fig. 8-18 Research image for Carried on Both Sides created by Caroline Woolard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for promotional purposes. Photo by Levi Mandel.
I continue to be interested in shaping the way that the public understands projects. Luckily, all of the spaces we worked with were very open to our edits and suggestions for press releases. Here is the version that we all agreed to, and that Helen and I worked on together, with a lot of help from my partner Leigh Claire La Berge, for Lesley Heller:
For Immediate Release:CARRIED ON BOTH SIDESCaroline Woolard, Helen Lee, Alexander Rosenberg, Lika VolkovaNovember 4 - December 16, 2017Opening Reception: Saturday, November 4, 6–8 p.m.Panel Discussion: Thursday, December 14, 6:30 p.m.Lesley Heller is pleased to present Encounter One of Carried on Both Sides, a three-part immersive exhibition and collaboration between Caroline Woolard, Helen Lee, Alexander Rosenberg, and Lika Volkova that uncovers the history of the @ symbol. The installation presented at Lesley Heller directs attention specifically to our contemporary digital world and the imperial residues that exist in it, chiefly the ubiquitous @ symbol.The exhibition stems from an insistence that imperial forms long outlive the empire from which they were generated. Tributes to this can be found today on many college campus and government buildings where the use of classical columns is abundant. American currency contains many of these icons; the nation’s symbol—the bald eagle—can likewise be traced back to the myth of the founding of Rome. The @ symbol is derived from what was originally a graphic representation of a Roman vessel—the amphora—written with a flourishing @. Amphorae were primarily used as containers to transport tributes such as olive oil and grains from the periphery back to Rome. At the height of Roman power, so many of these amphorae were sent to Rome that they were discarded into a landfill of shards and handles reaching 115 ft high and covering 220,000 sq ft, known today as Mt. Testaccio.For Carried on Both Sides, the four artists worked together to collectively investigate the material history of classical shapes from the Roman Empire as they have come to structure our online world and our current economic environment, which social theorist Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism.” If in the 19th century, the capitalist imperative was to “produce,” today it is to “communicate.” Online has now become omnipresent. Using the legacy of the @ symbol as a provocation, these artists have crafted new imperial artifacts. The project consists of three exhibitions over the next year. Each exhibition will reveal a unique addition to the project. At Lesley Heller Workspace, clay amphorae are transmuted into glass by Alexander Rosenberg; hand pulled glass murrina by Helen Lee recall the pixelated imagery of digital computing; a single-channelvideo by Caroline Woolard records an hourglass which never runs out; kevlar forms by Lika Volkova drape from the walls.
If in the 19th century, the capitalist imperative was to “produce,” today it is to “communicate.”Carried on Both Sides is the result of two years of collaborative work between Woolard, Lee, Rosenberg and Volkova and was supported by residencies at Pilchuck Glass School and UrbanGlass.Carried on Both Sides: Encounter OneNovember 4–December 16, 2017Lesley Heller Workspace54 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002Carried on Both Sides: Encounter TwoJanuary 19–February 25, 2018LMAKgallery298 Grand Street New York, NY 10002Carried on Both Sides: Encounter ThreeSummer 2018The Knockdown Center52-19 Flushing Ave Maspeth, NY 11378
Before we heard back about the residency at Pilchuck in 2015, I was already working on mediating the project. I knew that Art21, the PBS documentary film series, was interested in making a second video about my work. I knew that a video of this quality would help us get an exhibition, as galleries like visibility, so I wrote to Art21 to ask about a second documentary, focused on glass, research, and collaboration. Nick Ravich, the Director of Production, who had made the first video with me, wrote back right away.
Subject: Checking in
November 8, 2015
Very nice to hear from you.
Glad to help the cause. Very proud of the work we all did on that one. Slowly submitting it to festivals now. But I'm guessing your dedication and charisma has as much to do with protest turnout as the video.
BM protest is Tues Nov 11 or Wed Nov 12?
And let me know if/when you're up for another video. Maybe something not quite as epic as the last one, but hopefully effective.
Nick Ravich Director of Production, Art21
133 West 25th Street, #3E New York, NY 10001
November 8, 2015
Wow—festivals? Sounds amazing. Protest is Nov 17, but it turns out I have a speaking gig that whole day and want the cash, so I'm organizing a bunch but won't be there. Of course I'm up for another one! I'd love to do something this winter if possible, or spring ... What's good for you all?
I'm working on a blown glass vessel with collaborators that I can explain.
Carried on Both Sides -
hand blown glass, yakisugi cedar wood 2015 (and ongoing)
Carried on Both Sides is a project about the ancient Roman shape that a common computer symbol comes from. What if every tap of the @ symbol conjured an image of an ancient Roman vessel? Next year marks the 45th anniversary of the use of the @ symbol in email, but at least the 480th anniversary of its use in mercantile accounting, and the 3000th anniversary of the standardization of the shape to which merchants initially referred.
Nick from Art21 and I talked about the video, and I told him that I wanted it to be used by art teachers to help students think about research-based art making. I “directed” my own speech to give him audio that would flow in that way because I think videos of this kind should be about the artist herself and also a broader concept that applies to many artists.
When he sent me the rough cut of the video in July of 2017, I sent him detailed edits.
FEEDBACK / SUGGESTIONS / QUESTIONS 00:00–00:53—perfect start/great intro! [music, waves, to talking about voraciously curious, perfect]
Then add this: As a research-based artist, How do I balance conceptual rigor with material poetry?
I begin with a line of inquiry, a question that might sustain my attention.
I then determine the methods and expertise that I need to follow this line of inquiry, which often involves bringing in collaborators in areas of expertise beyond my own.
We open ourselves up to the process itself, allowing the material to speak, in dialogue with our research.
We then find conceptually relevant ways for the project to circulate.
00:54–1:23—great audio, but don’t show the click at 01:06–01:22 as that’s the wrong amphorae and not accurate at all, so use the dressel 20 I click on or use other images than Google search, like
1:24–1:50—done, great sequence [conjuring an imperial form]
1:50–1:55 — [skype Helen] (maybe this should come after I talk about her as an artist?)
1:55–2:03—[economy and exchange] (add some- thing about imperial forms long outlive empires)
2:03–2:15 — [Helen showing the murrine] great, but add talking about process and intro collaborators (I then determine the methods and expertise that I need to follow this line of inquiry, which often involves bringing in collaborators in areas of expertise beyond my own. / We open ourselves up to the process itself, allowing the material to speak, in dialog with our research.)
2:15–2:33—“people who know glass.” INTRO Helen and Alex’s work—they are not my fabricators, please include me talking about them as artists.
2:33–4:40—[urbanglass] great. Except for 5 seconds of footage. Please cut this footage from 03:56–04:00—don’t show the ugly handles she’s making, show other Helen b-roll (too ugly of an object to show) Show footage of me looking at the vessels on the shelf (the hour glass)
4:40–5:28 — [beach] great, but cut the audio here 04:40–4:42 — please don’t have me saying “babies, lots of babies,” and cut the footage from 04:56– 05:00 with Alex and I playing in the sand.
5:28–5:58 — [lovely dream waves] great please add more of this in the beach b-roll throughout, I love this wave part. More floating in waves without the beach being seen! Like 07:21–07:30
5:58–6:48—[saying yes speculative future sequence] great, but for the b-roll images from 6:08–6:12 add the best work, the Capitoline Wolves table, the roman columns, Helen’s newest tray of murrine, Helen's marble overhead, etc.
6:48–7:38—[dream state] YES so good, cut audio 6:55–6:58 “to escape everything” so it just says “it’s where I went to ... be alone with myself.” Add “imperial forms long outlive empires.”
consider adding http://carriedonbothsides.com/?time=night which will soon have https://www.dropbox.com/s/zjiivw0nv0i4npu/Hourglass_ v1.mov?dl=0 on it
We went back and forth, as he kept wanting to start with a romantic image of me and I kept pushing back.
Feedback / Suggestions / Questions
NOTE: my major requests/needs are in bold
I like “floating possibility” a lot!
00:00–00:12 — great start visually, not sure about the “I grew up surrounded by the ocean” audio, but fine.
00:17–00:21 — you MUST cut the audio that says “where I went to be alone.” This is upsetting to me as it is romantic-era language, not 21st century collaborative language, and not at all about my practice. If you must, you can start with “I grew up near the ocean” but PLEASE cut the audio “to be alone.” I am finishing a book now on the future of art education with Susan Jahoda that is precisely taking up this image of the solitary artist right now, to be published this December. It would be very hard for me to show this video with confidence to anyone if that “alone” language is included.
00:21–01:20 — great (minor weird audio cut from 01:08–01:09)
01:20–1:30 — new image for the amphorae rather than showing “getty images logo.” you can use this
and perhaps an image of ancient Rome shipment like this:
or a general map
01:38–01:40 — weird audio jump
01:42–01:50 — maybe don’t show Helen / Alex’s emails? I’m fine with it, let me see if they are.
02:02–02:07 — maybe cut audio “for me it felt like a clear direction to go in” to give silence / pause.
02:16 or 02:29—drop in title card “Helen Lee—artist” here.
02:39–02:42—cut this, go straight to the glass, let the glass image lead.
03:57–03:58 — weird audio jump 04:11–04:15—cut the shelf shot, give us more sexy glass studio shots.
04:49—slow cuts before this, to really prepare viewers for video shift “we decided to go to the beach.”
04:59–05:03—can you replace this b-roll with another shot that’s less childlike?
05:07–7:21—beautiful, work in the audio with b-roll and it’s done!
05:33–05:39—cut audio “the objects have a life of their own ... what the objects want.” Too romantic.
06:09—please add the slide of Helen’s tray of murrine (in HELEN PICS folder)
07:06 — great! This can be the last spoken word “Suspend disbelief and make a work of art that’s for a dream state.”
07:21–07:40 — cut audio “what if art could be ... a kind of glistening glass object in the middle of the ocean ... that is the encounter, that is the exhibition.” as this makes no sense at all. Perhaps in this section you can bring in more audio from me about Helen’s work and Alex’s work? Or just bring up the music and the wave sounds!!!
In the end, Nick and Art21 determined that the video needed to be focused on me, as they had not done work about collaborative projects before, and I yielded to their interest in the narrative of the singular artist with adjustments to bring in more audio and context about Helen and Alex. This was a difficult compromise to reach. I agreed to an approach to representing the project where Helen Lee was honored as a conceptual artist in her own right.
“Political interventions, crossing through art, inextricably linked to the institution, must be aware of the clash between recognition and distribution, or else, politics and the economy and how historically constituted artistic labor operates within this class, or conflict, both materially, and as an analytical category.”
— Angela Dimitrakaki, 2018
In other projects and platforms, such as The Meeting, see chapter 1, and The Study Center for Group Work, see chapter 2, the group determined that we would produce our own media so that we could more accurately represent collaborative practices. My other book-length efforts, including TRADE SCHOOL: 2009–2019 and Making and Being: a Guide to Embodiment, Collaboration, and Circulation in the Visual Arts, are co-authored because they hold a commitment to a practice of collaboration in writing and reflection as well as in making art. And yet, the writing I am doing on this page, for this traveling exhibition and book, has been done alone, with feedback from collaborators.
My work will continue to hold the tension between “autonomy — as the subjective power of the encounter with an artwork—and heteronomy — as the process of erosion of art disciplinary borders into non-art and into the social dimension” because this tension cannot be resolved on the scale of the individual, (see here). The shift toward solidarity art worlds and a dominant narrative of collective subjectivity in the arts will be realized over generations, collectively, with policies and funding that support solidarity economy efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, especially women, nonbinary people, and trans people.
To maintain a livelihood, I place one foot in the elite institution — the art school, the art gallery, and the art non-profit —and one foot in the solidarity economy: barter and mutual aid, see chapter 3, community currencies, see chapter 4, collectives, see chapter 5, worker cooperatives, see chapter 6 and chapter 2, and group communication and collective governance, see chapters 1, 2, 7, 8. I hope that you feel, with collective strength and experience, that another economy is possible in the arts, and beyond, because it already exists. Just as you have survived, this solidarity economy has survived, and is surviving. We can strengthen it, together, see Solidarity Art Economy Manifesto / From Artist to Solidarity Arts Economy Organizer, 1 - 11, within Welcome.