The Univeristy of Illinois School of Art + Design | Master of Fine Arts Exhibition | Krannert Art Museum | April 23-May 02, 2010
I am an artist, designer, activist, and researcher who seeks to affect popular understandings of women’s right to choose through history and symbols that present contraception and abortion practices from the past four-thousand years.
My work investigates three factors; one, the existing trope of symbols from the pro-choice and pro-life movements, namely feminists, fetuses, hangers, and God; two, the popular myth that abortion and contraception are relatively “new” practices that emerged alongside the feminist movement, the pharmaceutical and medical industries, and progressive politics of this past century; and three, the lack of an organized pro-choice presence at abortion clinics across the country, as many have unwillingly become an open stage for the anti-choice protests.
My work aims to empower, inspire, and affirm women and men in their desire to limit their family sizes by arguing that abortion is not merely a “constitutional right” through the passage of Roe v Wade, it is a “human desire and practice” that has existed in every society around the world for millennia. I am introducing new symbols into public spaces through a national campaign that delivers graphical postcards containing this history to women’s health clinics throughout the country. The gesture of the postcard intends to refocus the pro-choice gaze away from Washington, DC, where the “legal battle” is being fought by national pro-choice organizations, and back into our communities where another battle is being waged. Rather than allowing women’s health clinics to become marginalized spaces of shame and violence, my work invites clinics to become artistic, activist, and cultural venues that connect our daily lives to the practices of our ancestors.
In addition to printed matter, postcards and posters, my artistic productions are realized through interactive informational websites, video documentary, tent installations, wallpaper design, and book making.
My work focuses on identity as a product of multiple cultures and multiple frames of reference. Drawing upon subject matter ranging from personal memories to pop culture imagery, my work alternately constructs and dismantles images and sequences of time. Media such a photography and video, which are seemingly so precise in their ability to record, quickly lose their authority, and boundaries between event and memory, recollection and reconstruction begin to blur. It is in this space of ambiguity where the half-recalled combines with the half-imagined that my work often finds its form.
In some work such as the video game piece, "Bob vs. Godzilla" (2009), I reflect upon my Japanese-American heritage, placing my own image into the imagined history of the Godzilla franchise. Alternately the invader and the invaded I perform myself (both as my in game avatar and at the game controls in the real world) in conflict with Godzilla across a myriad of backdrops ranging from my studio, to my own vacation photos of Okinawa, and even to the devastated landscape of post WWII Hiroshima. The game space is continually in flux as the elements change and modify each other across multiple sites and over time. It is in these spaces of ambiguous context and locality that my work often exists.
Then such a person, and in general all who feel desire, feel it for what is not provided or present; for something they have not or are not or lack and that sort of thing is the object of desire and love? [translated by Harold N. Fowler]
So this and every other case of desire is desire for what isn't available and actually there. Desire and love are directed at what you don't have, what isn't there, and what you need.[translated by Christopher Gill]
from Plato, Symposium 200e. Two translations.
My academic study in industrial design is a journey of explorations and discoveries. While developing my scholastic aptitudes and practical skills, I have developed my perception of the world around us, understanding of human needs and design thinking.
I believe that industrial design is a process of problem-solving—and there are countless ways to solve a problem. I also believe great product design should be aesthetically pleasing, functional and practical. When I look at design, “There might be a better way” and I am challenged to find a more effective solution. Exploring to find a better solution is the best part of industrial design.
Much of my work explores temporal and spatial issues of perception, desire, power, and agency within the context of the mundane. Across media, my images, films, and installations often expose situations in which there is an exchange of power between two competing agents. Formally, this can be seen in the dynamic between frames, the relationship between a frame and the architecture it relates to, or the power dynamic between viewer and artwork. In terms of content, this can take the form of a video that exposes the subtleties of cinema's power over a viewer, photographs of natural phenomena acting upon architecture, or a cameraperson acting upon an insect.
My current video work examines how desire is manipulated between multiple cinematic spaces as well as between cinematic space and the gallery space. This has led to the exploration of power dynamics in multi-channel videos and in videos that interact with the architecture of the gallery. With these dynamics in mind, one of my goals is to unsettle the viewer's expectations and visual confidence—to make art that surprises.
I am an artist, writer, and educator. My diverse art practice investigates health, the communication of emotion, and the environment – in particular the landscape and questions of sustainability. My work manifests itself as installation, photography, video, performance, and printed matter. Implicating the viewer through participatory strategies from verbal call and response, unexpected encounter, or more physical engagement is a key part of my artwork. I Will Help a public intervention project pulls you in with a subtle reminder to engage with the world around you. One Landscape for Another: Ghost Mountain, a multi-media installation, asks viewers to engage with the electrical grid that it refers to, by picking up handmade light fixtures, which are plugged into the wall, while they move slowly around the piece.
I use interviews, both written and recorded, as my principal working method. I collect first person accounts from research subjects, and record sound in spaces to “interview” a site. These field recordings, or site interviews, at power plants and protests figure largely in my installation work. Jane on Pennsylvania, a first person interview video piece, allows Jane to tell the story of creating a forest and an artwork in her front lawn to the both the suspicion and joy of her neighbors. Often, my first person interviews are distributed in the form of publications such as, Temporary Conversations: Suzann Gage, the story of artist/activist Suzann Gage and her participation in the feminist health movement.
In addition to my individual practice, I work collaboratively as Let’s Re-make and participate in an art/research group, the Compass Group in the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor, which looks critically at creative ways to structure a region, specifically the Midwest.
I am interested in objects and their life. This interest became manifest in my recent installation, “preserving death and the shapes of living things,” at the Champaign County Historical Museum. In this installation, I exhibited the “Wilson collection”, an invented collection of found and created objects combined with and against the backdrop of an actual historical museum collection. This collection included Victorian-style moss terrariums; a dead fish collection in resin; skins of animals; holed hamburger patties coated with resin after having been eaten by ants; and animal porcelain collections referencing ancient Chinese taxonomy in the fiction of Borges as discussed by Foucault. This exhibition revealed to me the primary subjects of my artwork: archaeology and taxonomy; history and fictions; the function of the museum; collections as evidence of fiction; interest in positioning and gesture; ontological identification; death and life; and finally, “things”. My interest in fabricating stories continues to grow into an investigation of objects that embody a desire to “be” something--objects that exist between the tensions of internal narratives and external spaces.
Natural forms, processes and movement inspire me to make jewelry. When a natural form emerges from its environment, it follows no exact model as it becomes visible. Forms from nature have mysterious origins which are incomprehensible to the human mind. We try to understand how and under which circumstances they acquire a life yet the creation of these forms remain invisible to the human eye. My jewelry investigates the mystery of creation, capturing the moment in which the void and fragment become substance.
I observe and question the form, function, materiality, and value of things in my everyday surrounding. I imagine all objects to be unprocessed and raw as I select the materials that become my work: sponges, origami paper, cleaning rags, glass beads, pre-owned jewelry, coral fragments, lingerie lace, discarded steel pipes, and precious metal. I articulate my ideas through working with these materials.
Because my focused area of graduate study is ‘jewelry’, a constant inquiry of value is always present in my selection of materials. Through spontaneous experiments I explore the physical properties of the materials and attempt to reveal contextual and symbolic meanings. I challenge this craft tradition by combining random yet carefully chosen materials and processes in order to create a visually sound and critically engaged jewelry.
I use the park as a prism for expanding the complex negotiation of ‘being’ in nature with phenomena based installations. I go into parks to ‘be there’ not to think about them; my experiences in these places are sensual, physical, and tactile. I view the park as a machine that organizes the body and accesses spaces in specific ways in order to consume experiences of being in nature. I believe these experiences are saturated in the ways that parks ‘think themselves’ through my body. I aim to articulate this body as an assemblage of forces: phenomena, materials, technologies, surfaces and boundaries, and their speeds and intensities. In my work, I respond to the park so we may be able to recover these forces and this politicized body as site of their emergence.
I am interested in the issues of human interaction from a design perspective. My projects are based on a “human-design interaction” principle, with my research and design focusing on user-interaction. I believe that design always involves interdisciplinary work from various fields including psychology, marketing, ergonomics, and anthropometry, among many others. My work is not just a stylish product, rather it is invested in generating positive user experiences. This means that understanding the individual user is a critical element in my designing process.
The design process is like a story-telling process. I first listen to the voice of the potential user in order to define the target issue. This issue generates the entire design process, culminating in an appropriate design that addresses the issue and completes the narrative. The most exciting moment in this process is feeling the fulfillment that comes with improving people’s lives.
I like to say: "At the end of the process the product will be a good design and if the design is not good yet, it is not the end of the design process."
My fascination for Industrial Design is based on the fact that a good designer starts from nothing and is able to create meaningful, appealing and necessary objects while challenging existing consumer habits.
Designers use a variety of methods and many tools to create new products, but I consider the attitude of the designer toward their research and practice to be the most significant. I am passionate about what I do as a designer and I am always curious to find out about things that are new to me in the process. My way of working involves being thorough and accurate, focusing on the essential in a design while being honest to myself and the user.
As a designer, I want to create connections which did not exist before. My ambition is to build an immediate connection between user and product and so I want the products I design to be aesthetically appealing, functional, and able to to provide a long lasting experience. My pursuit for good design has brought me a lot of new experiences and insights. I am looking forward to continuing my quest for good design in the future.
Inquiry and passion are integral to make artifacts that provide a visual and mental relationship between the audience and myself. I am moved by design that is simple, meaningful, playful, but most importantly, design that engages the viewer. Performing Indian classical dance, painting, drawing, or designing, I perceive each activity as an exploration of new ideas, an exercise of the mind to observe and an ongoing process to learn.
As a graphic designer, I have worked in several design studios creating projects for diverse clients who have a national and international presence. I have experienced that many clients are interested in showing ethnic diversity in their company’s print and web materials to be inclusive of a diverse ethnic population. It is easy and cost efficient to download stock photos showcasing individuals of African or Asian descent. Using these types of images in their campaigns, companies think that they have succeeded in showing diversity.
Living in this country for nineteen years, I have witnessed the increasing influence of Asian culture and art in Western society. This phenomenon challenged my curiosity as a researcher, graphic designer and educator to investigate and further understand the amalgamation of my eastern heritage and adopted Western culture. Through this pursuit, in the past three years, I have done extensive research on cultural identities in design. My passion to investigate cultural similarities and differences has inspired me to take on self-initiated projects that engage the audience to look within themselves and discover the beauty of other cultures. Typography, imagery and sound can be used to communicate social messages and elevate one’s sensitivity towards other cultures. This kind of investigation in design can create a significant effect on people and how they see themselves and each other. As a design educator and practitioner, I want audiences to reflect upon their own cultural upbringing, perceptions, interests and identity so they can truly begin to accept and respect other cultural identities in the West.
Belonging to the outside, the exterior, the street, dust constantly creeps into the sacred arena of private spaces as a reminder that there are no impermeable boundaries between life and death.
The Artificial Kingdom, Celeste Olaquiaga
My work uses domestic objects – chairs, furniture, collectibles and figurines as a means to reveal narratives of psychological attachment. Using narrative, installation, and object making, I explore physical and psychological relationships to the spaces and things we encounter on a daily basis. My interest lies in the ability to create a transformative moment where a once empty space and/or object becomes activated.
I am also interested in the gender roles of maintenance—both the maintenance of domestic spaces but also the eminence of family histories. Our heirlooms, hand-me-downs, and keepsakes require regular maintenance, space, and tend to reduce our mobility and sometimes even our freedom. To this end, I deconstruct, repurpose, and reshape vintage collectibles and knick-knacks in order to address specific domestic attachments. Deconstruction plays an important role in my artistic process. As a traditionally trained craftsperson, I understand and know objects through taking them apart, just as my work seeks to know and understand the traditions, memories, and associations of the objects that I collect.
My goal as a storyteller and producer of objects and spaces is to allow the viewer to have a transformative experience through embodied imagination and physical interaction.