Culture / by Heather Kapplow

It looks like this time I really missed the 1 month mark completely! Sorry about that. It's been a pretty busy art time. Not busier than planned for, but with much more shuffling around and scrambling than expected. I'm not going to feel too bad about it as I have yet to encounter anyone who admits to actually reading this blog. But I'll make this long enough for two months to make up for it.

I'll update first and then reflect on the notion of culture a bit.

 Install for   Ovation   in progress (at Fenway Park.)

Install for Ovation in progress (at Fenway Park.)

Since the end of August, I've been hacking away at the several big projects mentioned in previous posts. Ovation and Driving Culture are completed now; (Eau D' Wilderness Grove) is out for review before a final round of refinement; and the fourth (WATER) is still in the depths of progress, but due soon.

 Roving public artwork,   Driving Culture  , parked on Boston's City Hall Plaza.

Roving public artwork, Driving Culture, parked on Boston's City Hall Plaza.

As I've been working almost exclusively as an artist these last few months, I've been experiencing phenomena that I'm used to in work-work contexts, but not art contexts. Namely, that of making things by a deadline that are not quite what I'd hoped they would be, but having to “publish” them anyway.

The good news is that sometimes people can't tell when things aren't quite what they were supposed to be, and they love them anyway, and you feel like they are “good enough” even if not perfect. Other times, people just won't to tell you if something falls short of the concept. Which sort of sucks but I guess is the best thing when there's no space for making improvements.

The best case scenario is neither: it's when something is close to what you'd hoped for and people around you are willing to point out its weaknesses and have the patience to let you keep pushing closer to the ideal for awhile.

But most commonly in my experience? People say nothing. You do things that you know are good, bad or meh and there's very little recognition of the effort, and in my case, zero press coverage. Getting better press coverage of my work (and better documentation in general) should probably start moving higher up on my list of priorities, but it's just painfully difficult for me to give those kinds of considerations as much “mental real estate” as actually devising art projects.

 My documentation of a colleague's work (Shaw Pong Liu) during  Boston Creates .

My documentation of a colleague's work (Shaw Pong Liu) during Boston Creates.

Also on my mind, and hinted at above is the culture of my arts community. It's been awhile since I've been so exclusively focused on/in Boston. And the arts culture here—which I have long been a part of, but have always stayed just slightly removed from—is sometimes kind of intense.

I've been in a zone for a while where I almost prefer to collaborate with people than to work on my own. Definitely I prefer projects that put me in contact with people I would not normally meet on my own to working in a solitary mode right now. But I've been feeling this way in the context of a loose-knit arts community that is spread out fairly widely around the world, and am not sure how applicable it is locally in the long run. Culturally, this city's arts community could do more to encourage collaborative practices as much as it encourages individual practices.

So I'm thinking about culture in the anthropological sense; about the conditions of the production of culture in the “cultural plan” sense; and actually I'm also thinking a lot about culture in the fermentation or oyster bed sense of the word. My art-heart wants so much for things to build on things in Boston—for them to swell up and expand like sourdough starter, ready to be passed around and nurtured by everyone, and making an endless supply of bread.

 1st sourdough bread by a filmmaker friend (Katya Gorker) in Philadelphia using starter originally received from a Boston musician (Shaw Pong Liu).

1st sourdough bread by a filmmaker friend (Katya Gorker) in Philadelphia using starter originally received from a Boston musician (Shaw Pong Liu).

And in fact, as a kind of an aside to any particular project, I'm excited to have set the wheels in motion to begin tracking the movement of an actual sourdough culture through a loose association of creative types in Boston and beyond. I don't know how yet, but I feel like the key to some problem I'm trying to solve about the mindset here may lie in an informal, longitudinal study of the life of a special little batch of sourdough starter. Perhaps a super goofy mockumentary style biopic is ultimately in the cards for this particular ball of yeastiness...we'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to how WATER will come together. I'll be thinking about this almost non-stop for the next two + weeks, and then heading to Ohio to make it real.

I'm also looking forward to two sort of educational opportunities on my immediate horizon. One is a local symposium next week on Black Mountain College (I think I wrote in here about my obsession with these folks and my visit to their museum in NC last year...) focused on its impact on collaborative processes in the arts. I signed up at first because I'm slated to do an article about a related exhibition at Boston's ICA, but also feel like it might be relevant to things I'm trying to figure out right now personally.

I'm also registered to take an online course for journalists on data visualization through December. I'm not actually interested in data visualization itself. I'm interested in what makes people trust it so much. Gotta figure out how to apply the same principles to smells.

I'm curious to see how these dips into slightly more academic realms impact my art making...