Artful Green Dot

Once More to Bushwick

Posted in Spaces & Environments by Audrey Tran on November 13, 2010



The road sign on Bogart Street is twisted so that part of the name is missing, and from one angle, one seems to be approaching a place called, “ART St.” That had been one of the first sights I came across about a year ago when visiting Bushwick during the 2009 BETA Spaces Festival. At the time, I had been new to the area and sights like this came off as especially welcoming. I felt at home.  Now, I regularly trample through this community for shows and talks, and I look forward to annual events like the BETA Spaces Festival, which arrives this Sunday.

Over 50 group exhibitions will open from Noon until 7PM.  Some will appear in the usual gallery setting and a number of others will spring up in unexpected spaces.  See the map and a complete list of shows. writes of a greater  emphasis on alternative spaces in this year’s festival. Stephen TRAUX highlighted Marni KOTAK’s show, Welcome to My House as one promising example.

L Magazine also decided to spotlight 10 BETA shows.

Here’s a sampling of exhibits that might attract the green minded, art-enthusiast:

CONVERGENCE, a group exhibit organized by Lumenhouse.  See additional images of the show on the AIB BETA directory.

AMERICAN GARBAGE at the Loom. More details here.

Chris Harding’s INTRUDER at English Kills Gallery.

In addition to these visual events, I’m excited for the afternoon panel, “Artists on the Block.” Artist, Laura Braslow will moderate a discussion on the impact of the art community’s effects on the Bushwick landscape.

The photo above comes from Sparkle Motion, a show from the 2009 BETA festival. It was an exhibit creatively stationed in a well-decorated, saucy U-HAUL. Another Sparkle Motion should be on view this year too.





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The View From Above

Posted in Uncategorized by Audrey Tran on December 27, 2009

Bird’s Eye View in Fairfield, CT

Originally organized and conceived by Ryan Dean with the help of countless others around the world.

Participants in the Bird’s Eye View have a unique way of petitioning for the reduction of carbon emissions through collaborative installations built on rooftops across the world.  Upon these rooftops, collaborators unload pounds and pounds of plastics, paper, fabric, and other used materials, which they then arrange into the number, “350,” a massive 350 that can be seen from airplanes.

These installations call attention to the reduction of carbon emissions in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, which is a level prominent scientists (i.e. NASA’s James Hansen) have identified as “the only safe level of carbon dioxide in the air.”

The following images come from Birds Eye View pieces around the globe:

Maine, USA


Democratic Republic of Congo

Brooklyn, USA


Bushwick, NY (Beta Spaces ’09)


BEV installations are not just piles of material forming signage. Those working around the BEV think of these collaborations as “nests,” and like birds, these nests require a collection process.

For example, in the installation at Fairfield University, students started a campaign to collect old bed sheets from members of the community. At Beta Spaces, collaborators used recycled materials to create art pieces to form the numbers. In Maine, Ryan Dean (the original creator of BEV) organized lumber yards to donate tarp-like materials for the projects.  For the piece in the Congo, stalks of bark from Banana trees formed the numbers.  At Brooklyn College, people used recycled art work (old paintings) and tarps for the 350. In a sense, each of the nests reflect bits of the surrounding environment.

The Bird’s Eye View has also joined networks with other groups across the world. In China,  participants from an environmental effort known as Greening of the Beige created their own nest using old magazines. Another eco-minded group known as Reverse Garbage in Australia also collaborated with BEV.

These billboard-sized nests attract attention in a fashion similar to the desperate signaling employed by those trapped on uninhabited islands.  I find this very fascinating, but more importantly, the idea behind BEV is to capture 350 from a perspective that allows one to absorb the surrounding environment in such a way that we can actually see the spread of houses, buildings, and other human detritus growing across the Earth.

For many of us, this BEV portrait of Earth isn’t something we confront on a daily basis, for we approach the architecture of our cities and suburbs on the ground. We move in and out of buildings, across streets, and through one city’s end to another city’s end without that ever-present view from above.

In a recent email exchange, one of the collaborators wrote, “Sometimes you have to look at things from a broadened perspective to see them clearly. It is in a global perspective that we may begin to change things together.”

Bird’s Eye View originally began under the direction of Ryan Dean from Cranston, RI. Since its inception during the winter of 2008, people such as Laura Marie Marciano and a network of individuals  have assisted Dean by writing proposals for the project, traveling with him to spread the mission, and putting in hours to construct/document the installations.   I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Marie on a rooftop where she displayed a Bird’s Eye View piece during Beta Spaces ’09.

Tan Lin’s Landscape of Poetry, Text, and Pictures: A Piece from PERFORMA ’09

Posted in Actions by Audrey Tran on November 18, 2009

Tan Lin’s Chalk Playground (LitTwit Chalk) set about a dozen+  artists and writers to chalk their thoughts on the streets of NY last Saturday. Pieces chalked included a Futurist Manifesto, a Chinese Manifesto, and many other impromptu pieces of poetry. The following pictures catch the “poetry line” working away in a parking lot in Chinatown.

Here’s a favorite:

I only caught up with the poetry line downtown, but the entire performance actually traveled across Manhattan.

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BETA Spaces 2009

Posted in Exhibits by Audrey Tran on November 12, 2009


I’m not much of a Bushwick expert, but  I felt pleasantly welcomed by the neighborhood’s energy as I trampled through BETA Spaces ’09 on Sunday.

After last year’s festival, we saw some fine writing that delivered an overview of the event, but for BETA Spaces ’09, I’d like to work on posts devoted to a few of the individual shows that made up this now annual event. Until then, here are some photos from the weekend.







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Speakers from the Hay QUA! Festival

Posted in Uncategorized by Audrey Tran on November 3, 2009

audrey_tran_smallWell, this post certainly isn’t timely (The Hay Qua! Fest happened in June) but I can’t resist posting these neat illustrations, newly discovered in the archives of my gmail inbox.  Donny Tran, one of the Hay QUA!  directors made these after the show.

I enjoyed coming across these drawings and recalling  all the talks and amazing things people are doing in creative fields. That’s what the festival was really about–bringing together people from the Vietnamese community who work in creative fields in the hopes of inspiring future collaborations…only, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to connect with those wonderful folks.  Outside of the festival, I think I’ve only run into one other speaker briefly by coincidence last summer.

Well, if future Hay Qua! Festivals happen, I will definitely be a supporter.



















tung small

kim suprlock small

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Bushwick’s BETA Spaces

Posted in Exhibits, Spaces & Environments by Audrey Tran on October 30, 2009

Remember the date– Sunday, NOV. 8TH–if you plan to catch Bushwick’s 3rd annual festival of art in unorthodox spaces. For months, the directors of Arts in Bushwick have been organizing artists, curators, and people with access to spaces to create this day of group shows.

A few of the themed collaborations caught my Artful Green eye:

Allyson Parker’s The Kotel, “(aka “The Western Wall”) will be reconstructed in Bushwick out of recycled fabrics. Paper and pens will be available for the public to write down their wishes and insert them into the “wall”. At the end of the show all wishes will be gathered and faxed to the Israeli Telephone Company a fax service directed to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.”

The Bird’s Eye-View, organized by Laura-Marie Marciano and supported by 350: “The Bird’s Eye View is a network of recycled art installations, constructed on rooftops, in collaboration and support of 350, an international grass-roots organization for the reduction of carbon emissions. Images of the installations will be taken to be spread by use of the media to the general public, raising awareness about global warming. The images send a message of green peace, global solidarity, and a broadened human perspective. ”


Because of a very wonderful older sister, I now have a lovely digital camera to employ while covering this event.  Look out for more photos of the Bushwick arts scene in future posts.

Happy art-hopping, everyone!

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Pictures from Storm King Art Center

Posted in Spaces & Environments by Audrey Tran on October 29, 2009

STORM_1Storm King Art Center is a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature…”

Although I’ve seen plenty of public art pieces around New York, I’ve rarely seen such an enormous arena devoted to placing art in the environment.   The park seeks to create a dialogue between earth and art, but I wonder if Storm King actually accomplishes this. In many cases, I saw the artwork as an overly dominate force in the landscape while the natural surroundings in some parts seem primed just to fit the specific needs of the artwork. At other times, for example when I saw Sol Lewitt’s contribution to SK, I had to ask myself why such works require this setting. Perhaps the aethetics of the outdoors can be reason enough.

There are, of course, works at SK which definitely benefit when viewed in this unique park. Nam June Paik’s Waiting for U.F.O and Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall strike me as two good examples.

Here are a few photos from a trip to SK in September.


Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall '97-98


Sol Lewitt, Five Modular Units, 1966

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The Aura of 2012+

Posted in Exhibits by Audrey Tran on October 15, 2009

Despite the cold rain two weekends ago, I managed to get to the opening of this new show in Chelsea.  The Drop Gallery is currently showing works from about thirty international artists who have been asked to explore urban environments.


Some artists approached the subject by documenting peculiar intimacies of urban life (one multi-part sound piece exposes different noises found around famous NYC sites) Others such as Adrian Kondratowicz and Saya Woolfalk created art pieces that draw attention to our already existing world.  On a quick Tweet, I noted that Kondratowicz’s hot pink and black spotted trash bags make garbage look like a party. His installation looked more like life-sized plastic bags for party favors rather than containers of garbage.  Likewise, Woolfalk installed a video of No Place among one of her sculptures created from recycled materials–imagine glue bottles, milk jugs, and soup cans now paper mached and regally covered in gold paint. In No Place, bits of our world seem to emerge subtly, but are always present.

Of the many ways the 2012+ artists handled the subject, I was drawn most to the works that revolved around collaboration–either among the viewers present, or from pre-arranged participants. For example, Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree invites passersby to scribble a wish on note tags, which can then be tied to a potted tree resting in the gallery. Since I caught the show during the first hour of the opening,  only a few notes had been tagged to the tree, but I can imagine how filled it must be by now–and this is quite an image. How blithe and spiritual, it seems, to unload wishes upon a tree. Ono has been showing such pieces since the 1990’s and has previously said “All [her] works are a form of wishing.

Although his international collaboration is set for viewing in December, Hiroshi Sunairi’s Tree Project also made a debut at 2012+ with a sampling of the beautiful trees from his NY participants.

Sunairi’s project is an open call to anyone who wishes to participate in “the pleasure of growing plants,” specifically Hibaku plants, which are seeds that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

TONIGHT, The Drop will host a closing party for the show and will feature a variety of professionals speaking on their reflections of the word “environment” using no more than “20 slides for 20 seconds” a piece.

2012+ is on view at the Drop Pop Up Gallery on West 25th Street (between 10th and 11th ave) in Chelsea.  See it before October 17th!

Discussing Political Art with Saya Woolfalk

Posted in Interviews by Audrey Tran on September 29, 2009

Several months ago, Saya Woolfalk kindly took the time to talk with me about her artwork in conjunction with political art–a topic I’ve been pondering while looking at environmentalism.  The New York-born artist works in a variety of media–from painting and performance to video, sculpture, installation, and frequent mixtures of all the above.   The following is a transcript of our conversation, which happened over the phone:

Audrey Tran: What have you been doing up in Buffalo?

Saya Woolfalk: I’ve been working on a dance piece called The Ritual of the Empathics. It’s a continuation of the project that I did at the Studio Museum in Harlem last summer, and basically it’s the dance portion of No Place.

I’m trying to bring this fictional world into reality by making something with modern dancers. I’m working with these women who are collaboratively choreographing a dance piece with parameters that I give them. Some of the parameters I give them are from Abstract Expressionist paintings. I ask them to use those painting as the foundations for discussing this movement and image.

The women are supposed to be these people from 2009 who are trying to bring utopia into the present by doing this kind of ritualistic modern dance.

AT: What kind of background do they have?  Are they mostly contemporary dancers?

SW: They’re all students of The University of Buffalo studying various forms of contemporary dance.  They range in age from 18 to 22 years old.  They’re current students, so this for them is a part of expanding their dance education. None of them have ever done any performance artwork before, so this is an extension of their education.

AT: What’s it like working with them?  Is that community very different from working with other artists?

SW: Yeah, it is different. They’re very independent minded, so they definitely have their own ideas and bring a lot to the table.  But the background of information they have is different from the background contemporary artists or young artists that I’ve worked with have.  They don’t have art history; they dance history. Although there are moments where dance and art history touch—like with Merce Cunningham, Bauhaus, and even ritual and religious rituals—their backgrounds are very different, which is refreshing actually.

You get a different approach to art making.

AT: I’m always interested in these area where these different worlds kind of mix up.  Lately, I’ve been looking at how the art world mixes or might mix with the world of science.

But moving on, I’m curious about how this is coming out visually.  Are you apart of the costume design or the installation of the where the dance takes place? What role do you play in the visuals?

SW: Basically, we kind of cleared out this space in the middle of the gallery with just a blank space. So at the beginning of the show, the entire gallery was installed except for this giant blank space in the middle of the gallery, which was about 18 by 24 feet.

At the beginning of the show, the blank space represented this total space of possibility.  And so through the collaboration, that total space of possibility ended up full of parameters. We slowly constructed it with parameters and rules and that’s how this project started and continued…

It looks more abstract. It’s really quite liberally sparse, more like early 20th century performative issues like Bauhaus. It’s going back to a certain moment in time when people thought that, or at least when in art history, they thought when art could be in collaboration with life it could actually transform our understanding of the world. So again, it looks like the Ethnography of No Place, which I worked on with Rachel Lears, but basically, while Ethnography harkens back to Surrealism, with this project, we’re harkening back to Bauhaus. The aesthetics are definitely related to Lygia Clark’s work in art and Augusto Boals’ work with theater. Because the aesthetic and the dance and the movement is coming out of the series of propositions, it of course isn’t going to look exactly like Oskar Schlemmer, you know. And we hope that it doesn’t. I hope it takes on this other character. It’s much more like, to give you a shorthand answer, it’s much more austere.

AT: I’m excited to see it, I guess it’ll come about online somewhere?

SW: It’s going to be presented in the Studio Museum in Harlem in November. It’s a continuation of the project (No Place).

AT: I’ve been looking through your website and came across some terms I thought I might ask you about. This idea of 4-d art, what is it?

SW:  It’s a term that I took from going to the Art Institute of Chicago to reference anything that is time based. So, studio performance, sound, things like that.

AT: That makes sense now in terms of what I saw in that section of your website. Maybe now we can go on to that political art part that I wanted to talk about.  I thought you would be a really good person to talk to because some of our past conversations brought up these issues.

For you, what makes a piece of art political?

SW: Interesting question. It is a difficult question to answer because it’s so different depending on the political moment.  I don’t think I can tell you universally what a piece of political art is because it is difficult to give it a blanket term.

I can tell you how I think the term political art is being used in a couple ways in contemporary art. But I can’t say this applies to all art because it changes over time—what is political changes, the relevance of art in society changes.

I’m thinking of Bauhaus and early 20th century forms and back then, political art probably was something that people actually thought could transform the material existence of the world into some sort of political movement. Even in the identity politics movement of the 70’s and 60’s, art forms were working in tandem with political movements and that made the artwork become something which seems to be politically relevant.

Well, what’s political? I don’t want to say “politically relevant” because there are all sorts of things that are politically relevant, without them being political.

I can say what could potentially be politically relevant to contemporary art today.  I’ve seen a lot of artists today who deal with story telling, this kind of grappling with the reality of the individual in a society, which is changing and shifting.

It might not be political in the polemical sense. It’s political in the sense that it’s trying to map the terrain of an ever-changing society.  That’s how I think of my work as political, much more like a folk story that attempts to capture what’s going on right now.

AT: It’s a term that gets a lot of negative feelings. I know of some artists who don’t like it when others recognize their work as political. For you, is that ever an annoyance?

SW: Not particularly, I think because I’ve thought a lot about what it means for a piece of art to be political. I can’t obviously speak for all these people who don’t like the term, but the resistance that I’ve heard is that it kind of puts you in this didactic position and it undermines the poetics of the art, but I don’t actually think political art needs to necessarily undermine poetics at all. I think politics are completely intertwined with the beauty of life and the difficulties and conflicts.

AT: That’s what I’ve been hearing from others—that it becomes a simplistic term and it undermines the work.  So now, it’s popped up a couple times in the articles that I’ve found about you. Some of the other terms were

“Post colonial concerning, concerned about body politics, having an Asian-African background, obsessive…” I think there was something about being perverse and cute at the same time. Are these accurate or appropriate terms, or are there any in particular that stress you out?

SW: I kind of think it would be great if human beings could understand one another without the terms they use to segregate, understand, and know—that would be great but we live in the world of language and we live in a world with so many people and so many backgrounds.

This is kind of implicit in your question, for artists who are not considered apart of identities politics, identities were in fact grounded in their or at least mentioned in the publicity that comes out about them.  Because it implies the universality of their position. Or if we could get back to thinking about you know, how could we, and that’s a little bit about what the No Place project is about—this kind of slippage between the language that codifies us and the inability to capture the entirety of the subject.

That moment in between.

And it would be great if we could and I think it is possible if human beings could get to a point where we could understand the total complexities of one another.  And that’s what we do in interpersonal relationships.  And, well, some people are just looking for sound bites.

There was an article that a PHD at the University of Chicago wrote about my project and I was grateful, but in that essay there is this kind of elusive…

AT: Sorry, what was this work?

It’s in a journal from the Hemispheric Institute website.  It’s at NYU actually. They put out a performance journal.  So, it’s really complicated—there’s this desire to translate an artist’s work for people without oversimplifying, but then there’s this conflict in oversimplifying it. But then people actually go see the work and that can transform their ideas.

AT: When you mentioned those sound bites that people look for, I was thinking of that Asian African Background description that follows you in a couple of these press releases, and I’m wondering if this one in particular has ever come to you as a stress.

SW: No not really, you know maybe because these are terms that I use to understand myself, so I actually don’t.  I think your question is whether or not it’s relevant. I think it is actually is relevant, so I have no opposition to such codification.

AT: So Brazil, I think that was a really interesting part of your work. Maybe we can talk about how those experiences changed your view of art making?

SW: Actually, my time in Sao Pauolo is really informing the project I’m working on now. When I was in Sao Paolo, I was studying dance. I’m not really a dancer, but I was looking for a way to get some exercise so I kept taking these classes at a contemporary dance studio in Sao Paolo.

And so, you know, the kind of strategies and the collective imagining, the collective moving through space, choreographing, and improvisations—all of those techniques really influenced the way I decided to construct this new permutation of No Place.

Then, also when I was in Sao Paulo, I was really lucky to get to see a retrospective of Lygia Clark’s work and when I was in Rio, I saw Augusto Boal do one permutation of his Rainbow Theater. And you know all of these influences keep coming back from my time in Brazil.

Before it had been all about carnival and the aesthetic of religious rituals. Now I’m thinking more about modernism in Brazil and social movements.

AT: Was it a whole year or more time than that?

SW: It was two years actually, and I spent much of the time in the US as well, going back and forth.

AT: The environment and it’s relationship to art is what I’ve been trying to study.  I’m not totally sure how to tie it into our conversation, but maybe we can just start with “Eco Art.”  How do you react to that term or the artists working in this realm?

SW:  I don’t know that much about ecologically conscious art, but I’m very interested in the subject. The reason why I’ve made that a part of the project is because No Place is supposed to be a collective utopian imagining and that’s one of the issues that we’re thinking about so much right now. It’s the relevant part of imagining what a future utopia could be.

So I wasn’t specifically interested in the environment, but when you start thinking about consumerism and consumer society, you also face a heavy toll and impact not just on the environment, but on the third world.

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Roxy Paine’s Maelstrom

Posted in Uncategorized by Audrey Tran on September 21, 2009

I chose to photograph Roxy Paine’s sculpture using my last three Polaroids.PAINE_Malestrom1 copy



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