Visual Art

Artists and Engineers Solve the World's Problems

(Or at Least They Try)

Artists and Engineers Solve the World's Problems

When an innovative artist hears the word "programming," it means events—exhibitions, lectures, workshops. When an innovative engineer hears "programming," it's a synonym for the act of coding. Artists and engineers don't even speak the same language. But if they did, would it make a difference? Would they find that they actually want to do similar kinds of work in the world, and all they needed was translation? That's what Susie Lee and Hsu-Ken Ooi wanted to know. So the artist and the cofounder created an event last month that brought together 10 artists and 10 technologists to have 100 conversations over the span of two hours, with live-tweeting "chaperones" (of which I was one).

"I'm live-tweeting the 'speed dating' event at Project Room Seattle, where techies meet artists and the world's probs are solved" was how chaperone Brangien Davis described it. Issues raised included: how to receive the Japanese tsunami debris washing up on the West Coast (tourism to explore/commemorate? Sculpt it?), whether boredom is dead, how to design 2-D experiences that direct people back into the physical world rather than act as unhealthy escape hatches, how it feels when you get hold of an idea, what causes things to go viral, whether it's harder than it used to be to do something new, what it means that feel and smell are missing from technology, whether code is a living thing, and the meaning of competence.

A few fine tweets: "How could we measure and quantify the impact of a piece of art on our likelihood to be activist?" (Jenifer Ward). "The milliner and computer scientist eyeball one another knowingly" (C. Davida Ingram).

The event didn't solve the world's problems, but it generated ideas and energy and will be followed by a second date ("Dinner and a Movie," though it will include neither) on July 11, when the group will choose a problem to tackle collectively and begin. Anyone is welcome to join.

The venue, the Project Room, is significant. While small, new, conventionally structured galleries (display objects, sell objects) continue to rise up to support artists' more concrete efforts (most recently, True Love, Prographica, Blindfold, LTD., Prole Drift), the nonprofit Project Room is distinguished by its broad-mindedness and measured, quarterly pace. Jess Van Nostrand opened the Capitol Hill storefront last year after curating exhibitions at Cornish College of the Arts. She didn't want to just organize shows. She wanted to tackle big questions over extended periods of time from multiple perspectives. Invited artists spend days working there with public open hours, thinkers talk there, authors sit there around a table and cut up books to make new ones. All things cultural are displayed, made, and discussed, then further explored on a blog called Off Paper edited by the multitalented Ward (soon to be interim provost at Cornish).

The opening of the Project Room comes at a time when there are precious few alternative or nonprofit art centers left in Seattle. As stalwart Pioneer Square dealer Greg Kucera said recently of Lawrimore Project, which closed its doors on June 30 after six years of attempting to expose and expand on art-gallery-business-as-usual, "People don't understand what [Scott Lawrimore] was trying to do. He was trying to change the gallery model itself." The Project Room carries on the spirit of change that's always been part of art, but struggles to find places to alight when money gets tight. recommended


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As an artist from the stables of the now defunct 'LP' it stands to reason that this "new gallery model" by Ms. Lee and company and the "LP's" mission would be, as you and Mr. Kucera are trying so hard to make the case, in that same promotional thought process and general marketing approach. But what about the aspect of galleries, curators, and artists presenting just about anything and everything these days that they deem smart, relevant, revolutionary, 'genius', or just plain great and important art as the new avant garde, the movement to be reckoned with and respected, the take notice everyone, or the better buy it now before you can't schtick? Especially so when most of these presentations, this one included, seem far too intrinsically personal, generally fleeting in long term releveance, pretty darn shallow, and frankly, dull.
'Tech this, art = activism that, programming this', the mundacity of the experience and content is eye crossingly boring. These choices show up as the shot in the dark at hitting the fame bullseye which will advance them to here or there approach, which is everything but art. Art of self promotion, maybe. Marketing hype, egotistic, tomfoolery, or ridiculous it most probably is, but it is not as they would have you believe, great art. It raises the question that "is it all too obvious and just too easy?". Yep.
And exactly why are they making us partake in this type of charade and what are they accomplishing by it's presentation? Successful and satisfying social interactions, good dating? Boring. Does anyone really care if you're tweeting for art Jen? And "changing the world", seriously?
As someone recently said after exiting yet another forced and uninteresting local show at the 'LP', contemporary artists need to return to an solid intellectual foundation and technical mastery of disciplines combination, a traditional (dirty word I know) approach possibly, not only to function and succeed long term, but to have a foundation upon which to rebel and remark upon in their art. It's not just because they say so, or he says so, or you, Jen, say so, sorry.
Posted by sticksnstones on July 4, 2012 at 6:17 PM · Report this

just curious, why the need to lie so much? (i.e. everything in your profile re: education, former posts, statement that you are a former LP artist, etc, etc, etc)...i actually thought there was an ounce of truth in one of your posts but when i continued reading your angry, bitter rants i realized you are EXACTLY what you write. a failed and miserable attempt at artistry that no one gives the time of day (thus the need to visit Stranger sooooo often...). ok, go ahead and respond in your typical panties-in-a-twist manner. we all know who you are (and are not).

On to more important things, it is interesting to note how well seattle received one of LPs artist's - isaac layman - work.

i think this speaks volumes as to what seattle wants to see. kucera understands this and plays this game well. i hope he picks up layman.
Posted by nobodysbidness on July 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this
It aint easy to con Seattles residents into buying or appreciating all the circle-jerking facets of 90% of contemporary art. Anyone who has lived in LA (me) is familiar with just how political art has become - ny too. these are the main cities in the US of A where postmodernism continues to outlive itself. Lots of good reasons for that.

as a nonartist who buys art, i just dont really care about what you're average artist thinks about - we like and buy some of their art objects b/c their work speaks at a personal level. simple, really.

If you want to play the game of what goes on in la or ny, MOVE THERE. Seattle will remain a strangely insular city driven by software biz and practicality that could really care less for ideas devoid of substance.
Posted by MSofty on July 5, 2012 at 1:11 PM · Report this
I am struck by the concept of your 'group's' (your inference, "we all know") need to angrily personalize this whole process of commentary. The "need to know". The nature of your angry interactions and your public forum critique methodology that you so badly want to suppress and censor say so much. You seem to represent this controlling clique or coven, a hierarchical power and governing body of the Seattle art scene. Weird.
Posted by sticksnstones on July 5, 2012 at 9:11 PM · Report this
Yep. Sounds like a bunch or horseshit to me.
Posted by ctmcmull on July 9, 2012 at 2:10 PM · Report this

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