Masthead Photography

Chicagoans in Transit: We Came, We Saw, We Interacted, We Collaborated & Contemplated

(Mike Genovese, Open Studio Project, May 1 – June 30) A wedding party strides through the pedway beneath the Cultural Center to my car, and as chauffeur, I’m kicking myself that I failed to decorate it with the shaving cream of humiliation, pink crepe, cans on strings, and then we’re held up waiting again, so I’m engaged in a raging internal debate on whether or not to walk ahead and feed the parking machine or wait for everyone to catch up, when a neon green rectangle registers in my peripheral vision. The others arrive. Mike Genovese – a Pedway Project – the sign announces. I march on in and admire the art. “So, how’d you get this gig?” I ask. The Artiste proceeds to tell me. Apparently the city has been funding open studios since April of 2003. Previous participants have wielded chainsaws, displayed paintings and found object collage, and built wishing trees to donate to hospitals. (I did see a wishing shrub on the periphery of a museum of small wooden churches in Moscow. There were two bushes of hopes and dreams, actually: one for males and one for females. The one for men was conveniently pathside. The one for women was a up a steep incline littered with jagged boulders. If you tied a rag or ribbon to a branch, you were permitted to wish. I did not have any bows on me at the time.) Mike’s installation included a large word painting – Zora Neale Hurston’s “All My Skin Folk Ain’t All My Kin Folk” in black script on a field of mint green. I am green with envy. I commend him on the communitarian aspects of his work and consider incorporating the phrase “Bakhtinian polyphony” next time I apply for a grant. I once saw an Italian group perform at the MCA, and one participant painted on the side of a horse that they’d brought out on stage. “How can I get that work?” I thought. “Standing on stage in a pretty dress painting cryptic things on the side of a horse?” Actually, I have five words of Latin, so for all I know, the performer was whitewashing “Whoa, Wilbur!” on the side of the stallion, but I have no doubt that she had sound theoretical and semiotic reasons for doing so: this was on stage at the MCA. Last semester, a student, “K,” wrote in her journal that artists are just “people who want to get out of having real jobs.” Even if this is the case, perhaps they render a public service by demonstrating that such a thing can be done. In addition to several enamel panels and an Internet station, the space houses an elotes cart. I suggest that the groom accept it as a wedding gift. The public is invited to participate in the manufacture of pieces by engraving on one of the enamel panels on display, red or black, all silver beneath. Perpetual optimist, I engrave “Who Gets the Privilege of Disappointing Me Next?” in a heart in the lower left of the largest red one. “For Lovers” is emblazoned on the cinderblock above. Actually, at this rate, I’ve been so consistently disappointed that I’m all talk. I am also fully cognizant of the fact that my appearance may be a profound let down to others. If K were present, she’d doubtless accuse the artist of getting others to do his work for him and then attempting to profit from it instead of sweating and being tormented in a dank and lonely
“How can I get that work?” I thought. “Standing on stage in a pretty dress painting cryptic things on the side of a horse?”
garret like artists are supposed to. I recently discussed the Pedway Project with a coworker, Martin Reyes, when I noted that everyone had doodled and graffittied all over the white plastic tablecloth that had spruced up the breakroom for twenty-four hours before vandalism kicked in. Recontextualize: perhaps I could mount it and display it as a collaborative process-oriented commentary on the proletarian aesthetic of this particular subgroup of the city population. The hot sauce stains represent the irrelevance of individual interests in the face of organizational structure, the perpetual struggle to maintain identity under the symbolic violence of any institutional hierarchy. I feel a grant application coming on. Don’t get me wrong: the ideas are good, the work is good, and Mike showed us a good time – the bride had two glasses of wine and whittled away at one of the panels, putting down her bouquet of fresh mint sprigs, daughter balanced on hip. I forgot to ask her what she carved. “Power to the People,” perhaps. And awls for all. By Erika Mikkalo Proximity Column End Marker