‘LIGHTS OUT’ by Dan Schank, 2008.
We caught up with multimedia artist and curator Jeff Badger to discuss "6/6/6," a traveling exhibit developed through a unique method of collaborative curation, which is finishing its tour of six national galleries this month at Gallery 37-A. Here's an edited transcript of the discussion.
COULD YOU TELL ME HOW THIS SHOW CAME ABOUT? It was an idea that my friend Joanne Lefrak and I came up with. She lives in Santa Fe, and I live in Portland, obviously. We came up with this idea to create this curatorial structure for a show like a phone tree or a game of Telephone: Joanne invited me and then I invited my friend in San Francisco (conceptual artist Amanda Curreri), and then she'd invite somebody else, and so on. Each person had to find a venue in their city to show the exhibition, and when it came to their town, it was their responsibility to work with the gallery, hang the show, do the promotions, and then pack it up and send it to the next town. A lot of curatorial work is thematic-based: you think of a theme and fit artists into it. In this case we just wanted to come up with a structure.
ONE OF THE SHOW'S STATED THEMES IS ARTISTIC CONNECTIONS THAT HAVE DEVELOPED OUTSIDE NETWORKING TECHNOLOGIES. ARE THERE OTHER THEMES THAT HAVE EMERGED NOW THAT YOU'VE SEEN ALL THE WORKS? Well, Joanne and I originally thought of it as line — the idea of connecting artists with lines — but of course, there's lines in all kinds of work. I think we all share this idea that social networking and connectivity has come onto us pretty quickly as a society, and it's like, what do we do with all this stuff? Besides, you know, telling each other what we had for breakfast. What do we do with all these tools? This show has been inspiring for other artists I've explained it to because you can organize it yourself. That structure has been exciting for people.
A COUPLE ARTISTS IN PARTICULAR ARE DOING REALLY INTERESTING THINGS I HAVEN'T SEEN AROUND HERE BEFORE. AMANDA'S WORK LOOKS VERY TACTILE AND POLITICAL AND JOANNE'S PLEXIGLAS PIECES ARE REALLY INTERESTING. ANYTHING STAND OUT FOR YOU? Yeah, Dan Schank's work. When I saw it online I thought they were these really amazing paintings, but they're actually all collage. Joanne's work . . . well, she's from New Mexico, so a lot comes from images she's taken of ghost towns and these old A-bomb testing sites that she then scratches impressions into. When you see them in person they have this ghostly resonance.
YOUR OWN PIECES LOOK PRETTY TEXT-BASED. WHAT ARE THEY ABOUT? Yeah. Those thinking-tree pieces are about taking information design and trying to apply data trees to how society works and how our brains work and things like that. This installation has some text in it, but for a lot of years I've been working on these sculptures mixing outdated technology and nature, or using technology electronics that people throw away to try to create a new narrative. That's more of what I have in this show.