Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cluster 3: MAPPING and SITE


“The investigation of a specific site is a matter of exacting concepts out of existing sense -- data through direct perceptions…One does not impose, but rather exposes the site…The unknown areas of sites can best be explored by artists.”
-Robert Smithson, as quoted in Lure of the Local, by Lucy Lippard

“The deeper the map [the “cognitive map” laid down in the brain the first time one sees a place] is engraved in our memory, the better it will resist the deterioration… My oldest cognitive map, that of the village of my childhood encoded over sixty years ago, is still more vivid and more detailed in my mind than my maps of places where I lived only twenty years ago. If you look back at your life, you will probably find that your own childhood cognitive maps have the same astonishing clarity, even after many years.” – Erik Johnsson, Inner Navigation, 2002

The Situationist drifted, challenging art’s materials and processes; the Dadaists and Surrealists toured the city, collecting and assembling found objects looking for new meanings and new realities; the Fluxists held events and happenings, re-examining the ‘everyday,’ collapsing ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. And each of these historical moments took us from the gallery into the street. For this cluster, we will further this dialogue, with the urban environment as our subject. Every site –landfill, cul-de-sac, street corner, bedroom-- has a story to tell. Mapping and site, as we practice these concepts here, run the gamut in contemporary art practices: sewn cloth cities that spill out of suitcases, bus tours through water treatment centers, performers climbing buildings, sound art that explores personal narratives through Central Park. In the hands of artists, mapping and site become riddles best solved through a variety of experiments and materials. We begin generally and end specifically: starting with mapping exercises and ending with a proposal for a specific location.


1. Map 1: Mapping a Conversation, Moment in Time:
We begin by talking as a class about maps. Maps that organize, record, and navigate. Maps that collect, lose, then find. Maps that chart, survey, and catalog. Maps that are walks, performances, and public interventions. We talk about what is being mapped (a border, a memory, time), the methods used in mapping (GPS, Google Earth, a map of your bedroom, a map of your city) and the conditions, circumstances and environment that frame our mapping experience. Then, in groups of 3-4, you’ll decide on a theme (Your bodies? Your friendships? Your music collections? How you got to Cornish to study art?). As a group, you will have a conversation that maps your selected theme. Use large paper and a variety of materials to record this 2-dimensional map.

2. Site: Investigating Line
For this two-part investigation, we begin in the Foundations studio, invoking a line in the classroom. Using everyday materials (tracing paper, acetate, tape, fabric, pencil, string, Sharpie) you will follow a line in the room, exploring possibilities through architecture inside and outside the building.

For part two, your investigation of line moves into the topography that is the Cornish’s neighborhood. Using South Lake Union as your petri dish, you’ll embark upon a deeper investigation of the urban environment, seeking then enhancing the lines that define it. Your search will start with a walk in which you identify a line or a space that interests you. Once you’ve found it, you’ll make three sketches of the site. With each sketch, add a contrasting color, value or material to enhance/interrupt the line. Then, based on your sketches, decide how to mitigate the physical line through a temporal installation. With the introduction of materials (salt, chalk stencils, turmeric, candy, bread crumbs, thread, shredded newspaper, etc.), how will you stress or accentuate the line? We will visit the installations and you will document your work through photography. A minimum of three photographs should be taken showing an overall view from two angles and one detail.

3. Map 2: Track a Site Over 7 Days:
You will select a public space off-campus that will be the focus of your final proposal. You may stay with your last site or choose another, but be sure your chosen site provides opportunities to answer the following: what are the borders/boundaries/zones of your chosen location? How are they defined? Are these borders closed or permeable? Does a boundary need to be a physical object (a fence, a speedbump, a window, the checkout counter) or it more porous (your personal space when you talk publicly on the cell phone, your clothing, the distance you keep with strangers?) You will carefully monitor this site over seven days. How does a site change/stay the same over time? Determining your own process, you will use photo/video and/or audio documentation each day to track this specific site. Perhaps you leave something there each day. Perhaps you collect something there each day. As always, begin with research. Start by considering the history of the site, its former and current and future occupants. What is its intended use and actual use? Hold onto all of your research.

4. Artist Book: A Proposal for a Investigating Site, Shaping Meaning:
Now that you know your site well, your final project will be a proposal for a site-specific installation. Your job is to propose a way to point out this site to the passer-by who may no longer see what is there, or to ask the viewer to consider the site in a new way. Your proposal must expand, modify, or challenge the meaning of the site. The materials and techniques you choose should should both respond to and reinforce your site and process (coffee cups in a café, leaves in a park, and so on). Consider altering, assembling, accumulating or re-contextualizing.

Your final output will not be an installation, but rather a proposal. The proposal will be made in the form of an artist’s “book” (a book of your definition). Choose a book structure that expresses your site: use a structure we’ve made in class, modify one, or combine various attributes of a variety of books, boxes, bindings, etc. Any size is OK. Challenge the idea of what parts a book has, what books are/do, and how books appear. Think about the properties of the material you are using (wood, metal, plastic, paper, leaves, fabric, rubber, road maps, envelopes, bags, vellum, pencil, pen, string, etc.) and work with those limits/opportunities. Your artist’s book proposal shall include the following elements:

1. Narrative – Describe your proposal and installation plan. What do you intend to do to your site? At what scale? With what materials?
2. Artist Statement – Write a brief (one to two-paragraphs) statement that describes who you are and what kind of work you do. What is your background? Who are your influences?
3. Drawing/Painting – Create no less than three renderings of your proposal. Show us your plans from discrete angles, at different times of day.
4. Research Findings – include your findings from tracking your site over seven days.
5. Collage – Create a collage using found elements that relate to your site: digital images, nature, urban detritus, rubbings, sounds, video.
6. Digital sketch – using the skills you’ve acquired in your Digital Imaging class, you will create manufactured image that shows how you plan to alter your site. Look also at freeware such as Google’s Sketch-up (

Site. In site-specific work, idea and environment are inextricably intertwined. If moved to another location, the work becomes meaningless.

Installation. Installations are an ensemble of images and objects that are presented within a 3D environment. Installation rejects a concentration on the object, focusing instead on the relationships between place, time, and the viewer. Because we occupy the actual time and space of the artwork, we become physically engaged in an installation, and the aesthetic experience becomes more heightened

Space. Space is a dialogue between a form and its surroundings (like a stone placed in a glass of water, the large, solid mass seems to displace the surrounding space, pushing it into the edges of the room). Space is never passive or meaningless. Space can be manipulated very deliberately – how does it compress or expand? Work can activate a space, making it contemplative, agitated, threatening, serene.

Time. Every object occupies a position in time AND space; Is the specific temporal location of major or minor importance?

Intervention. Interventions interact with an existing venue or space (or existing artwork, audience, building) to challenges and bring comment. With the introduction of art work, how do our expectations/beliefs about that space change?

bookmaking supplies: bone folder, papers, needle + thread, chipboard, etc.
digital camera
drawing/painting implements
papers (drawing paper, colored papers, japanese, tagboard, and more)
adhesives (PVA, mod podge, white glue, spray adhesive)
assorted paint brushes
collage materials/found ephemera


Claude LeLouch (we viewed C'etait un rendez-vous--Marc)
Francis Alÿs (we watched El Gringo in class--Marc)
AREA Chicago
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
Gabriel Orozco
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Claes Oldenburg
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Andy Goldsworthy
Robert Smithson
Gordon Matta-Clark, his Bingo/Building Ninths
Robert Irwin
Maya Lin, her Confluence Project
Sarah Sze
Cecila Vicuna
Richard Long
Jenny Holzer
Ant Farm
Kelly Mark, her photo series Captured
Nancy Holt
Walter de Maria
Richard Serra
Lucas Samaras
James Turrell, his Skyspace at Henry Art Gallery
Bill Viola
Michael Heizer
Magdalena Abakanowicz
Trevor Paglen
Ellen Rothenberg
Janett Cardiff

Gaston Bachelard. The Poetics of Space. Beacon Press. 1969
Melissa Holbrook Pierson. The Place You Love is Gone.
James Howard Kunstler. The Geography of Nowhere, 1993
Center for Land Use Interpretation,
Robert Smithson, Collected Writings
Katherine Harmon, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination. 2003.


Week 1 – November 3-7
M 3/T 4 (ART + DESIGN COLLAB) Introduce Art + Design collaboration. Walk and document digitally.
Introduce Cluster #3. Class discussion and chart of what mapping can be: what are its synonyms? Hand out moleskins. View slides. Introduction to in-class map #1: Mapping a Conversation, A Moment in Time.

W 5/Th 6 (ART + DESIGN COLLAB) Introduce book-making. Design time.
Class discussion of process book assignment on cognitive mapping. Continue map #1. Introduce Site: Investigating Line. Issue map of South Lake Union. Discuss issues + influences in unsanctioned public interventions. Site: Investigating Line in-class exercise.
F 7 Foundations scripted walk with moleskins.

Week 2 – November 10-14
M 10 (ART + DESIGN COLLAB) Continue work outside of class on book.
Find a site on-campus for line intervention. Drawing. Prepare drawings/proposals for discussion W/Th.

T 11/11 Veteran’s Day Holiday – no class

W 12/Th 13 (ART + DESIGN COLLAB) Continue work outside of class on book.
Class discussion of sites and sketches.
F 14 Cooperative or Commercial? Visits to Crawl Space Gallery and Grey Gallery + Lounge

Week 3 – November 17-21
M 17/T 18 (ART + DESIGN COLLAB) Critique of Art + Design book project.

Discuss map 3: tracking a site over seven days. Submit plans W/Th for tracking (to be completed by M 12/1). Begin installation of site line intervention. Document all work.

W 18/Th 20 Critique site line interventions (w/ Seniors visiting from Sr studios?). Discuss final project – Artist’s Book Proposal. Begin work on artist’s book. 7-days of tracking should be happening outside of class.
F 21 bookmaking workshop with Dan Shafer and others

Week 4 – November 24-28
M 24/T 25 Workshop on writing artist’s statement and narrative for final proposal. Research and writing. Further discussion of artists’ books. Begin preliminary sketches on your book form. Build dummies.
W 26/Th 27 no class – Happy Thanksgiving
F 28 no class – Happy Thanksgiving

Week 5 – December 1-5
M 1/T 2 Work day – Artist’s Book Proposal. Work on drawing/painting and collage. Begin work on book form.
W 3/Th 4 Work day – Artist’s Book Proposal. Continue drawing/painting and book construction.
F 5 Gallery visit: Western Bridge

Week 6 – December 8-12
M 8/T 9 Work day – Artist’s Book Proposal
W 10/Th 11 Final critique
F 12 1st Annual Cornfounded Drawing Smackdown
image: Mark Dion, Thames Dig