Member tickets are available here). Visit our website for details and to purchase tickets: DMA.org/Kusama.

 

Alicia Chavez is the Collections Assistant at the DMA.

Artist Interview: Lisa Huffaker

This summer the Center for Creative Connections invited C3 Visiting Artist Lisa Huffaker to design an in-gallery activity inspired by a work of art on view in C3. Meet Lisa here and learn more about her musically engaging activities designed for visitors of all ages.

Tell us about yourself. (In 50 words or less)
I am a classical singer by training, but have always created visual art and poetry as well. My latest project is White Rock Zine Machine, which offers tiny handmade books of art and writing through re-purposed vending machines. I am interested in the community we form through creative work.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?

Nam June Paik, Music Box Based on Piano Piece Composed in Tokyo in 1954, 1994, Vintage TV cabinet, Panasonic 10 TV model 1050R, Panasonic mini video camera, incandescent light bulb and 144-note music box mechanism, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Dorace M. Fichtenbaum 2015.48.113

While visiting the Museum, I saw Nam June Paik’s Music Box Based on a Piano Piece Composed in Tokyo in 1954. It’s an old television transformed to show a video of a music box, and it reminded me of my vending machines, which are also “communication boxes” with knobs, whimsically reinvented to give us new content. I loved the idea of exploring the relationship between these two objects, within the interactive space of the C3 Gallery, and inviting visitors to interact with and even contribute to the project.  I’m so grateful to the DMA for embracing my crazy vision!

Tell us about the process of creating your zine machine.

I found a retired baseball card vending machine on Craigslist, and transformed it.  I sanded it down to bare metal,  then used old player piano rolls as stencils to paint a pattern on the sides. I cut a hole in the front panel and covered it with glass, so we could see the zines inside. I attached Victorian-era music box disks to the machine,  including a sort of halo at the top. Then I added other objects — carved wood pieces, various metal oddities, a kalimba, gears and springs taken out of broken alarm clocks, and eight music box mechanisms, including one that plays original music composed by punching holes in a strip of paper.

What did you enjoy most about this experience?
While creating the zine machine, I really enjoyed the contradiction between noisy power tools and delicate, beautiful mechanisms! But most of all I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore certain ideas — the overlap of music, memory, and machine — and invite others to interact with the project. It has been fascinating to see the drawings and writings created by visitors in response to the music I chose for the listening station in my installation.

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Visit the Center for Creative Connections through September to contribute drawings to Huffaker’s zines and to receive a zine from the machine.

Join C3 Visiting Artist Lisa Huffaker as she hosts a series of programs in September:

Tuesday, September 5, First Tuesday: Music with Ms. Lisa; 11:30 a.m. – Noon
Friday, September 15, Late Night Tour; 6:30 p.m.
Friday, September 15, Late Night Performance with Piano; 9:00 p.m.
Friday, September 22, Teen Homeschool; 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA


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