A couple of fun trouble-makers gave artist talks at Elsewhere tonight.
Joey Orr led it off. The guy had me when he unveiled prints he made on gum wrappers. He does videos, prints, and multimedia work that involves his research into LGBT history. When I say it involves his research I mean just that — his involvement with his subjects becomes mixed up with his subject in a way that might make believers in clinical objectivity in research pop a gasket. Good.
Orr, who is from the South, recalled the process in his youth of trying to do away with his deep accent. As a mature artist reflecting on the past and the role of individuals reacting within a broad cultural/historical/etc environment, he decided to go to a speech therapist to try to regain his accent and return to that deep southern drawl that years of education and moving around the country managed to erase. The end result of this project is funny, ya’ll. Bless his heart. (Check out the audio here.)
As the audio piece shows, Orr brings a sense of playfulness and engagement to his work while having the background of serious academic chops. His exploration of the 1950s letters between two gay lovers from Atlanta merits more attention than my smart aleck self can deliver right now.
After Orr, Greg Bloom jumped up with an energy that merged two things I love: Internet gung-ho can-do-ism and collectivist non-profit do-goodery. I am fairly certain most of those things aren’t words, but say them slowly and they’ll make sense. I promise.
Bloom gave an enthusiastic and optimistic talk about various social enterprises he’s been involved with, which culminated in a triumvirate of commons, cooperatives, and coproduction. He is interested in bringing the cooperative and collaborative successes from online to real-world scenarios. (Since today was the day I handed in my last check to my daughter’s cooperative daycare, I was less than receptive about the glories of coops.) But I’m a sucker for this stuff and it’s important for artists to lead the way to imagining new futures.
Nevertheless, I felt my optimism deflate when a question from the room was “So have you found a solution yet?”
The reason for my deflation is that the question itself is technocratic, as if solving social problems is like solving a math equation. Once it’s done it’s done. Right?
I think of these things more like getting your car fixed. The work is never done. You hope to keep the things rolling and sounding beautiful. But the one thing you can be guaranteed of is that problems will come back again. The most important thing isn’t solving the problem for good but in a constant engagement with the health and beauty of the thing.
I’d like to note that Bloom was the recipient of my Overheard Comment of the Week (OCOW!). On the way out I heard a guy explain to his date, “He was more like a communist than an artist.”