Autodesk: Art Residency of Generosity Answered
I’ve had the good fortune to participate in many art scenes over the last 15 years. These range from making large-scale fire installations at Burning Man, in proto-hacker spaces (2001-2003), a rigorous MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2004-2006), and a professional and international new media art career (2007-2012).
What fuels my creativity is an ongoing quest for communities that support new modes of engagement: repurposing new technologies for art, encouraging others to make and asking why it is important for us not to simply be cultural consumers. I strongly believe we need ongoing DIY culture coupled with critical thinking to keep our society vibrant.
In 2012, I took a break from my usual new media art practice of showing in museums and galleries. I felt like the art world — for a variety of reasons — was sequestered and wasn’t reaching as wide an audience as it could.
A friend of mine forwarded me a job posting for a New Media Exhibit Developer at the Exploratorium. I applied for the job and got it. At this world-famous science museum, I learned about interfacing my art ideas to the public sphere. I worked with scientists around ideas of data visualization in Life Sciences. I designed exhibits that would last for the long-term rather than a 1 month exhibition.
This changed my art practice so that I begin thinking about work that had a broad appeal: from school kids to the elderly, and above all else to value curiosity.
After my fixed-term position at the Exploratorium was over, I began a residency at Autodesk, which intrigued me because it was my first artist residency in a corporate environment and they also had unbelievable resources. I expected to be in an amazing shop environment but also to be interacting with suit-and-tie corporate types.
I certainly got the former but the Pier 9 environment surprised me. Everyone from the engineers to other artists to the marketing folks were curious about creative uses for 3D technologies could be used. Pier 9 was more a laboratory than a shop. With the Instructables-writing directive, it was also one where people shared their ideas rather than hoarded.
Within my first week, I adjusted my expectations. The secret about Pier 9: It’s not about the tools but about the people.
Yes, the water jet is amazing and I’ve fallen in love with 3D-printing, but more than anything there is a cross-section of smart and kind people, ranging from traditional artists, new media artists, various flavors of makers as well as engineers. Everyone has some sort of skill, ranging from drawing to fashion design to 3D modeling. No one knows everything. We all check our egos at the door.
“What are you working on?” is the question we all ask one another. Each day, I’m surprised by someone’s ideas. The enthusiasm in the space is infectious. In those rare moments when I’m alone at Pier 9, I can gaze out the window at the Bay Bridge, where I feel connected to the rest of the world.
I’ve been amazed by my co-resident’s projects ranging from the Playa-inspired costumes by Mikaela Holmes and futuristic fashion by Anouk Wipprecht to the playful work by Paolo Salvagione to the material experiments by Andreas Bastian. There are many more...too many to call out everyone.
We work very, very hard. Yet, the environment is casual. When you have an problem there are people to help, and conversely, when someone is stuck on a project, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to help them out. I never wear my headphones. Generosity fuels this community.
There is no single type of artist that comes to this residency, which makes for intersecting circles. I’ve listened to many others. I’ve had to explain my conceptual practice. I’ve been (happily) forced to re-conceptualize my own artwork.
I still don’t have the answers to my concerns about art-sequestering, but this is the right place for me to be. With this residency, I’ve found the path that I’ve been long searching for.