Current Reblogger: Chloë Bass

Chloë Bass is an artist, curator and community organizer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-lead organizer for Arts in Bushwick (, which produces the ever-sprawling Bushwick Open Studios, BETA Spaces, and performance festival SITE Fest, which she founded. Recent artistic work has been seen at SCOPE Art Fair, CultureFix, the Bushwick Starr Theater, Figment, and The Last Supper Art Festival, as well as in and around the public spaces of New York City. She has guest lectured at Parsons, the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn College. Other moments have found her co-cheffing Umami: People + Food, a 90 person private supper club; growing plants with Boswyck Farms (; and curating with architecture gallery SUPERFRONT ( Chloë holds a BA in Theater Studies from Yale University, and an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) from Brooklyn College.

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I'll start by revisiting Wochen Klausur's Intercultural Intersections:

"To show that nationality and ethnic background do not have to be the main characteristics that allow a group to form identity, WochenKlausur established three interest groups whose members differ in nationality but share interests, concerns or requirements."

And then we'll move to Alfredo Jaar's Skoghall Konsthall. Skoghall is a paper-mill town in Sweden. Konsthall means Art Center. Alfredo Jaar built an art center out of paper in the town of Skoghall, and held an opening featuring art works by Skoghall town residents. He then asked the townspeople to remove their works after the reception, and set fire to the building, pissing a lot of people off.

Several years later the town had raised enough funds to hire him to design a permanent Art Center. Essentially, he created a void the town didn't know they had, by giving them an art center they didn't think they wanted, and then taking it away.

Fallen Fruit maps fruit trees in public spaces and leads tours for urban foraging. They've done a nice job of finding gallery-ready derivatives of their participatory actions.

And we'll finish with Michael Reynolds ("The Garbage Warrior"), who sold shares of a housing community for "less than a night out on the town," but required residents to build their own homes, testing his aggressively sustainable architecture techniques.

The two major tactics for creating community in these participatory projects are giving something away, and uncovering common interests. From personal experience, I know that art based on the gift is most successful when there is reciprocation: when the receiver must give something in return, or prove some level of commitment. Requiring Skoghall to raise the funds for an art center makes the town more accountable and invested in the success of the project. Giving people the tool to gather fruit rather than simply giving them fruit forces them to work together and learn. And by making someone's home their method of participation in a community, Michael Reynolds finds a practical, non-art anchor to pretty much guarantee committment and investment.

As participatory works operate outside of traditional art contexts, it becomes important to uncover reasons for working outside of art justifications. I'm not talking about making art "practical," but of considering communities as participants rather than venues or materials. Or, if we think about it in sculptural terms, considering participants as materials with aspects and qualities that are integral to the structure being created from that material.



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occupation forces at dumbo from mark skwarek on Vimeo.

Mark Skwarek sez:

"The Occupation Forces project is the invasion of public space by alien invaders. The work mixes alien invasion mythology with imagery of troop occupation in foreign lands. The aliens attempt and fail at controlling a stylized consumer society as people go about their daily business. The project uses augmented reality on the iPhone 3GS.

*** Please know that this is a work in progress.

This work was made by Mark Skwarek, Joseph Hocking, and Thomas Burns."



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Jenni Lee is a painter who creates hybrids that slide between punful and meaningful, silly and sad - Asian Obama,for instance, or Patrick Swayze's eyes with Farah Fawcett's hair...

Here I am posting one of her google watercolors, in which an inkjet print, a google image search, and a watercolor brush charged only with water meet in ethereal post-digitalness.

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Morgan Barnicoat and Matt Jacobs spent much of this spring creating positive puzzle pieces for in-between places in Providence, Rhode Island. They fitted a stairway onto a rolling hill of asphalt, creating an "official" entrance through a torn-fence. They built a D.I.Y. bus shelter in a sorely needed spot. And they've installed Sasquatch sitings throughout the city, as part of a long-term strategy to highlight places in need of intervention.

Their brand of guerilla good uses punk urban design to re-claim "public" space for people.

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"The Atlas Group was founded by Walid Raad as an imaginary foundation to research and document the contemporary history of Lebanon."

"From 1975 until 1991, Dr. Fadl Fakhouri was in the habit of carrying two 8mm cameras with him wherever he went. With one camera he exposed a frame of film every time he thought the wars had come to an end. With the other camera he exposed a frame of film every time he came across a sign of a doctor's or dentist's office."

They don't seem to consider any of this art, but Improv Everywhere blur reality in playful ways on a regular basis. In The Moebius, they set up a simple scene in a coffee shop, that played out over and over again. You've probably heard about this on This American Life, but I think it's worthwhile to consider in the context of participatory and guerrilla art as well.

And on the guerrilla tip, we have those Williamsburg Bike Lanes - removed supposedly because of culture clash between the Hasidim and "skimpily clad hipster girls on bikes", and then repainted in the night. Over and over again.

Here we have Steinbrenner-Dempf building a fake STARBUCKS COMING SOON construction site over the facade of an old european church, presumably prompting pre-emptive outrage.

I've mentioned Book a Muslim, but it's good to revisit here. An service that actually exists, which still manages to blur reality.

So, to bring that all together, we've got a fictional person exploring actual events, a time loop inserted into unsuspecting everyday life, unauthorized bike lanes creating a wanted reality, an inflammatory construction site helping prevent an unwanted reality, and a needed but unconventional service that crosses social boundaries. There's a guerrilla aspect to a lot of this work, implementing the reality you want or don't want on an unsuspecting public. Some of these works provide a service with these interventions. And every time, there has to be an entry point of believability, so that we are blurring reality rather than sharing in a performance.



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(Off to Eyebeam myself now to install Ghana Think Tank and WPA 2010 for the upcoming show at Eyebeam: Re:Group: Beyond Models of Consensus. It opens June 10, with a VIP opening June 8. Come on by!)

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Krzysztof Wodiczko worked with homeless people to design the perfect homeless shopping cart.


Fritz Haeg worked with homeowners to turn their lawns into little farms.

Daniel Martinez blocked off a heavily trafficked section of Cornell University's campus a la Paris 1968.


Steinbrenner-Dempf covered every advert on a street in Vienna with bright solid yellow.


Hewlett and Kinsley staged a series of tableaux along Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh's Northside in collaboration with Google Streetview.


Mary Coble posed statue-like on a street, inviting passers-by to mark her body with epithets they'd been called or heard used against others.

Enabling, blocking, manipulating, collaborating... In these works, as we move from appropriation to intervention, we really begin to see the artists take control of an existing situation. By creating machines, working directly with participants to create new uses, actively blocking participants daily habits, or inserting new elements, hurdles, or tasks into the everyday, there is a sense of working both with and against the participants.

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More on the absurb and wonderful slip-ups in the "real" world tip, Josh Atlas is currently bathing in preserved donuts in my bathtub.

Shown here are photos of the C-section section of his "Baby Mama" competition, in which he discovered he was pregnant and so sought out his best Baby's Mama:

"Contestants had to cut through several layers of papier-mache and safely extract a balloon to prove their ability to make precise incisions under pressure."

Much more where that came from.



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Zuri Waters stages quixotic events that wade between happening and intervention through fake protest (which is actually real affirmation) of the absurd.

In this piece, he approached juggalos outside an Insane Clown Posse-derivative show, and asked them to pose with his hand-made Rudolph the Reindeer signs. They agreed, and gleefully smashed them to pieces. He returned later that night with a life-size cut-out of a Goth I.C.P., and asked them to pose again.

I can't find him online, but he has staged happy and absurd protests that ended in coffee at starbucks with their placards leaned against the storefront, and used Donkin Donuts lettering to alter their marketing message to what donuts are really about:

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Guy Ben Ner, Stealing Beauty is a sitcom/soap opera performed by his family in a series of IKEA stores, without permission.

Parfyme's Tent Show turned the Nikolaj Kunstallen/ Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center into an artistic squat. Asked to "house" the Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center's 30 year video collection, they invited 40 artists to build tents in the museum, and live in those tents during the show. One artist's tent held a freegan kitchen, so we pretty much never had to leave the place.

In these works, appropriation starts to become outright abuse, but in the end, by taking control of an existing situation, technology, or place, it really creates new capabilities. At the openng of the show, the Copenhagen Art Center commented that while this idea had at first seemed very scary, in the end, they realized it was a model that had allowed them to house 40 artists in Copenhagen for less that the usual cost of one...

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