Monday, December 10, 2007
"Bean" Artist Talk
Beep Beep Gallery hosted an artist talk with Ben "Bean" Worley this Sunday. Although it's not something that would compliment every exhibit at Beep Beep, incorporating "talk back" events when possible will lend the gallery a more well-rounded repertoire. Art affords a unique opportunity for discourse, and encouraging that communication between artists and spectators can only increase the depth and staying power of the gallery experience.
Bean's presentation was a digital mixed media presentation covering the history of the Encyclopedia project. Creative Loafing does a pretty decent job describing the still images, although Felicia Feaster overemphasizes the connection between Bean and Andy Moon. A deadline must have demanded some sort of Frankenstein graft of two articles into one.
Considering the coverage there and on Thoughtmarker and Access Atlanta, I decided to offer little commentary on my own and post images (which are unfortunately lacking on the Creative Loafing website) and some excerpts from the talk itself:
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Bean: If you have any questions feel free to pipe in and let me know what you’re thinking. Think of this more as a dialogue between people interested in art.
The first thing I was looking at in terms in theory was Roy Ascott. He was writing a lot in the last 40 or so years about the integration between technology and the arts. It’s still relatively new in the field today. A lot of media programs are now popping up in universities, but things really only just started in the 70s with Nam June Paik and Fluxus and movements into video art.
[Bean discusses an image, a word art quotation by Ascott, unable to reproduce here.]
* * *
When you’re making artwork, it develops by experimenting a lot through a series of changes. I’ve got to talk a little about the creative process. I think the spectator is really important: how do I interact with or impact the audience? I like to create situations where it’s not so closed off and I’m not saying specifically I’m “anti” this or that. I think of myself as an explorer or a junk collector. I think there are specific connections with how you inundate yourself in the medium. The more I’ve spent with this process, the more I sense what it is now and how may turn out in a year.
Right now it’s about defining problems and not solutions. There’s an organic process, and there’s a lot of random developments. The way I think is way up here in a large bubble up of thoughts and books I’ve read and then it filters down into specific mediums.
So basically I found this first set of encyclopedias, 1977 Britannica, basically from the around the time I was born. And they had a lot of images, not as much as World Book, but there was something there. When I first started working with books I didn’t really limit myself to one set, I added yearbooks and images from other encyclopedias. I went to the old thrift store and found some encyclopedias in the trash. Working from there, after a year I began physically experimenting with the books and looking at the artistic/social value, sitting there reading them for hours.
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I did this show where I took the set, putting it together in minimal arrangements. But I actually want to talk about how I get from minimalism to actually opening them up and manipulating images. I thought: what if I tried making an installation in the college library? I found this stairwell, well lit, windows all up the side. It was nice white marble, seven or eight stories tall. A really beautiful stairwell architecturally. Starting really simple, attaching images end to end, let it waterfall and walk up and down the whole length. The library was just a perfect place. There were books being thrown away, and books that would never be read, and it was like a memorial. It was fun to propose artwork there in a place that wasn’t designed as an art space.
There I first thought of exploring the books and images, photographing and elaborating. I liked the movement and how it became sort of a film. I had the idea to make a video installation with those books and images in hybrid. It goes back to being a child being fascinated with books and images. I created a screen with blank pages from books, and I created an entire room out of all of them, taking those pages stapled together like brick walls built in an old projector room. I put a hole in some books and projected a video that was actually made from these images. So you were sitting in this space and the video was made from the space you were actually sitting in. I had to manufacture everything, looking where the air vents were… I felt like a builder, a construction guy coming in and placing my material, creating the roof in this space with my materials. I made separate films for each of the books. So I started to take these ideas from the installation and the sculpture.
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I was creating work outside of school trying to develop a creative self in Atlanta. I did a number of small shows, some themed shows I don’t necessarily to do most of the time, getting into the Juxtapoz kind of art. I’m trying to stay away from that, though I get put into the those themes sometimes because that’s the environment where I work or because I’m a working class person. I’m tied to the working class, because I work really hard as a sound engineer. With philosophy, higher education, or high end art you get locked into the system, and you don’t realize the reality of the world. I think you have to find a happy medium: it’s a fine line to walk.