Leilani Chan’s voice fills with enthusiasm as she describes the inspiration behind TeAda Productions upcoming show Delicious Reality: “The stories coming out of these (immigrant) groups are so exciting and raise such important issues.” TeAda partnered with two different groups, ROC-LA (Restaurant Opportunities Center-Los Angeles) and SEACA (Southeast Asian Community Alliance), to create workshops for immigrants. These workshops became a place to share stories and engage in important discussions, including dialogue about work conditions. Delicious Reality portrays these immigrants’ stories in a common immigrant job setting—the kitchen of a restaurant. Delicious Reality’s tagline has become, “who really cooks your food?,” encouraging California locals to attend the play at Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica to learn more about a kitchen culture that is lively and rich with history. The play runs May 10th-19th, and more information can be found at www.teada.org.
You may remember paintings that changed the way you saw the world. You may have heard of novels that changed the course of history. Yet art in the name of social reform receives little attention in the contemporary art world. Or at least it has until recently.
On March 20th, 2013, the New York Times arts section published an article about an emerging art wave, new to the U.S.A.— social-practice art. Artists of this medium use their creativity in a variety of ways to improve the social welfare of those around them. Art projects of this nature are difficult to critique, almost never end up in a gallery, cannot be collected, and are most frustratingly impossible to define. In a perplexing 1000 word article, New York Times arts writer Randy Kennedy describes a number of such projects and programs, begging the reader to ask, how is this art?
Kennedy describes an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit. The piece is a reconstructed farmhouse, the childhood home of a Detroit artist who committed suicide last year. The purpose of the installation is to serve as a memorial and social service site. Kennedy also cites a San Francisco based program that converts empty lots and rooftops into flourishing organic gardens as an example.
“If none of these projects sound much like art — or the art you are used to seeing in museums — that is precisely the point.” Kennedy writes.
The point, rather, is to create art that is collaborative, expands across generations and changes according to the needs of the community.
Kennedy speculates that the increasing attention these projects receive from arts writers and galleries may have developed as a response to the increasing market of the contemporary art world. A market that encouraged an inundation of artwork that, and not for want of appropriate ascetic, fails to connect with everyday reality and in turn isolates many viewers. To explain this conundrum more clearly, Kennedy quotes New York artist Tania Brugiera’s definition of social practice art, “It’s time to restore Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to the bathroom.”
While social practice artists would indeed rather install urinals where they are needed rather than in gallery exhibits, there is still much room for social practice artists and contemporary art institutions to collaborate.
Kennedy quotes Ms. Wooland, a woman who was recently asked to run a social practice arts program at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Los Angeles, on this matter. “I do think,” she states, “that there will be ways for new kinds of collectors to emerge who will support these kinds of long-term projects as works of art.”
The program Ms. Wooland will run provides artists- from the culinary arts to sculpture- the opportunity to live and work at the MoMA. Patrons of the MoMA will have the opportunity to interact with these resident artists, allowing a more intimate understanding of their work.
Collaboration between social practice art and the contemporary art world would help restore art to the position it has occupied historically, as a pioneer of social revolution. It seems no longer enough for art pieces to allude to abstract social issues. Instead, these projects have a concrete effect on society and encourage all to participate in their development. Social practice art dismisses anything proprietary, dissolving individual identities such as activist or artist. Instead we see only a collective of individuals and communities, looking to create a change together through creativity and innovation.
When one thinks about comic books, images of muscle-bound heroes, supernatural villains and busty damsels-in-distress are among the expected visual tropes that come to mind. In the graphic novels of artist Maureen Burdock, however, battles between men bent on destroying the world and the adventures of those who fight to defend it are replaced with stories of women who overcome real-life issues of sexual violence, domestic abuse and murder, among others. In the brightly colored world of comics, themes drawn so directly from the world around us are a rare encounter and, most certainly, those of gendered violence have yet to find their way into the hyper-masculine spaces of the graphic novel. Burdock has created a compelling alternative, however, in her series of comic books entitled The F Word Project: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century. These women are both victims and their own heroes in their encounters with various forms of gender-based violence.
Born in Germany in 1970, Burdock emigrated to the U.S. with her mother at the age of seven. The two fled to escape domestic violence but Maureen continued to endure various forms of abuse and, from an early age, used art as a way to navigate these painful experiences. While she was working in New Mexico, Burdock was introduced to the world of comic books by members of Seis Cinco Seis Comics Collective. When asked why she turned to this particular medium, Burdock replied that she wanted to “make work that is accessible to a broad public and can be disseminated in venues including-but also beyond-galleries and museums. … The juxtaposition between images and text,” she continues, “can also be particularly potent and evocative.”
Burdock began work on The F Word Project in 2006 and, thus far, three of the five books have been completed: Maisa and the Bad Muslim Girls, Marta and the Missing, and Mona and the Little Smile. Each tells the story of a woman facing the threat of violence who, through bravery, intellect, and the use of a bit of magic, is able to defeat the evil characters and dark forces perpetrating that violence. Burdock has described her superheroines as “extraordinary/ordinary women” whose “bodies are not idealized or sexualized.” It is important to the artist that these women defy the usual stereotypes not only of comic book lore but within society more broadly. They manage this by refusing to be victims and, instead, they take control over their own bodies and destinies. They also provide a much needed forum in which the difficult issues of the femicides in Juarez, child molestation and honor killings can each be grappled with. “Far from depicting victims or people being defined by their unfortunate circumstances,” Burdock explains, “my stories are snapshots of powerful women in motion. Real women and men who I collaborate with to create these stories are my inspiration.”
This mission to create dialogue, community building, and awareness constitute the “F” in The F Word Project as, according to the artist, being a feminist simply means believing in equality and in creating coalitions that help to ”combat inequality, colonialism, the military industrial complex, et cetera.” Creating the possibility for healing and collectivity, according to Burdock, takes both recognizing that men are also affected by gendered violence and that “galvanizing communities to act in solidarity means overcoming gender binaries as well as other phobias and generalizations.” So far, Burdock’s goal to reach as diverse an audience as possible seems to be within reach as the novellas have already been exhibited in thirteen cities internationally and the books themselves have been used in several universities as part of gender studies classes. Although it would seem that the art world is far from accepting comic books as a form of “high art,” Burdock makes it clear that she “cares more about making work that LIVES, moves, affects people than making work that tickles reviewer’s fancies or looks mysteriously and compellingly incomprehensible in the fetishized white cube environment.”
Burdock is currently working on the final two books of the series, the next of which will address the subject of female genital mutilation. Although the topics Burdock chooses to address are dark and at times very difficult to face, her beautiful illustrations and courageous narratives manage to bring hope and even humor to these terrible realities. As she describes, “None of the women in my fables are ‘fixed’ within the context of the problems they face. Instead, they galvanize their families and communities to collaboratively create change. These stories are hopeful and the heroines actively shape and reform their communities with their intelligence, humor, kindness, and with a bit of magical realism.”
Maureen Burdock currently resides in Berkeley, California where she is a student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco working on completing MA degrees in visual and critical studies as well as studio art. She is also the founding director of the first US/San Francisco chapter of the London-based comics forum Laydeez do Comics, the first women-led graphic novel forum in the UK. Burdock also continues an independent freelance illustration practice and can be contacted via her website. Her her work is also included in the feminist art database of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
If you want to make a difference on these issues, follow the links below to purchase Maureen’s art and support her career, or to donate time or money to three organizations that are engaged in combatting violence against women.
Who says we are defined by our life circumstances? Certainly not fifteen-year old artist Inocente. Despite living homeless and undocumented in San Diego since the age of six, Inocente faces the world with bright spirals painted on the corners of her eyes and large flowers adorning the crown of her head. She paints on whatever canvas she can get her hands on—jeans, tennis shoes, sweatshirt, face.
“Out there in the world, usually things aren’t very colorful, so maybe if they were a little bit more colorful, they’d make people just a little bit more happy,” Says Inocente in the recently released documentary of the same name.
Yet despite her relentless effort to make the world just a little bit brighter for all of us, homelessness and lack of legal documentation have pushed her to the darkest margins of society. Thanks to filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine, whose documentary, Inocente, follows the journey of this young artist, we can enjoy Inocente’s vivid colors and unique shapes. Their documentary paints a portrait of the challenges faced by homeless and undocumented youth living in the U.S., a portrait as vivid, but not nearly so bright, as Inocente’s paintings.
According to the Inocente documentary website, there are 1.5 million homeless youths and 1.8 million undocumented youths living in the U.S. today. Twenty-five percent of homeless youths witness violence within in their families, a statistical category from which Inocente is not exempt.
Although Inocente’s home life has been bleak, her paintings are anything but. The colors she paints reflect her passion for life despite the obstacles that come with waking each day. Her optimism comes from a determination to start the day with what makes her most happy, painting. Each morning she applies her makeup with a paintbrush. Black and red triangles, spirals, or dots accentuate her eyes. Her makeup is a totem of her relentless commitment to pursuing her dreams.
Inocente credits her untamed imagination with the uncanny vibrancy of her art. “I like to look out the window and imagine, what if the trees could talk, or the people had super powers… I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them.”
Some would have considered Inocente’s appearance on stage at the Oscars last Sunday an impossible dream. Nevertheless, the film her art inspired won the Academy Award for best Documentary Short of 2013. Dressed in an elegant white dress, Inocente entered the stage along with filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine to receive their Oscar.
While Inocente’s optimism and imagination have prevailed, her success still remains exceptional. Inocente was fortunate enough to belong to A.R.T.S., a program designed to give homeless youths access to the arts. A.R.T.S—an acronym for A Reason To Survive—gave her a place that felt like home and allowed her to fill an otherwise grey world with color. Still, millions of youths endure struggles similar to Inocente’s, and without access to such programs. Funding for public arts education, which gave Inocente a life when she felt she had no other, is often an early target for budget cuts. Even private, non-profit arts programs struggle to find funding needed to provide their services to youths. For Inocente, arts education allowed the beautiful world she dreamed of survive in her imagination when it could not manifest in her life.
My personal favorite of Inocente’s paintings is entitled “The Lost Planet.” In this piece, multicolored stars glimmer behind mountains garnished with glitter. The Lost Planet is meant to represent a land where children’s dreams reside after they are forsaken. When I see this painting I imagine how many dreams wind up there, dreams abandoned by children whose life circumstances forced them to give up dreaming far too early. Most of all I imagine how so many simple dreams, dreams like having a home, could be prevented from ending up on the lost planet in the first place.
To the average citizen, finding the “right” charity and making a donation is a decidedly unglamorous task. In the face of an endless plethora of organizations, the time and effort it takes to donate a small amount to a cause might even seem to outweigh the benefits. How to streamline the search so that people are painlessly exposed to as many charities as possible? Tougher yet, how to make the donation process more appealing, more accessible–or maybe even more fashionable?
Dale Partridge and Aaron Chavez, two Orange County-based entrepeneurs, sought to tackle this “charity dilemma” in 2011. Citing lack of awareness, lack of funding, and lack of following as the three main reasons why thousands of charities fail, they wanted to find a better way to reconcile consumer interests with deserving campaigns. Their solution? Sevenly.org, an online clothing store that seeks to “raise capital and awareness for the world’s greatest causes.” By partnering with a different charity every week, Sevenly uses nearly 30% of its proceeds to benefit a host of campaigns, all while exposing its millions of visitors and customers to causes they might not otherwise be familiar with.
The front page of Sevenly is almost indistinguishable from the website of a stylish, youth-oriented boutique. Models brandish fitted, colorful shirts replete with eye-catching typography and artistic graphics, a far cry from the “tackiness” people have come to associate with charity awareness. Yet, these fashionable designs and pithy mottos carry a deeper meaning: a trendy “Love the Lost” shirt advocates the care and support of foster children, a kaleidoscopic “I’ll Fight for Beauty” sweater alludes to funding mammograms for underprivileged women, and a poetic illustration of a bird in flight accompanies a shirt proclaiming “Live Life”—an artistic response to China’s One-Child policy. Sevenly’s team of graphic designers unveils fresh illustrations every week, designing each batch of shirts to correspond with a new cause. This marriage of fashion and global awareness explains Sevenly’s popularity in social media: with roughly 126,000 “Likes” on Facebook and over 4 million shares on the Internet since 2011, it’s a good guess that Sevenly’s campaign reaches not only “traditional” charity donors but also fashion-conscious, tech-savvy youth.
Best of all, Sevenly donates $7 to its weekly charity for every item purchased on its website (and sometimes even double that amount, depending on the occasion). Weekly goal tickers measure the amount of donations received and the target total for the entire week, letting consumers see exactly how much progress is being made towards a cause. Visitors can also learn more about the charities they’re supporting with the help of interactive videos and links to partner websites. A weekly “Story behind the art” column even explains the creative process of the Sevenly designers, explaining how they used the core values of their sponsored charity to make the graphic tees featured on the front page.
At its core, Sevenly is a website dedicated to highlighting and funding organizations all over the world. By using fashionable designs and an innovative social media platform to highlight its partner causes, Sevenly is able to reach millions of young and old donors—a stylish and simple way to bring charity into mainstream culture.
It’s time for the age of introspection to come to a close, according to philosopher and author Roman Krznaric. In this beautifully animated speech, “The Power of Outrospection,” Krizaric challenges the utility of any kind of soul searching that consists of reading self help books. Rather, he argues, the most worthwhile experiences come from engaging with the world around us.
If Krznaric’s arguments do not convince you to leave the television set, illustrations by artist Andrew Park will certainly do the trick. Trekkies will enjoy a short segment where Park likens the outrospective explorer to Star Trek character Spock. Park’s drawings of teleporting to new worlds and poking alien creatures illustrate Krznaric’s point to a “t”, not to mention make his arguments especially enticing.
To learn about the world is to cultivate an empathetic understanding. Empathy is the fundamental reason Krznaric believes it so important we begin to explore outside of ourselves in the first place.To Krznaric, empathy is an art form and an impressive feat of the imagination. Empathy can grasp our hearts across continents or even decades. Without an empathetic imagination, it would be impossible to consider the labor conditions of the individual who made the t-shirt you are wearing. It would be equally impossible to imagine the effects our Co2 emissions will have on future generations. Empathy, Krznaric sums up, not only allows us to better understand ourselves, but also inspires us to change the world we live in for the better.
The Power of Outrospection was released by a British charity organization, The Royal Society for the encouragement of the arts (RSA), in December 2012. The RSA has released fourteen animated shorts on topics ranging from the secrets of time to the truth about dishonesty. Their entire body of work is available online at http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate.
A woman contracts malaria. A man suffers his first stroke. A war robs a family of their lives. As much as we lament these misfortunes, we still feel detached from them—keen on viewing disasters as hypothetical scenarios rather than as distinct daily possibilities. How differently would we react to these events if we could fathom their yearly impact? Daily impact? If we could pinpoint the escalating rates of births, deaths, and disasters by the minute?
Spreading awareness of global trends is the aim of the Live World Clock. A counter developed by Poodwaddle, this embeddable widget illustrates the scope of global events by projecting their quantitative impact in real time. Users are able to toggle between durations—years, months, weeks, days, and even time from the present moment on—and scroll through live statistics, including those measuring global population, death rates, the spread of illnesses, and human environmental impact. Among the most striking of these findings are the death tolls from disease, the staggering amount of carbon dioxide emissions, and our multiplying national debt: numbers that continue to escalate tremendously, even as our lives seem to continue independently of rapidly evolving global factors. Though the Live World Clock functions merely as a mathematical, research-based projection of these statistics, it serves as a staggering illustration of misfortunes, deaths, and harmful human trends that continue without a foreseeable end—numbers that will only continue to rise if we fail to offer immediate aid.
Interfaces like the Live World Clock emphasize the need for quick collective action. The old maxim states that time stops for nobody—but when it comes to the global problems we have the power to control, it’s now easier than ever to inform ourselves about these trends, take a stand against escalating issues, and stop the clock on war, disease, and other calamities in our world.
The Live World Clock is also available here.
We are extremely proud to be sharing the final installment in our series of four promotional videos. We have produced these to highlight a few important causes—homelessness, in this one—and to tell the world what The Lamp Project is all about. An incredible all-volunteer effort made them possible. Please take a look at the credits below (or at the end of the video) to see all the names.
Burl Moseley homeless man
Susan Silvestri dancer
Angelo Kritikos photographer
Tami Goveia voice over
Ernie Megerdechian production assistant
Al Ruggie production assistant
Kim Palmer camera assistant
Michael Callahan first assistant director
Matt Miner first assistant director
Nathan Schafer composer
Jason Johnson picture editor
Brandon Proulx assistant sound editor
Jeremy Scott Olsen ADR mixer
Dave Barnaby sound editor / mixer
Thomas Camarda director / director of photography
written by Joanna Lord and Jeremy Scott Olsen
Paula Minardi associate producer
Mike Shields producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer
Very special thanks
The Brandt Family
Box Eight Studios
Fox Television Animation
With great appreciation for our entire all-volunteer cast and crew—and their talent, dedication, professionalism and time
© Copyright 2012 by The Lamp Project
All rights reserved
Please enjoy listening to our interview.
When communities have stories to be told or wounds to be healed—and all of them do—art offers a powerful answer, a way to preserve history, a means for expressing cultural priorities, or even a sort of talisman to help people through difficult times. One might look at the AIDS Quilt as an embodiment of all three.
Fabric artist Clara Wainwright has used her art in other charitable ways, but this idea of using it to build, unite, and heal communities is a hallmark of her body of work. Witness “Mending Baghdad” (above), which Wainwright created in response to a photo of a war-battered Baghdad she saw on the cover of a newspaper during the first Gulf War. She left the quilt unfinished, gluing down pieces instead of sewing them, so that she could then use the work as a centerpiece of discussion or a catalyst for emotional release as other people finished the quilt. At various workshops around the U.S. and the U.K., participants “mended” the city of Baghdad, a potent metaphor for their sympathy and sorrow for the innocent lives lost or disrupted in the war, and a starting point for exploring their understanding of the war and its consequences.
A prominent New England textile artist, Wainwright has pieces in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art and others. And not long ago, Art Corps named her as one of their two 2012 Creative Activists. We hope you enjoy hearing her talk about her art and how it fits like a puzzle piece into the world around her.
Pianist Chloe Flower, with the help of legendary producer Babyface, has married classical music and hip-hop in her song “Revolution.”
Supporting Chloe means supporting an artist who is giving the world more than just wonderful music. She is a fervent and long-time supporter of sexual slavery survivor Somaly Mam, of the the Somaly Mam Foundation, and of the battle to end human trafficking. Don’t miss our interview with Chloe, where she talks about her music and about the foundation.
Chloe Flower’s site
Chloe Flower’s music
the Somaly Mam Foundation
the Somaly Mam Foundation
the Somaly Mam Foundation
Jeremy Scott Olsen post audio
Jason E. Johnson editor
Dalton Gaudin director / director of photography
Lauren Thorne producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer
from “Prelude in G minor, op. 23, no.5″
composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
performed by Chloe Flower
piano arrangements by Chloe Flower
drum programming by Tim & Bob
additional arrangements by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Tim & Bob
copyright 2012 by Chloe Flower and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds
with great appreciation for our all-volunteer crew for their talent, dedication, professionalism and time
© copyright 2012 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved