Working Conditions

A process-based project featuring nine artists

Working Conditions

Artists: Steven Barich, Elysa Lozano, Jennie Ottinger, Nathaniel Parsons, Carlos Ramirez, Zachary Royer Scholz, Charlene Tan, Ethan Worden, Wafaa Yasin
Dates: November 11, 2011 – January 7, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, November 11, 2011, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Closing Reception: Friday, January 6, 2011 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Working Conditions is a process-based project featuring nine artists invited by Southern Exposure's Curatorial Committee. Each artist creates his or her own work environment as installation within the gallery and keeps regular work hours there, while developing a project rooted in notions of production, labor, and process. Rather than working alone in their studios, the artists in this exhibition are obliged to interact with their environment as they operate in full view of the public in an open space they share with one another. Each artist will work at Southern Exposure for fifteen hours per week or more. Working Conditions addresses the role of artists as workers, both as members of a workforce within a broad economy subject to shifting variables, and as makers within a production system in which the final product may be ephemeral or not entirely known until its completion. An artist’s process changes frequently, with the creation of each new piece, the shifts in public understanding of art practice and art objects, and the imposition of external strictures. Working Conditions considers some of these varied approaches to the labor of artmaking, incorporating processes alternately based on patient craftsmanship; futile, seemingly endless construction; conversation; experimentation; gaming; or the delegation of work to gallery visitors.

This project is curated by the nine members of Southern Exposure's artist-run curatorial committee, each of whom selected one of the artists in the show. The curators for Working Conditions are Amanda Eicher, Courtney Fink, Michael Hall, Tareneh Hemami, Jonn Herschend, Nathan Lynch, Daniel Nevers, Weston Teruya and Nate Watson.

About Each Project

Steven Barich, A Thing is a Hole in a Thing It is Not
A Thing is a Hole in a Thing It is Not (after Carl Andre) is a visual metaphor for the conditions and limitations of a particular artistic process: a desire to begin at one point and carefully and patiently arrive at a specific end point. Barich's on-site drawing gradually unfolds during the length of the exhibition. The drawing begins with a fragmented shape that is a visual interpretation of the group conditions of working in an open gallery environment—a situation unlike the artist’s developed studio practice. Working with this initial form, Barich works to unite this with his disciplined drawing style—to bring the initial condition into order by overlaying a circle of mosaic patterning as feedback to the exhibition environment.

Elysa Lozano for Autonomous Organization, Field Office for the Development of the New Art Economy
Autonomous Organization is an art practice that emulates a not-for-proft; its board of directors have final say over each project. Currently AO is developing a new art economy for the field of art production and dissemination. As a rejection of wage labor, AO will not be working at Southern Exposure, but instead will use its allotted space to provide each employee and volunteer at Southern Exposure time and space to work on their own projects in exchange for documentation of their work. AO will use the honorarium paid by Southern Exposure to research and develop a new economy based on living for free, bartering, sharing resources, and mutual sustainability.

Jennie Ottinger, These Paintings Aren't Going to Paint Themselves
Jennie Ottinger invites the public to work for free as she prepares paintings for her next solo show. Visitors will assist by doing any and every task associated with making a work of art except the actual applying of paint to canvas. For example, participants who come to the gallery during Ottinger's working hours may assist by creating underdrawings for a painting, mixing paints according to the artist's point-by-point verbal instructions, or by cleaning her brushes. Ottinger also provides photocopied paper cutouts of characters and scenery for viewers to arrange and re-arrange into painting compositions that will then be voted on by the public, or to create thumbnail versions of finished paintings to hang in a scale model of Ottinger's next exhibition space. Participants will receive a certificate of recognition for their contribution, created by a fellow "apprentice" and signed by the artist.

Nathaniel Parsons, All Ideas Are Built On A Linger: Carving While Thinking Of Others
Early in his art practice, woodcarving was an activity Nathaniel Parsons turned to in order to allow space and time for his paintings to find resolution. The two activities eventually merged, and carving has recently established itself as a distinct body of Parson's work; a process-oriented practice that comments on levels of finish and material processes of transformation. For his project, All Ideas Are Built On A Linger: Carving While Thinking Of Others, Parsons engages viewers in this practice, encouraging the reverence of ideas and others. Participants are invited to go on walks with the artist as he works. Lineage, friendship, and shared vision guide the project, and viewers are able to see themselves in the creation of Parson’s distinct works. Carvings made during these walks will be displayed in the gallery. At the end of the exhibition, visitors are invited to return and collect the individual carving that was created in the process of their walk with the artist.

Carlos Ramirez, Digital Dirt
Carlos Ramirez's Digital Dirt is an interactive retro play-space where visitors are asked to help the artist by producing clay tiles using molds. Ramirez uses recycled clay, which visitors can shape into 'pixels' to compose a structure based on an ancient Mayan ball court. They can also play a game of Donkey Kong, and participate in gaming tournaments on Wednesdays, to win gold, silver, and bronze awards. His project is a monument-in-progress at the intersection of leisure and manual labor, traditional culture and gamer futurism. Over the course of the project, the clay surface of the ball court will be shaped over a chicken wire and wood armature, underscoring the invisible acts of labor behind both ancient Mayan athletic architecture and '80s video games. The unfinished clay surfaces will slowly dry and crack over time, a tweaking of the geek-chic aesthetic fueling '80s and '90s nostalgia and the finish fetish of hard edged Minimalist forms.

Zachary Royer Scholz, Iteration
Iteration is a continually reconfigured artwork. Lengths of wood and hunks of upholstery foam are continuously propped, leaned, stacked, balanced, and tied together to form a variety of temporary structures. The work's complete shape encompasses not only these transient compositions, but also the artist's cyclic shifting of these structures from one state to another. The materials used are as much props as sculptural components, and the created structures are as much remnants as results. Scholz's actions continually extend the work's boundaries resulting in an artwork that is paradoxically never and always finished. The work's reflexive repetition progressively accumulates a unified meaning that exists diffusely through memory, documentation, and physical residues. While visitors will only ever personally experience a fragment of the artwork's complete form, they are invited to return to talk with Scholz about how the project has evolved, and see how their own previous impressions inform each successive viewing.

Charlene Tan, Research Spectacle
Charlene Tan's Research Spectacle is a hybrid laboratory, think tank, library, and consultation office designed to investigate our relationship with a largely invisible process: collective, casual research and development. Research Spectacle will be open for consultation during gallery hours, during which visitors are invited to don a lab coat and enter the laboratory to exchange ideas and be a part of the spectacle or to conduct their own research using her materials posted in the laboratory antespace. Tan's research will focus on issues of hybrid identity and immigrant vs. nation-state. Visitors are also invited to participate in scheduled conversations with Imin Yeh (Visual Artist and Director of SpaceBi), Michelle Morby (Visual/Performance Artist), Terry Park (Performance Artist, Activist, and PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies at UC Davis) and others who will be announced at a later time.

Ethan Worden, Simple Building of a Staggering Wreck
Simple Building of a Staggering Wreck is an evolving sculptural installation whose scaffold-like formal structure supports nothing but its own increasing volume and constantly teeters between immanent collapse and structural integrity. Worden uses cut and glued small-dimensioned lumber to create untenable structural arrangements based on common, recognizable objects and forms such as billboards and scaffolding. As a distinct formal cue for Simple Building of a Staggering Wreck, Worden uses images of structural forms demolished and devastated by natural disasters and human catastrophes. The project seeks to sustain a sense of deliberate and methodical construction while continuously pushing toward a manufactured chaos that strips the form of specific utility. Worden's work is a nod toward a labor of impracticality—a labor that produces only evidence of itself and the potential for ever more labor—a blatant self-interest that is a hallmark of both progress and cancerous growth.

Wafaa Yasin, We All Belong to the Same Line
Wafaa Yasin's site-specific performances connect audience, histories, and notions of place. We All Belong to the Same Line is an evolving project exploring visible and invisible national borders in the sea. Yasin investigates the social and cultural relationships that continuously change the path of history and create new borders. Using her body as an instrument, she introduces deliberate acts of labor to investigate the ways in which these intangible and contentious borders at sea intersect with the politics of the body.