You know you’re in Art School when…

Performance Piece by artist Ken Becker from Dorothy Santos on Vimeo.

One of your brilliant classmates hacks open a sculptural work during a performance piece. I will be posting more pictures this weekend but one of the graduate wide electives I took this past semester was Sound, Music, and Technology. Ken was in my class and when he proposed his project, it was difficult for me to envision it other than him destroying something he built. Then, the night of our final projects exhibition arrived. We all gathered in The Nave at California College of the Arts (CCA) on the San Francisco campus and watched his performance. Fortunately, I have pretty steady hands and was able to get Ken in action. Watch it and feel free to comment. Personally, I love his piece BUT I’m curious what you think before I start sharing my opinion and breaking it down. Enjoy!

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

3 thoughts on “You know you’re in Art School when…”

  1. There are elements of the performance that I find interesting- particularly the sound element, but the rest seems gratuitous or unresolved. For example the platform that he was standing on or the shape of the box, and what was inside. Can you talk more about why you like the the piece and what the bigger idea was about?

    1. Hi DVCN,

      First, thank YOU for engaging with me. I definitely appreciate you reading and/or checking out the video. Very much appreciated.

      Now, to address your comment, my favorite part of the piece is, like you, the sound component. Having been in class with Ken this past semester, I had the privilege of listening to Ken’s work throughout and gaining insight on his creative process. I can certainly see how you perceived elements of the work as a bit gratuitous (i.e., the platform and the contents of the box). The wooden platform Ken was standing on, I believe, was to guard against the white box slamming against the concrete in the Nave. It actually worked to create a sharp, fast sound. Regarding the project being “unresolved,” well, the piece wasn’t exactly what Ken envisioned. Admittedly, he had a lot more of an involved process (e.g. wiring, programming, and soldering) that time didn’t permit. You also made a perceptive comment about the pieces inside the box. If I recall correctly, the original proposal was suppose to incorporate the sounds of the box and its components being broken. Essentially, aside from hearing the wood being hacked into pieces, there was supposed to be another layer of sound but I don’t think part of the proposal made it into the final piece. I will say that it was a fantastic start to his originally ambitious project. I think the entire class was wondering if he could actually do it but the result actually worked, especially with the track he created (from ProTools).

      Overall, the sound and music principles we learned from the elective were met in Ken’s project. His was probably one of two that were the most involved in regard to sound and music. His attempt at incorporating performance into the overall work was commendable. Again, I think it’s challenging that the public doesn’t get a chance to see and/or bear witness to the creative process. BUT, as I mentioned, you bring up some really great points. Thanks again AND please feel free to share knowledge and opinion. I definitely welcome it. 🙂

  2. Yes, I believe process is a critical component of art making, as well as situating the work within a disciplinary context. Because of that, I hope the action of breaking / destroying was well considered. I feel like it can be an over-used trope in performance art. Then again, I admit that I carry some biases against it. However, any artist that takes his work seriously is what ultimately matters, and it sounds like he does.

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