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robertogreco : availability   8

available in response | sara hendren
"I want to dig into the idea of availability in teaching—in the affective sense, not just the conceptual one. Availability is about being deeply attuned to what’s happening for a group of three, or ten, or twenty-one students, and understanding the differences between those groups so you can calibrate accordingly. It’s broadcasting enough confidence and calm up front that people will trust your intentions, but also the clarity of mind to alter your plans mid-stream and try something else—in response. Plenty of people found it difficult to trust whether Irwin could really pull off something substantive with all of his waiting around, and it takes a tremendous amount of trust for both teachers and students to act together in this way. But availability isn’t disorganization. It’s a quality of attention to the specificities of encounters, this minute, and then this one, and the next.

Steve Seidel, who gave me my first full-time job at Project Zero and first put me onto Irwin, modeled this kind of availability over and over for me. He’d taught in high school classrooms for seventeen years before going into research, and I was lucky to witness, in my early twenties, the ways he welcomed graduate students into his office and his courses, treating their concerns and questions with absolute dignity, like he had all the time in the world for them (and he didn’t!). I saw that there’s a sincere performance aspect to availability: the artificial slowing of time, the listening carefully, and the under-determined nature of exchanges with students, even if you can predict what might be on their minds. I’ve spent the last many years trying to emulate him as much as I can.

The availability thing really came alive, though, when I spent a couple of days at a time down at the School for Poetic Computation in New York. I was there twice as a visiting artist, and both times I gave a talk and then students signed up for half-hour or hour conversations. We walked, or we sat in a garden, or we looked at their work, and we talked. And most of time—these were strangers to me—I tried to get right to the essence with questions and more questions. What’s on your mind? And tell me more. And so on. You have to shore up all your reserves, to marshal all your wits about you when you do this. You have to smile and squelch the urge to fill silences, take a deep breath and pretend like you’ve known each other for some time, in the hopes that this person can get a little space to work longer on what’s in their heads and on paper, or in code, or whatever it is.

I got a little glimpse of this, too, when just a couple of weeks ago I spent time with students in the ID2 program of the Angewandte (university for applied arts) in Vienna. Students were at a halfway point in their course, which had nothing to do with disability. I came and introduced some ideas, and then they prototyped rapidly: a series of ideas-in-things, held in the provisional. There are so many reasons this kind of workshop should ultimately fail. The teacher drops in from outside; there’s no extrinsic motive for them to come along for your invitation. When it succeeds, it’s because of availability in response. With a thousand cues you have to signal: I am here now, holding space for you to do some good work."
availability  listening  sarahendren  robertirwin  teaching  learning  education  art  cv  canon  2017  audiencesofone  seveseidel  projectzero  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  id2  angewandte  conversation  unschooling  deschooling 
december 2017 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: David Hammons
"Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

[David Hammons. "Spade With Chains," 1973.]

Much has been said about the materials Hammons uses in his work. Most are taken from the street and cost very little—greasy paper bags, shovels, ice, cigarettes, rubber tubes, hair, rocks, basketballs, fried food, bikes, torn plastic tarps, Kool-Aid. Some of them are (knowingly) borrowed from the vocabulary of other artists, while others are closely tied to his own life and chosen surroundings in Harlem. Much has also been said about the meaning of his work—its arguments, its politics, what it’s “about.” And while much of what has been said has been useful, it has also been partly beside the point.

Materials are something one can see, and arguments are something one can understand, and that’s just not what Hammons is after. He’s interested in how much those wine bottles still somehow contain the lips that once drank from them. He’s after the pun on spirit—as in the drink, but also as in the presence of something far more abstract.
Black hair is the oldest hair in the world. You’ve got tons of people’s spirits in your hands when you work with that stuff.

[David Hammons. "Wine Leading the Wine," 1969. Courtesy of Hudgins Family Collection, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART.]

If Hammons is suspicious of all that is visible, it might be because the visible, in America, is all that is white. It’s all those Oscar winners, all those museum trustees, and all those faces on all those dollar bills. Some artists work to denounce, reveal, or illustrate racial injustice, and to make visible those who are not. Hammons, on the other hand, prefers invisibility—or placing the visible out of reach. He doesn’t have a lesson to teach or a point to prove, and his act of protest is simply to abstract, because that’s what will make the visible harder to recognize and the intelligible harder to understand.

If Duchamp was uninterested in what the eye can see, Hammons is oppressed by it—it’s not the same thing.

[David Hammons. "In the Hood," 1993. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.]
I’m trying to make abstract art out of my experience, just like Thelonius Monk.

For Hammons, musicians have always been both the model and the front line. When George Lewis says that “the truth of improvisation involves survival,” it’s because improv musicians look for a way forward, one note at a time, with no map to guide them and with no rules or languages to follow other than ones they invent and determine themselves. It forces them to analyze where they are and forces them to do something about it, on their own terms. Doesn’t get much more political than that.

Or, as Miles Davis once put it, “I do not play jazz.” He plays something that invents its own vocabulary—a vocabulary that is shared only by those who don’t need to know what to call it or how to contain it. And just as Miles Davis doesn’t play jazz, David Hammons doesn’t make art.

[David Hammons. "Blue Rooms," 2000 (installation view, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowkski Castle, Warsaw).]
I’m trying to create a hieroglyphics that was definitely black.

Hammons goes looking for spirits in music, poetry, and dirt. He knows they like to hide inside of sounds, lodge themselves between words or within puns, and linger around the used-up and the seemingly worthless. He knows he’s caught some when he succeeds in rousing the rubble and gets it to make its presence felt. Like Noah Purifoy, he ignores the new and the expensive in favor of the available. Like Federico Fellini, he spends his time in the bowels of culture and makes them sing.

[David Hammons. "(Untitled) Basketball Drawing," 2006.]

There are the materials that make the art—those are the foot soldiers—but there is also the attitude that makes the artist. Hammons has his way of thinking and his way of behaving, which is once again not something one sees or necessarily understands, but is something that makes its presence known, the way spirits make their presence felt. There will be some who won’t recognize it and others who do—and his work is meant only for those who see themselves in it.
Did you ever see Elvis Presley’s resume? Or John Lennon’s resume? Fuck that resume shit.

Ornette was Ornette because of what he could blow, but also because he never gave into other people’s agendas or expectations.

What matters even more than having your own agenda is letting others know that it doesn’t fit theirs. “To keep my rhythm,” as Hammons puts it, “there’s always a fight, with any structure.” The stakes are real because should you let your guard down, “they got rhythms for you,” and you’ll soon be thinking just like they do. And in a white and racist America, in a white and racist art world, Hammons doesn’t want to be thinking just like most people do. His is a recalcitrant politics of presence: where he doesn’t seem to belong, he appears; where he does belong, he vanishes.

In short: don’t play a game whose management you don’t control.

[David Hammons. "Higher Goals," 1987. Photo: Matt Weber.]
That’s the only way you have to treat people with money—you have to let these people know that your agenda is light years beyond their thinking patterns.

The Whitney Biennial? I don’t like the job description. A major museum retrospective? Get back to me with something I can’t understand.

Exhibitions are too clean and make too much sense—plus the very authority of many mainstream museums is premised on values that Hammons doesn’t consider legitimate or at least does not share. He is far more interested in walking and talking with Jr., a man living on the streets of the East Village, who taught him about how the homeless divide up their use of space according to lines marked by the positioning of bricks on a wall. Those lines have teeth. In a museum, art is stripped of all its menace.

[David Hammons. "Bliz-aard Ball Sale," 1983. Photo: Dawoud Bey.]

The painter Jack Whitten once explained of how music became so central to black American life with this allegory:
When my white slave masters discovered that my drum was a subversive instrument they took it from me…. The only instrument available was my body, so I used my skin: I clapped my hands, slapped my thighs, and stomped my feet in dynamic rhythms.

David Hammons began with his skin. He pressed his skin onto paper to make prints. Over the subsequent five decades, he has found his drum.

[David Hammons. "Phat Free," 1995-99 (video still). Courtesy of Zwirner & Wirth, New York.]"
davidhammons  anthonyhuberman  art  jazz  ornettecoleman  milesdavis  theloniousmonk  material  rules  trickster  outsiders  artworld  resumes  elvispresley  johnlennon  insiders  race  racism  us  power  authority  jackwhitten  music  museums  galleries  menace  homeless  nyc  management  structure  presence  belonging  expectations  artists  fellini  noahpurifoy  availability  culture  hieroglyphics  blackness  georgelewis  improvisation  oppression  marcelduchamp  visibility  invisibility  souls  spirits 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Open Door Isn’t Always Open | Practical Theory
"“I have an open door policy.”

It sounds great, right? Who could argue with it? But you have to ask a very important question: who isn’t coming in?

As educators, we can convince ourselves that an open door policy is working because kids are coming in. I had a teacher say to me recently that her policy of working with kids who came for extra help was working because there were always kids coming to her for extra help. I asked her about a student who was struggling, and she told me that he never came for extra help. I asked her, “Do you ever ask him to come?”

“I tell all the kids about extra help every day,” was the answer.

Some students need to be invited to come for extra help. Some students need to be told that the teacher wants to see them. That individualized attention where a student feels the personal investment of a teacher is invaluable.

And more than the personal, there’s a sociopolitical aspect to this as well. Often times, children come to school with the ghosts of the experiences their parents had in school. So there are reasons beyond the obvious – sometimes – for why a child may not come for extra help. They may not trust the teacher. They may view that help as “punishment.” They may have been taught that they shouldn’t “need” help. They might just want to run around at recess. There are any number of reasons that might keep a child from walking through that blanket-policy open door.

So when we examine our policies – especially those that center around how we make sure that every student gets the support they need – we have to not be satisfied with inviting everyone in. We have to understand that caring for children means making the time to make the individual invitation as well – to make sure each and all children know that we are there for them."
accessibility  listening  availability  teaching  education  chrislehmann  2015  welcome  opendoorpolicy  helpfulness  presence  support  howweteach  patience  invitation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Mobile Identity - Posts - Quora
"So, what is identity? I think in its most basic form, your identity is the product of how you manage your attention and others' access to that attention. Those areas where your attention is focused assemble to form a set of experiences that shape and influence where you'll direct future attention. But that attention is interrupted all the time by people, events, things, desires, boredom, weather, etc. and that process of interruption is, largely, contained to physical space because that is a natural gate on access.

Then there’s the phone. The “phone” part of the mobile phone is important not because of the voice communication it enables, but rather from the habit and etiquette that the ringing bell created in society and the direct access it grants to the caller. It’s the promise of instant communication at the cost of having attention interrupted and redirected…"

[Referenced here: http://snarkmarket.com/2012/7930 ]
permission  etiquette  interruption  availability  communication  phones  mobile  accessibility  access  attention  identity  2012  rebekahcox 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Blog: Frank Chimero (Here)
"I’ve said before attention is the most limited resource we have. We’re spread too thin, like too little butter over too much bread. I still believe that’s true, and there are a lot of people talking about how to alleviate that situation. But, often times the discussion stops too soon: we wrongly think that we’re just here to put up fences around certain areas so we’re not spread too thin.

We forget that the opportunity isn’t just to build up walls in certain areas, but to tear them down in others to give us the opportunity to care, to teach, and to just be present for a little while. Bad writers give mediocre advice that tell you to build up walls. The best writers tell you to tear walls down in the areas that matter to you. Because being available leads to incredible things: not only to unforeseen requests like Irwin’s, but also unexpected opportunities like _why’s teaching kids programming on a train ride. Availability is a mindset."
presence  frankchimero  availability  attention  delight  wonder  robertirwin  teaching  serendipity  play  focus  grazing  writing  programming  wisdom  singletasking  monotasking 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Renny Gleeson on antisocial phone tricks | Video on TED.com
"In this funny (and actually poignant) 3-minute talk, social strategist Renny Gleeson breaks down our always-on social world -- where the experience we're having right now is less interesting than what we'll tweet about it later."
culture  society  mobilephones  socialnetworking  availability  continuouspartialattention  twitter  identity  etiquette  alwayson  socialmedia  antisocial  behavior  human  communication  technology  community 
april 2009 by robertogreco
LRB · Andrew O’Hagan: Short Cuts
"fail to answer mobile phone, or turn it off completely...announces that you are deep in the throes of a secret life..don’t care...not reliable...got something to hide...screening...few modern crimes so remarked on as the crime of unavailability. Answer
psychology  society  etiquette  availability  reachability  technology  mobile  phones  social  blackberries  gadgets  facebook  privacy 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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