Remembering Hans Breder

Sunday, June 18th my major professor, Hans Breder, passed away. Hans was instrumental in the development of video and performance art, launching the first MFA in Intermedia/Multimedia at the University of Iowa after a career in New York, showing at the Richard L Feigen gallery and continuing through recent shows at the Dansiger Gallery.

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Breder was considered a minimalist, creating combines of mirrors, reflective boxes and simple linear paintings as well as body sculptures, photos of women with mirrors. The paintings would be reflected by the boxes and mirrors, creating an interactive experience for the viewer. As the viewer moves around the art object, it changes composition. Static lines become moving shapes and the focal point changes within the composition. Breder explored ‘liminal‘ spaces. A limen is a doorway between spaces, and Breder explored the metaphysical components of this concept. What is the reality of the painting or the reflective object? When we look through a mirror into a transitory “space.” In academic terms, the Intermedia/Multimedia program was developed for the purpose to explore the indefinite spaces between art forms.

Breder also explored the history of his home country, Germany in a 1996 interactive CD ROM, The Nazi Loop. Growing up in a violent and chaotic post World War II working class town Breder began looking beyond his current condition at an early age. I asked him about that time and he had little to say beyond the uncertainty of that time and place. His experiences in the art world and New York where there was an openness to explore the new and to take the time to try were the experiences on which he wanted to ruminate.

I recall a day in class where he lamented artist’s unwillingness to take time the way the experimentalists of the 1960’s and 70’s would. He described a performance where by hour nine only he and the artist were left in the performance space. “Something else happens when you stay with a performance for that long,” he said. Our intermedia studio was four hours and we usually experienced between one and four performances each class.

Breder’s program has influenced the history of modern, postmodern and contemporary art, including noted alumni Anna Mendieta and Charles Ray. Graduates of the program have worked as studio assistants for the likes of Bill Viola, known for making high budget, boundary pushing video portraits and sculptural installations exploring, nature, beauty and the spiritual in art. Others, like myself, have gone on to teach art and design, bringing the Intermedia approach to process and interdisciplinary thinking to design and media classrooms. He brought numerous visiting artists, including collaborations with recently deceased poet, performance, installation and video artist, and architectural instigator Vito Acconci.

In my own experience, Breder’s teaching opened me up to a new way of looking and deconstructing the world, its messages, ideas and images. The summer after moving from Iowa to Portland Oregon I made a video piece to reflect on my own thinking about the works of Breder, Mendieta and Aconci.

Something I struggled with and doubted in the program was the social value of the reduction of boundaries. Over the years I’ve met numerous women who felt Breder came on too strong. At a gallery opening in Portland one artist told me, “one time he came into my studio while I was painting, pulled me toward him and began weeping while holding me in a bear hug.” Others indicated that they had to continually brush off or create barriers between themselves and Breder because of his constant presentation of sexualized tone and innuendo. The former students affirmed the value of the program and experience, yet expressed a component of boundary maintenance that was not required of male students. These expressions led me to perceive that the experience of the program was unlikely to be the same across gender lines, and that a rigorous respect for students and clear ethical boundaries regarding interpersonal relationships between instructors and students is an imperative in continuing the legacy of liminal and intermedia arts.

The value of the thinking produced by Breder’s program continues today. The program and Breder’s instruction were at the forefront of the transition from technique and product based arts education to process and innovation based training. Today as media and tools for creating and expressing continue to proliferate we see the emergence of balanced process and technique curriculum and programs

Exercise 2: Judging a Book by It’s Cover

Covers for albums, books and newspapers, among other media, need to evoke qualities of what lies within, drawing the prospective reader into the story. In this post, Catherine responds to four images she finds compelling and one that went to press a moment too soon.

Catherine.

GOOD COVERS

1)
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This poster for the movie, Black Swan, is extremely effective and clever. The title uses the nice serif typeface, Bodoni, and then to portray the ‘swan’ is the letter ‘S’ extremely blown up from the typeface being used in the title of the poster. This is a successful cover because the story is so intense and complicated that by making the poster simple, yet artistic, it contrasts the movie as well as drawing towards it. The story in the movie is also about ballerinas and the beautiful artistic curve in the serif ‘S’ mimics the dance and shape of ballerinas.

Typeworship. “Typeworship.” Type Worship: Inspirational Typography & Lettering. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2016. <http://blog.8faces.com/post/68980956121/black-swan-film-poster-reimagined-this-stopped-me&gt;

2)
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This poster wasn’t very circulated that I saw, but it is a wonderful representation of a static “cover” for the book/movie. The story is about an Editor in Chief of…

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Evaluating Career Decisions

Musicbed, a company providing royalty clearance of music for use in the film industry has an excellent blog with highly relevant articles for filmmakers and creatives of all stripes. Their recent post “Four Career Decisions Every Creative Should Make” asks some questions that I’ve been asking myself as I search for meaningful work in a new city.

WHO ARE MY PEOPLE?

WHAT AM I DOING?

WHERE AM I DOING IT?

WHY AM I DOING WHAT I’M DOING?

I decided to take a whack at responding to these questions, and if you respond on your blog and send me the link, I’ll post it at the bottom to create a network of responses.

So,

WHO ARE MY PEOPLE?

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My people are the outsiders, the ones always pushing to engage in interesting ways. The questioners, the ones who see a challenge and want to figure it out – just for fun. My people are the ones who got left behind and decided to write a song about it. They are the ones willing to debate. My people have an interesting story, or they see an interesting story happening in the shadows and want to bring it out into the light. My people are the ones who think everything matters and want to do something about it. My people want to succeed and to make the world a better place.

WHAT AM I DOING?

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I’m building a portfolio. I’m piecing together fifteen years worth of teaching media into the media itself. I’m creating new work and demonstrating my ability to tell stories for myself as well as others to build brands. I’m developing strategy and voice. I’m hitting short term goals with long term vision. I’m reaching out, making connections, and keeping my eyes peeled for the right path. I’m seeing where opportunity leads, and also working to shape opportunity so I do what I love. I’m drawing. I’m writing, shooting and editing video. I’m creating motion graphics. I’m managing social media. I’m teaching. I’m making music. And maybe, if I dare, on weekends I’ll be tattooing.

I’m gonna add one…

WHAT AM I NOT DOING?

I’m not designing UX. I’m not working as a print designer. I’m not developing code. I’m not fitting into a box.

WHERE AM I DOING IT?

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Colorado. Boulder, Denver, Lafyette, and Longmont. I’m doing what I can where I can where I am. I’m working with an outdoor retailer, soon a design department, and in the coming months, to promote music at a local venue.

WHY AM I DOING WHAT I’M DOING?

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Because businesses, organizations and people can be better. They can reflect more. They can commit more deeply to what they are really there to do – their mission, vision and values. They can learn to understand and manage their shadow side. If they are success oriented they can better understand and manage greed. If they emphasize care and concern for social work clients they can better understand context and collateral challenges their clients bring to the table. Nothing is one pointed – not sales, not education, not government, business, manufacturing, marketing and PR. It is the dynamics of the push and pull between stakeholders and constituencies that make all of these endeavors interesting and compelling. It is what makes stories.

The Gutai Art Manifesto’s relationship to the Western Avant-Garde

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Laceration of Paper, Saburõ Murakami 1956

In 1956 Japanese painter and avant-garde artist YOSHIHARA JIRŌ wrote a manifesto that would drive the art making of a group of young, energetic, daring young artists in Japan following the end of the Second World War. In the opening to his manifesto Jirō wrote:

“To today’s consciousness, the art of the past, which on the whole presents an alluring appearance, seems fraudulent.”

The movement drew from other daring art movements of the 20th century – the Dadaists and the Futurists before them as well as their near contemporaries, the Abstract Expressionists. These movements doubted history and tradition as viable foundations upon which they could create meaningful work. Given the recent acknowledgements of the emperor of Japan, Hirohito, that he was not a living god, a tenet of faith pressed on the people before and throughout the war, it is not surprising that the youth would rebel against historical narratives and certain cultural traditions of their homeland.

“Let’s bid farewell to the hoaxes piled up on the altars and in the palaces, the drawing rooms and the antique shops.”

He set a daring new tone for modern art in Japan, echoing the sentiments of F. T. Marinetti in the Founding Manifesto of Futurism when he wrote, “Museums: cemeteries!… Identical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another. Museums: public dormitories where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings. Museums: absurd abattoirs of painters and sculptors ferociously slaughtering each other with color-blows and line-blows, the length of the fought-over walls!”

Jirō continued:

“They are monsters made of the matter called paint, of cloth, metals, earth, and marble, which through a meaningless act of signification by humans, through the magic of material, were made to fraudulently assume appearances other than their own. These types of matter [busshitsu], all slaughtered under the pretense of production by the mind, can now say nothing.

“Lock up these corpses in the graveyard.”

The movement set out to create a dynamic relationship between the art object and the actions of the artist creating the work. Jirō’s manifesto continued:

“Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter.”

In 1955 Kazuo Shiraga created a defining work titled “Challenge to the Mud” in which he flung himself into a mud pile made of clay, wrestling and fighting with it as he attempted to shape the clay into something new.

Jirō’s manfiesto stated that “In Gutai Art, the human spirit and matter shake hands with each other while keeping their distance. Matter never compromises itself with the spirit; the spirit never dominates matter.”

Many people were influenced deeply by the Gutai movement. They were successful at gaining recognition internationally through their use of media, relationship building and public relations. The Fluxus artists of the 1960’s and 70’s in the United states were immediately and directly influenced by Gutai. While in college I read about the Gutai movement and drew influences from their work, most directly, Shiraga’s challenging mud.

Here are images from one of my performances, “rising from clay,” in which I coated my body in clay, laid out wood from the stack by our college’s wood fired kiln the length of my body, and continually attempted to rise from the floor, as though the clay were shaping me in a reversal of the traditional potter/clay relationship.

Rising from Clay

In another performance I would approach a wall touching and pressing on the wall reciting, “This is a wall. I accept the challenge of this wall.”

This is a wall

The intent was to address and heighten my and my audience’s awareness of simple things we put faith in such as stable engineering and the consistency of the world around us.

While many contemporary western artists look back to Fluxus, Dada and Futurism as well as movements like Surrealism and Suprematism as foundational concepts for modern art and performance, they may be missing a rich source of creative influence if they overlook Gutai.

To read the full manifesto of Gutai, follow this link to the full text at Guggenheim.org.