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Inside Out: Making Nebulous Art: Ridiculous, necessary.

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These terms:

Interactive
Interdisciplinary
Installation
Process-Based
Participatory
Site-Specific

Each in its own way makes my head hurt and collectively make me want to back quietly and slowly out of the room.

Here's an idea based project of mine called Attendant, that qualifies for the use of all of these terms, from the past year.

All idea based interdisciplinary (add terms - whatever) work, including my own strike me at times, as a little ridiculous and overwhelming. When I reach that tired point, I just draw for a while and give the big ideas / projects a rest.

In resting mode, I make direct, basic drawings, and sometimes painting or sculpture: quietly, with my hands and eyes. After a while, I am re-inspired to go back out to the more vulnerable, thin-air kind of interactive work again.

With Attendant, I work with institutions and employees who've volunteered to participate while working. The project involves a lot of collaborative interaction, sometimes in work places that aren't art-related.

Each participant picks a repeating sensory 'event' to notice while working, placing one large visible marker for each instance as it comes up. I interview each participant after the observation interval. People share their experience of how interactions and events flow and unfold, and what kind of thoughts crop up when paying attention to a subtle, repeating, sensory input, giving it substance in the space around them.

Barbara, the participant in this image, had insights about people laughing for all kinds of social reasons that weren't about something being funny.

Jean (above) was used to talking a fair amount with museum visitors, and was fascinated by how things shifted when she was quiet and noting eye contact, and by all the questions and thoughts it brought up in her mind.

I'm glad to be making this work because it thus far has offered a perspective shift that's direct and immediate to people participating, walking through, or seeing documentation, into what is actually happening in a shared interaction, roles, what we notice—and all sorts of other openings about who makes and what is, the art.

And now, I've been saving this Portlandia short for you, because it offers some real world perspective on these endeavors. Even the most profoundly meaningful work out in the world is a little absurd. It's important for me to remember this. How else can we begin it if we can't laugh at it and at ourselves a little?

PS. 'Attendant' is ongoing, and I'm always looking for front desks, regular desks, attendant posts and other stationary sitting or standing situations. Please be in touch if you have a circumstance in mind!!


All photographs taken by Lisa Abitbol or by Hannah Burr. Participating institutions and individual employees are listed in the order shown.

'Attendant: Sloan School MIT ', Participant: Kim Cowperthwaite. January 2012
'Attendant: Currier Museum', Participant: Chelcie George. February 2012
'Attendant: Peddock's Island', Participant: Justin Moody. August 2012
'Attendant: Currier Museum', Participant: Barbara Shepler. Feb 2012
'Attendant: Currier Museum', Participant: Jean McGiffin. Feb 2012

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About Author

Hannah Burr is our November-December Inside Out artist-in-residence.

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