Chicago Artists Month: Hope, change and PowerPoint
Sarah Ross, Archisuits, 2005–2006.
It’s Chicago Artists Month (CAM) all October. This year’s theme, Artists and Issues That Matter, inspired an awesome Artists at Work Forum at the Chicago Cultural Center last night. The lively discussion about limp phallic symbols, piñatas full of school supplies, laziness and the Tamms Supermax Prison was moderated by Salem Collo-Julin, a co-founder of Temporary Services and Mess Hall.
Four artist/activists joined Collo-Julin to discuss their work: Aay Preston-Myint, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Sarah Ross and Zena Sakowski. There’s no way I can do justice to their two-hour presentation here, so I’ll list their major tips for creating subversive art:
1. Don’t ask permission. Sakowski and her partner Rob Kelly never consult with the police before distributing inflatable costumes or giant, balloon-filled balls to children on the South Side.
2. Challenge space. Ross encourages artists to consider “who controls [public space] and who has access to it.” Her Archisuits, for example, enabled users to get comfortable in L.A.’s purposely-unwelcoming built environment. Ross is conducting a workshop on Saturday 18 from 2–5pm in conjunction with her solo show “Inaction: Preparing for a Crash” at Northwestern’s Dittmar Gallery.
3. Give people something to do. Preston-Myint dislikes the way most galleries make interacting with art a passive experience, which explains why his projects—like the other panelists’—tend to happen outside of them. Preston-Myint has taken a Gay Witchcraft float to the Pride Parade; set up an “art shanty” on a frozen Minnesota lake and helped open No Coast Collective in Pilsen.
4. Work with legislators. Artists rarely do, says Reynolds, but she finds “it’s really effective!” Reynolds and other members of the Tamms Year Ten coalition have spent years protesting the Tamms Supermax Prison in southern Illinois, where “temporary” terms of solitary confinement often become permanent.
CAM will be over in less than two weeks—so make the most of it.