Pioneer Works: Thinking Differently Together

Pioneer Works is an artist-run cultural center that opened its doors to the public, free of charge, in 2012. Imagined by its founder, artist Dustin Yellin, as a place in which artists, scientists, and thinkers from various backgrounds converge, this “museum of process” takes its primary inspiration from utopian visionaries such as Buckminster Fuller, and radical institutions such as Black Mountain College.

Pioneer Works encourages radical thinking across disciplines by providing practitioners a space to work, tools to create, and a platform to exchange ideas that are free and open to all. We are driven by the realization that humanity is facing unprecedented social, intellectual, and spiritual challenges; our programs explore new ways of facing those challenges by using the arts and sciences dynamically as both a lens and catalyst. When humanity comes together and combines the ideas and talents of many, we have the ability to engineer what once appeared to be impossible. [source]

Images from The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth
Atelier Van Lieshout

Second Sunday – April 14th, 2019
[Second Sundays is a free event series including open-doors to artists’ studios]

Industrial Design || Electronic Superhighway

The industrial lines within the National Portrait Gallery, paired to perfection with the outlines of the United States on

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995-96
forty-nine-channel closed-circuit video installation, neon, steel, and electronic components
by Nam June Paik

Electronic Superhighway is Nam June Paik’s tribute to the United States, his adopted homeland. Paik, born in Korea in 1932, moved to New York in 1964 and lived in America until his death in 2006.

Though the outlines of the fifty states are familiar, Electronic Superhighway challenges the viewer to look with new eyes at the cultural map of the United States. Each state is represented by video footage reflecting the artist’s personal, and often unexpected connections to his artistic friends – composer John Cage in Massachusetts, performance artist Charlotte Moorman in Arkansas, and choreographer Merce Cunningham in Washington. Some states he knew best through classic movies – The Wizard of Oz appears for Kansas, Showboat for Mississippi, and South Pacific for Hawaii. Sometimes he chose video clips or assembled flickering slideshows that evoke familiar associations, such as the Kentucky Derby, Arizona highways, and presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa. Topical events such as the fires of the 1993 Waco siege or Atlanta’s 1996 summer Olympics create portraits of moments in time. Old black-and-white television footage and audio of Martin Luther King’s speeches recall Civil Rights struggles in Alabama. California has the fastest-paced imagery: racing through the Golden Gate Bridge, the zeros and ones of the digital revolution, and a fitness class led by O.J. Simpson. A mini-cam captures images of Superhighway’s viewers and transmits those images to a tiny screen representing Washington, D.C. making visitors a part of the story.

Nam June Paik is hailed as the ”father of video art” and credited with the first use of the term ”information superhighway” in the 1970s. He recognized the potential for media collaboration among people in all parts of the world, and he knew that media would completely transform our lives. Electronic Superhighway – constructed of 336 televisions, 50 DVD players, 3.750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicoloured neon tubing – is a testament to the ways media defined one man’s understanding of a diverse nation.

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Still Lives

Stephanie Syjuco || The Visible Invisible: Antebellum South (Simplicity)+Colonial Revolution (McCall’s), 2018+Ungovernable (Hoist), 2017
Stephanie Syjuco || Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament+Crime), 2016

In this installation, Syjuco’s contemporary “still life” takes as inspiration the subjects of photographic color calibration charts that have been long used to check for “correct” or “neutral” color. The array of images and objects in the works creates a visual friction, challenging the idea of cultural and political neutrality by presenting a coded narrative of empire and colonialism as told through art history, Modernism, ethnography, stock photos, and Google Image searches. [source: Stephanie Syjuco]

Tanya Aguiñiga || Hand-Felted Folding Chairs, 2006-present

From ”Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018” presenting work from four artists: Tanya Aguiñiga, Sharif Bey, Dustin Farnsworth and Stepanie Syjuco.

March 22nd, 2019


by Sharif Bey


”A mass of disembodied ceramic human heads randomly piled onto the floor […]. The viewer is confronted by the bald figures, all with a slightly different physiognomy and in the different shades of human skin—brown and black, and occasionally, white. The assemblage by ceramicist Sharif Bey, titled Assimilation? Destruction? is primarily about globalization and cultural identity. It is also a reference to Bey’s identity as a potter and an artist of color.”

”The piece is never the same in any exhibition—the 1,000 or so pinch pot heads are brought to a gallery in garbage cans and “unceremoniously dumped out,” says Bey, showing a video of the process. The heads break, crack and get pounded into smaller shards. Over time, he says, the piece, which he created for his MFA thesis project in 2000, will become sand. Ultimately, Assimilation? Destruction? signifies that “you’re everything and you’re nothing at the same time.” With its shifting collective and individual shapes, the assemblage is also “a comment on what it means to be a transient person,” he says.” [source: Smithsonian Magazine]

From ”Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018” presenting work from four artists: Tanya Aguiñiga, Sharif Bey, Dustin Farnsworth and Stepanie Syjuco.

March 22nd, 2019

Double Hat

Big enough for two

Palapa, 2017 by Tanya Aguiñiga
Powder-coated steel and synthetic hair

Named for the open-sided thatched huts that pepper the beaches of Mexico. These distinctive shelters are woven by Mexicans but used mostly by tourists. Aguiñiga’s mysterious, surreal interpretation of these everyday structures is symbolic of her own ambiguous identity, as someone who navigates the dual worlds of palapa maker and user, of and outside both cultures.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Renwick Gallery

Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019


David Best and the Temple Crew

Since 2000, David Best has designed and coordinated the construction of approximately half of the Burning Man temples. Established as sacred spaces of reflection and prayer, all of these have been massive, incredibly intricate, wooden structures. During the week of Burning Man, the Temples are adorned by participants with memorials and inscriptions. The structure is burned in a cathartic ritual to inspire healing and community. Since 2005, Best has also built similarly ephemeral temples in public spaces outside of Burning Man, within the United States and in countries such as Ireland and Nepal. Committed to the values of inclusion and participation, he creates opportunities for anyone who wants to take part in his projects, augmenting a core group of volunteers known as the Temple Crew with members of each community where he works.

Originally part of the exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, this site-specific installation covered the walls with intricately carved raw wood panels that lead to an ornate altar. Wooden placards were provided for visitors to write a personal message and leave within the installation [on show from March 2018 to January 2020].

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Renwick Gallery

Washington, D.C.

March 22nd, 2019

Believe Anything

Then again, don’t.

Barbara Kruger Belief + Doubt [detail] || 2012 || Vinyl
Barbara Kruger Belief + Doubt [detail] || 2012 || Vinyl

Background: Felix Gonzales-Torres || Untitled (For Jeff) || 1992
Foreground: Constantin Brancusi || Torso of a Young Man || 1924

During his relatively brief career, Felix Gonzales-Torres expanded the language of Conceptual art by rethinking the reproduction, circulation, and presentation of artwork. ”Untitled” (For Jeff) belongs to the artist’s Billboard series which consists of works displayed simultaneously in multiple locations around a city. Collectively, the series creates a viewing community that spans several neighbourhoods and demographic groups. Dedicated to Jeff, a healthcare worker who cared for the artist’s dying partner, this particular work publicly addresses the AIDS crisis of the early 1990s.

Robert Barry || Steel Disc Suspended 1/8 in. Above Floor || 1967

Hung from a nearly transparent nylon string, the steel disc becomes a mere tool to demarcate the small, blank space beneath it. The artist’s aim is to make the void palpable, to create a presence from absence, and to overcome the materialization of ideas.

Socket Looking Incredulous || Presence from Absence || Is this art? || I think it’s time to leave the Hirshhorn…

The Hirshhorn, Washington D.C.

March 18th, 2019


The third work from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse series, the Pulse Room (2006) rounded out the exhibition, featuring hundreds of clear, incandescent light bulbs hanging from the ceiling in even rows, pulsing with the heartbeats of past visitors. Visitors could add their heartbeat to the installation by touching a sensor, which transmitted the pulse to the first bulb. Additional heartbeats continued to register on the first bulb, advancing earlier recordings ahead one bulb at a time. The sound of the collected heartbeats joined the light display to amplify the physical impact of the installation.

(More about the artist and his works in the last two posts).

Pulse was on view at The Hirshhorn from November 2018 to April 2019.

March 18th, 2019


The second work from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse series, Pulse Tank (2008), which premiered at Prospect.1, New Orleans Biennial, was updated and expanded for the exhibition at the Hirshhorn. Sensors turned viewers’ pulse into ripples on illuminated water tanks, creating ever-changing patterns that were reflected on the gallery walls.

(More about the artist and his works in yesterday’s post).

Pulse was on view at The Hirshhorn from November 2018 to April 2019.

March 18th, 2019