Hi, 5 with Phil McAndrew

About the Hi, 5 Interview Series

Hi, 5 (5 Questions) is a web-only interview series which presents five questions to artists, activists, and creative thinkers alike. The project acts as an educational device which allows us to gain insight into the narratives that define successful individuals. We are interested in the motivations behind ambitious ideas and how change has been affected by those with the passion for progress in their practice.

Today we interview Phil McAndrew. Phil creates intriguing and original content, and has worked for a large and diverse client base. He also has the benefit of being extremely hilarious and we were quite pleased when he emailed us back with some great answers.

About Phil McAndrew

Phil McAndrew is an illustrator and cartoonist from Syracuse, New York, the snowiest city in the United States. He’s created illustrations and comics for books, magazines, newspapers, television, theatrical sets, clothing, posters, album covers, gallery exhibits, websites, and fun. He graduated from Daemen College’s illustration program after being awarded their portfolio-based four year visual art scholarship.

Phil currently lives in San Diego, California.

Phil McAndrew - Diplomacy

Phil McAndrew

January 31st, 2012

If you had to describe your current self to a 16-year-old you, what would you say?

I’d describe myself to 16-year-old Phil as someone who gets to sit at home and draw pictures and eat candy all day. That was pretty much my goal as a 16 year old if I remember correctly, though at the time I don’t think I was actually convinced that it was really possible (or at least that I’d personally ever be able to get to that point).

Could you describe an evolution in your work or way of thinking?

My work and way of thinking has definitely shifted more and more towards “just have fun, be a nice guy and be honest with yourself” and away from trying to impress people. I mean, I’ve always tried to keep those things in mind but I’ve definitely learned first hand exactly how important it is to simply have fun and to be awesome, both to yourself and to others (hint: it’s very important). If you’re really allowing yourself to have fun, it’ll show through in the quality of your work and improve your life.

Are there any people who have been instrumental in the development of your way of thinking and viewing the world?

So many people! I don’t think I could list them all if I tried. I think every single person I meet expands my view of the world, bit by bit. My way of thinking has been informed by various teachers all through my life, both the good ones and the bad ones. My parents and grandparents. My brothers and my friends. Jim Henson.

How do your political beliefs inform or fuel your work as an artist?

I don’t think my political beliefs really fuel my work very often, at least not the work that I put out into the world. I mean, you can probably get a really vague sense of what end of the spectrum my beliefs are at if you dissect every little aspect of my comics and drawings, but that’s rarely where my head is when I’m creating stuff. For a really brief time in college I tried my hand at political cartooning and sometimes I will still find myself reading about some ridiculous political insanity and in a moment of rage or bewilderment will sit down and start writing little comics lampooning one side or the other, but those comics almost never make it past being scribbles in my sketchbook. At the end of the day that’s just not the sort of work I want to focus on I guess. I’d rather make myself laugh.

What do you feel a city should be or do for its inhabitants?

I think cities are living, breathing things. And how awesome or terrible they are really sort of depends on, well, a lot of things. But mostly it’s inhabitants. So I guess I feel like inhabitants should be asking themselves what can I be or do for my city.


Nick Tobier on art, expectations & encounters

City Walker, courtesy of everydayplaces.com

This is part of an ongoing set of one-question emails sent to people we know, or would like to get to know, about things that interest us and inform our collective practice. They’ll be featured on the site weekly, usually on Fridays. These questions are more about unfolding ideas than about the people we’re asking, but we do ask those kinds of questions too.

We’re ecstatic to continue this project with a question for a recent artist-in-residence at Homework: Infrastructures & Collaboration and all-around excellent Detroit neighbour, Nick Tobier.

What does art do for people who experience something that they don’t necessarily read as being art?

An intuitive response to anything, I think, an honest encounter with the world is just about as direct and honest as you can get in having an experience. Wonder, puzzlement, pique, bemusement, delight–I am a big fan of all that swirling around before we pause and recognize what it is or why it is.

Once it is pinpointed and sorted, and understood amidst all of the other things it most closely resembles, the experience may or may not be (art) but it is starting to fade.

Wonder, for instance, that I imagine 14th century pilgrims to Chartres Cathedral saw when they looked up at the stained glass windows. That may be a type of awe-inspiring transcendent encounter with art, where a gut response is flushed with sheer scale and visual information.

Expectations and context affect just about everything, so with the pilgrimage, I suppose you are somewhat primed for something perspective-shifting. And while maybe that’s too grandiose a claim or romantic a vision, I’d stand up and say that the revelatory experiences I aspire to tend to the wonder/bemusement spectrum up there with revelation

The pilgrim takes off purposefully to encounter an inspiring experience. Our contemporary equivalent (perhaps without the religious directive) may know far too much to be enraptured by a visual display. Tell me it is art ahead of time, and my expectations are set to judge. But shift from the cathedral or its near equivalents in cultural significance to a more everyday context–a suburban strip mall, a highway, an intersection, a routine sequence in life. Here is where the struggle to achieve transcendence is most needed today. If even for a split second, we can sidestep the expectations of what the next second is going to look, sound or feel like, the seconds after that will be infinitely possible.

Nick Tobier (that’s me) would say (I do) that he does public construction. Nick studied landscape architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and subsequently worked as a landscape architect in private practice and with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation/Bronx Division. Through individual and collective work, Tobier’s interest in the potential of public places has manifested itself in built public projects and actions in San Francisco, Detroit and New York, internationally from Toronto to Tokyo, and performances on the stage and in the streets from Milan to Paramaribo, Suriname and at The Edinburgh, Minneapolis and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals.

In his work and teaching, currently as an Associate Professor in the School of Art & Design at The University of Michigan, Tobier focuses on the integration of art and society, and actively challenges artists to expand their self-definitions and scope. These efforts have included partnerships with artists and farmers; critical and celebratory involvements between artists, art students and broad communities; lectures as performances and vice-versa; and a growing commitment to lasting partnerships working with creative individuals and communities in Detroit.

Sue Bell Yank on Art and Social Practice

from suebellyank.com/

This is part of an ongoing set of one-question emails sent to people we know, or would like to get to know, about things that interest us and inform our collective practice. They’ll be featured on the site weekly, usually on Fridays. These questions are more about unfolding ideas than about the people we’re asking, but we do ask those kinds of questions too.

We’re ecstatic to launch this project with a question for Sue Bell Yank.

Is social practice, as a term or label, more valuable in extending the reach and possibility of visual artists, or more valuable as an articulation of an entirely different space and mode of production?

Social practice falls under the rubric of art, but it doesn’t really extend the reach and possibility of artists, because its realm has always been the artists’ realm – or perhaps art in an expanded form as it has existed since the 1960s. But if one draws an arbitrary line at the 60s, which saw the birth of land art, performance art, conceptualism, one can then extend to the precursors of those works, to Dada, to surrealism, to then the precursors of those movements…to Impressionism…

So how can it be anything but art, historically and practically? Social practice is a convenient (if perhaps indelicate) name for current practices that have grown from important artistic concepts that have been around for decades. The best artists of any time challenge hegemony, attempt to break through the complacency of their audiences to awaken them to alternate possibilities (the very raison d’etre of the avant-garde), investigate societal problems and (sometimes) create new ones, break apart systems and ways of being and re-envision them poetically.

That being said, the space and mode of production of social practice is indeed broader than what we traditionally think of as studio practice, object-making, but grows from and infects those realms as well. It is hybrid, it is vigorous, it reaches into many other systems and aspects of being beyond the art context. It manifests programmatically as conferences, participatory activities, workshops, dinners, shops, performances, community centers, even housing tracts – reaching beyond the cube to the board room and proscenium and public park and neighborhood.

Is the term itself valuable? Why are such labels valuable in the first place? Primarily, for access. Yet for many of these projects, it seems unimportant precisely how participants access them, as long as they do. They don’t necessarily need to understand them as Art. In fact, sometimes labeling a project as Art, to a general public, allows them to dismiss it as something wackadoo and not worth much thought or attention. But the term “social practice” is also unintelligible to a general public, so not very useful in that effort either. People tend to take these projects on their own terms.

Another value to a label is categorization within the industry itself, that industry being Art. In that case, the label social practice indeed allows for an extension of the artists’ reach in a more mainstream fashion. Artists who work in this way are gaining traction at more and more institutions, increasingly in demand for participatory, engagement-based, or community-based projects that are extremely attractive to cities and cultural institutions. Social practice becomes a useful umbrella term, though its vagueness also leads to powerful misconceptions and mismanaged expectations. This is the dark underbelly of labeling – putting these artists and their projects into a convenient box as “audience development tools,” able to do the hard work of reaching underserved demographics, of creating inclusive and festival-like environments where everyone can participate in making art and feeling good about themselves. We then begin to forget that social practice is really about challenge, and problems, and that hard work of practicing new systems of the social, of reworking dysfunctional aspects of society.

Like it or not, we are stuck with the term for the time being, and it is important for artists, arts organizers, and writers to diligently re-examine our understanding of it again and again, in all its complexity.

Sue Bell Yank is a writer and arts organizer. She is currently the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Hammer Museum, and adjunct faculty in the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. She graduated from the Masters of Public Art Studies program at USC, and completed her thesis on the role of contemporary art in rebuilding efforts after a crisis, focusing on post-Katrina New Orleans. She has worked with artist Edgar Arceneaux as a co-founder and Assistant Director for the Watts House Project, and has a deep-seated investment in non-profit organizations and arts-based urban planning practices. She was part of the curatorial team for the 2008 California Biennial, and most recently served as a curatorial advisor for the Creative Time Living as Form exhibition. Her writing has been featured in the 2008 California Biennial exhibition catalogue, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, the Huffington Post, Mammut magazine, and various arts blogs including her ongoing essay blog entitled Social Practice: writings about the social in contemporary art (www.suebellyank.com).

Hi, 5 with Dave Murray

About the Hi, 5 Interview Series

Sara Howie and I are excited to begin a new web-only interview project called Hi, 5 (5 Questions). The project will act as an educational device which will allow us to gain insight into the narratives that define successful individuals. We are interested in the motivations behind ambitious ideas and how change has been affected by those with the passion for progress. I decided to interview Dave because, once I heard about him, I was interested in how he worked the imagery and culture of Toronto, Ontario into his work.

About Dave Murray

Dave Murray is an illustrator and designer, currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Graduating in 2009 with a BAA Illustration from Sheridan College, Dave has continued to push himself to explore new visual frontiers to express both his own and client’s visions. Dave’s work has evolved to reflect his myriad interests; be it the strict design of his Toronto neighbourhood mapping series, or his futuristic cubist takes on portraits and pop culture.

Clients include Stella Artois, Streetcar Developments and Dandyhorse Magazine.

Dave’s work has been featured in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Canadian House and Home, Benjamin Moore, and 3 x 3 Magazine, as well as countless blogs.

Dave Murray - Polygon Series (Rob Ford)

Dave Murray

January 13th, 2012

If you had to describe your current self to a 16-year-old you, what would you say?

Ha ha, the first thing would probably be that I no longer have shoulder length hair.  I’d probably describe myself as a pretty logical evolution of where I was – everything is mostly the same, just more refined.

Could you describe an evolution in your work or way of thinking?

My work is constantly evolving – but I think the biggest step in the past few years has been the result of really exploring new ways of working that I otherwise wouldn’t usually do.  I’ve really re-kindled my love of drawing, and am more into the history of art and image making.  All of this expansion not only provides me with ways to creatively blow off some steam, but it also informs my more focused pieces.

Are there any people who have been instrumental in the development of your way of thinking and viewing the world?

This one’s actually tricky for me to answer.  I like to think of myself as a passive observer – I don’t always immediately act on things, nor do I always respond to advice or new ways of thinking.  Maybe I’m missing out on a lot, I don’t know.

How do your political beliefs inform or fuel your work as an artist?

Again, this is one of those things that I try not to let creep into my art.  My politics are probably best defined by the some of the projects I take on – Dandyhorse Magazine is a great example.  I’ve done a few pieces for them, and I love that I’ve had the chance to work with them because I love bicycles, and I love cycling in Toronto.  This isn’t my favourite thing to admit, but trying to live as a freelance illustrator means that I’ll be more likely to take jobs from places that I might not necessarily support because it’ll pay the bills – the best part of those jobs, though, is making them fun for myself.

What do you feel a city should be or do for its inhabitants?

I feel like a city should, more than anything else, be an accessible home for everyone who wants to live there.  Mass transit, good infrastructure, reliable services and culture are all things that a city should prioritize and constantly strive to improve.  Toronto, right now, is an example of how not to prioritize these things, and it’s sad.  Our mayor and his cronies are doing a sub-par job (putting it lightly).  What I fear most though, is not that something bad will happen – but that NOTHING will happen.  I’m pretty sure that at the end of Ford’s run, we’re going to be exactly where we were 4 years previous.


BCL Interview on Bad at Sports!

Danielle and Justin were recently interviewed by Sarah Margolis-Pineo, a curator and collections fellow at Cranbrook Art Museum, Homework conference participant, and writer for Bad at Sports (an incredible contemporary art blog, podcast, and interview series). Founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie, Richard Holland, and Amanda Browder, Bad at Sports (B@S) now features over 20 principle collaborators and is a weekly podcast, a series of objects, events, and a daily blog produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City that features artists and “art worlders” talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it.

B@S can be tricky to describe: it acts as a curious investigator, an archivist, oral historian, and occasionally as a provocateur. We produce content that lies somewhere on the venn diagram of art, journalism, media, intellectualism, and “the naughty bits.”  We represent artists and their art world through an archive that is text, audio, physical, ephemeral, historical, and constantly evolving through ongoing and unique projects.

Sarah did a great job at framing the context of Windsor and Detroit and the interview covers a lot of ground, charting a bit of history for us, collectively, and the way we work together alongside some thoughts on moving in and out of a gallery and spatially-based public practice. The interview was a lot of fun and we’re flattered to be covered alongside so many incredible artists, curators, thinkers, and doers.

Check out the interview and be sure to dig deep into the Bad at Sports archives here:

And, you should check out the show Sarah recently co-curated over at Cranbrook, No Object Is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection Through March 25, 2012!

Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français

Below is the transcription of the interview Rosina and I had this fall with Ariane from the Centre Français in Hamilton. While going through what was discussed around the topics of francophonie in Hamilton, I came across a good amount of ideas and phrases that could be interestingly interpreted when paired in context to the steel industry. It became clear to me that the Steel industry versus other minor industries important to Hamilton’s development, such as the textile industry, tells an interesting story when paired with the Anglophone culture in Hamilton versus a variety of other language-based cultures forming in the city over the past 40 years.

At the end of the interview we asked about words in either language that cannot be translated. I think this would be a good question to ask on an online form in the near future.

Below is the interview (in french), and as a comment to this post is the  compilation of the phrases picked out of the conversation to be used as further research. Please read the interview (you can translate it roughly using google if you need to) and add your comments and suggestions for potential interviewees, as well as further interview questions for a steel industry representative, an anglophone, and a textile industry representative.

Thanks again to Ariane at the Centre Français in Hamilton for providing some insights into francophone culture and identity in Hamilton.

Continue reading “Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français”

DX Salon Nights: In Conversation

Poster for DX Salon Night with BCL & DoUC

Michelle and Justin head up to Toronto on December 8th at 6:30pm at 234 Bay Street for an interview with the Department of Unusual Certainties, as part of the ongoing DX Salon Night.

Not familiar with the Design Exchange?

The Design Exchange (DX) is Canada’s design centre and museum with a mission to promote the value of design.  We are an internationally recognized non-profit educational organization committed to promoting greater awareness of design as well as the indispensable role it plays in fostering economic growth and cultural vitality.  We build bridges by improving communication between various design disciplines, educators, businesses and the general public through programs, exhibits, lectures, and workshops.

Yes, we’re excited. Hope you’ll join us.

Border Interviews: Kero

To get a jump start on laying the groundwork for our upcoming How to Forget the Border Completely project, we have decided to interview a small group of individuals who may be considered “experts” of the Windsor-Detroit border in some way.

Kero, a musician/graphic designer/video artist, was our first candidate for a video interview. He has had the frustrating experience of having to cross the border into Detroit quite frequently, many times spending up to an hour being screened upon entry.

Kero shared some border crossing stories–some of which truly highlight the absurdity of current border protocol–and shared ideas for how to improve the border-crossing experience, if even slightly.

Continue reading “Border Interviews: Kero”