Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mass Gesture

For the last two days, I've been coordinating a collaborative drawing project at Clemson University. Over 140 people participated in the making of the piece, which was framed as an experiment in accumulated gesture. Measuring 10x24 feet, the piece started with a texture rubbing of rice grains plus whatever people had in their pockets - change, keys, vitamins, headphones. The page was divided in half, and the two sides were developed very differently, each obeying a very separate logic of practice (one very formally controlled and systematic, the other driven by play and inventional gaming). The final act was to unify the entire piece in terms of both material and compositional flow.

Social metaphors emerged by the handful. The dyadic formal division was too extreme to be sustained if it were to remain one piece, so compromise was required. That took the form of a tenuous bipartisan drawing effort that was quickly buried by sea of heavier marks that indeed unified the piece but rendered it less nuanced. Tradeoffs occurred. Not everyone was pleased. Levels of personal investment and ownership varied radically, and the marks were an index of engagement. Moments of consensus were frequently reached, but then practice didn't necessarily follow from agreed-upon intention. Numerous parallels to the health care debate were drawn, in addition to thousands of marks. Many people drew big for the first time and loved it. It was a very good day.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the politics of drawing. Tis, good to have an experience where there is a mix of interaction. Truly a situation of learning--some of the best work emerges from a sense of dissatisfaction. Really exciting to see the final work. Had wanted to escape my class to attend--but alas was unable to make it. Bravo.