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Ben Cohan

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Well, there's not much to report yet. Just trying to wrap my head around upcoming projects and how I can mesh what I do (or have done) with new media.


The author I spoke of in my slide show was Yi-Fu Tuan and his book I am currently reading is title "Space and Place." Pretty dope.


Sometimes I do this: myspace.com/thedecals


The issues that I have encountered in this course (already) include:

What to do

How to make it "go"

How to combine my background with new media


Things that seem exciting:

The class dynamic







Sept. 16th


After much consideration, my idea has been whittled down to the production of a machine, or "machine", that will be responsible for dispersing all of the Eddie Bauer paint colors with nature-based names in alphabetical order. To what extent they will carry across the space, I do not know. Where their trajectory will terminate and to what end, I am not certain. I am vexed.


All I know is that the idea of a machine that spits out these uniform cards of color is interesting. At first it was the idea of drawings being created by the machine and then expelled. The drawings seemed less interesting to me than the physical spraying of them, so I changed my direction. Now I'm stuck with the why, and where...not to mention the how.


I anticipate using one of the timed motors that Colleen showed us. Properly attached to one or two rubberized wheels, the motor will turn the wheels and propel the cards forward. One plan for the design of the stack of cards is a wooden tower with a plexi front. Sadly, this harkens back to Kevin's core sample piece, though mine would be rectangular and, y'know, not maps.


Anyway, that's where I'm at right now.



Sept. 16 Colleen Response -- I think if you first make the "arm" that would do the dispersing -- so that you can operate it by hand, then we can figure out how to replace you with a machine. ;-)


Sept. 23rd


All's well that ends well.

Having spoken with Colleen yet again, I have decided to make this more of a performance piece related to generosity and the sentimental artifact. Issues that come to the fore with this idea are the individuals, (the giver and receiver), and the gift as well as the dialogue between the two. My thought are pretty scattered regarding how to approach the environment where the event occurs and the time duration of it all.


The Plan:

Have an array of paint swatch samples displayed for people to browse through. Have written instructions to pick 6 of the swatches that they like. They bring the cards over to me (input) and sit with me while I make them a composition of their chosen colors. The goal is to have an inviting, genuine exchange of dialogue and ideas between myself and the individual(s). I finish their collage, write a message on it and they are on their way (output). This, of course, is the simplified version of it all. There are many variables and permutations that will occur.



How do I get people engaged?

Is there still a mail/correspondence art aspect worth pursuing? (Could the display be available to viewers and they pick their colors, and drop them in a drop box with their forwarding address? There is a nice disconnection in the separation of me and the individual that would probably influence the end product.)

How can I influence the environment of the gallery space to make it inviting/domestic/relevant to the piece?

How should I display the cards? As they are in commerical spaces? In a pile? Alphabetically? By color family?

I am currently thinking of borrowing (or constructing if borrowing is not an option) a display case and alphabetizing the mass of cards. This would probably prove more approachable to viewers and less intimidating--time saving as well.


That's all for now.


Sept. 29th.

LO and BEHOLD. I went to the student center on Thursday, right? So it actually worked.


Two individuals sat down. The first was named Danielle. She was a freshman studying English and she is from Carterville. She picked her colors based on her initial favorites and some colors she used to have in her old bedroom at home. She is a collector as well. She produced a couple of textbooks from her bag with pressed leaves and flowers from her garden. We discussed collecting and how she wanted to be an artist and how I used to want to write. I told her about my bottle caps. She keeps the entire bottle...mine's more mobile I said. Aliteration to the max.


We talked about the premise for the gift-giving and so forth. Funny thing is, she walked by at first and for whatever reason, I managed to look up from my work at the same time she was look at my FREE sign. Minutes later, she came back and got a free collage.


The second participant was Erica. She is actually one of the models I work with for AD 200, so we had an interesting chat about her plans after college. We talked about the endeavor I was undertaking and her friend John stopped by. They talked about rock climbing this weekend while I cut and pasted. He was interested in the work and pleased to meet me.


We talked about the walk out last week that she was a part of. She gave a speech. She wants to be involved in activism after college (which it seems is a holding patter for her). She really wasn't going to stick around, because she had a paper to write, but I told her I wasn't sure how long it would take and that "I put half an hour because they usually take me 20 minutes, but it takes longer when I'm talking to the person I'm making it for." This led us to both be embarrassed about her staying or going, so she stayed.


I think the briefcase is nice. I sat by the bookstore, unfortunately across from that damned TV (Erica tells me you can't turn it off. There is some SIU-run switch that operates it. They have to run a certain amount of ads on there, so students can't turn it off. I thought of an oversized BIG RED BUTTON kill switch in a boiler room that had an armed guard.)


People like talking. So far so good.


10-1-07 (Kevin)

Ben, I'm really enjoying this idea and the fact that you're taking it to a public place like the student center. It seems as though the conversations you've had fall into the category of "giving" as well which is excellent. It seems as though work like this always leads to something else, which is the best any of us can ask for.



I really enjoy your narrative of your experiences talking to people. It's really genuine and adds a feeling of sentimental (in the best sense of the word) to the piece. I would like it if these previous public experiences were part of the show you do in the Surplus -- either in writing or in sound. I think it will draw people in and make them more willing to participate. That way your transient public work has a life within the gallery -- much like the idea of bringing in your home to the gallery. I'm excited about this idea. What do you think?


Oct. 11

Today was a weird day. I recieved a phone call that was someone looking for Michael, which is my first name, so I told her that I was he. She sort of gasped and hung up. Then, while walking to the Student Center, a man yelled at me from the window of his friend's SUV. Needless to say, the collage endeavor was a strange one.


A guy asked me what I was doing (I was making a collage for Mark Ponder). I told him I was making things for people if they picked 6 colors out of my briefcase. I'd make a collage that you could have for free. To keep. He laughed and walked away. It wasn't a bemused laughter, more amused and that was slightly detrimental to my morale. (much like the drive by insults)


Strange enough, Erica showed up again to see how things were going. Well, she was already there, but she stopped by. We talked for a while and I worked on the collage for Mark. We talked about the pointlessness of your GPA and some problems with the education system. She said most of her learning was achieved outside of the college setting. Assigned reading and writing were more distractions than anything. I said I like the "learn by doing" mentality.


We were interrupted by the man next to us who was wearing a New Castle ball cap. He asked me what "this was all about" so I said I was making things for people if they picked 6 colors. He picked 5 in under 30 seconds. One of them was face down. I said I needed one more, Erica helped him pick & then excused herself so I could work. Then the man disappeared into the men's room. While he was in there, a woman came by and asked if what I was making was sentimental. I said it could be if one chooses to keep it. Is it a bookmark? I said it could be if you put it in a book.


She took one of the paper templates, tore it in half vertically and drew an angular design on it. She gave it back to me while I was working on the one for the man who was still gone. She told me she wanted a bookmark and that the design was just a starting point, I could put any number of colors within the shapes she had made. I said great.


I was about half done with the man's collage when he returned (he was probably gone around 10 or more minutes). It seemed that the two knew each other. She asked to see how his was coming, asked him his sign--Libra. Libra's like turquoise she said, but she put an H at the end. Ter-koish. Libras like that terkoish. You should have him add a terkoish in there if you can find one. It'll speak to your soul, that terkoish.

So he searched until he found a blue that he responded to and I added it ( !! a 7th color!).


A disabled man asked me what I was doing. I told him about picking colors and making things and was a bit worried about getting really busy alluvasudden. I will admit I thought I would have to assist him in choosing his colors, which made me anxious, but he said he did not have enough time today but would be interested. I told him to keep looking for me, every once in a while I pop up. He began to move along, then stopped and asked why I was doing this and I said for me, for other people mainly. Just to make things for people. It's a service to humanity he said. I think it's something I said. It sure is, God bless you. Off he went


The other two kept talking to one another while I worked. I finished the man's collage (7 colors in all), so I asked his name.

King David.

I'm sorry?

King David.

Ok, King David.

The woman next to him said King DaviD not King DaviS.

Dee ay vee eye dee?


Ok. (Isn't that what I said?)


He thanked me, I thanked him. He left and I started on the woman's bookmark whie she worked on someting else. She asked me if I was American. I said yes. What state?



Central, near Decatur, an hour south of Champaign.

Oh, my neice lives in Quincy.

I got back to work.


A girl walking by took my picture. I am in her phone. She liked my FREE sign, but did not sit down.


It was fun to have a different template to start with. Maybe more people should change what I do. I finished it, asked her name and signed it. She spelled her name out on a piece of paper and was confused that I didn't take it as reference on how to spell it. It wasn't necessary I said.

I think she may have given me her granddaughter's name so that she could present it to her, but she told me that after the fact, so the note was directed to her under the assumption that she had given me her name.


A younger man walked up and said he had half an hour, what's the deal? I said I'd make him collage if he picked six colors. I said my goodbyes to the woman and sat down. He had picked 6 pink and red colors. I said I had a class at 5, I figured he did too, so I would do my best to make it snappy. He said he was waiting on his girlfriend to pick him up.

Oh, so these must be colors you picked out for her.


I told him that was really nice. His name is Christian. My name is Ben.


A girl walked by that he knew. He's a poli-sci junior. He's starting a new frat, so homecoming weekend was fun. He thinks he'll have to keep this collage so that ten years from now he can make some serious money off of it. (A lot like laughing) I said he could keep his girlfriend's number in his cell phone, it wouldn't take up much space, so if he had to track it down, it would be possible. Or, y'know, things could work out and they could both have some money from it or something. He agreed, things could work out.


I asked to have her name so I could put it on the front of the collage. I wrote him a note, signed and dated the piece and he left. I wrote a note on the back of Mark's, spoke with Lucas and Pale and we walked over to class. I wished I had purchased a coffee.



Post script: I found it nerve-wracking this time because there were 3 people in like an hour and 45 minutes. I got sweaty and shaky. The amount of people that will be concetrated in the gallery is daunting. I may be backlogged at the show. People may have to wait. People may not get what they want. Which, actually could be said for the whole premise of giving them these collages. No one has said they don't like it either out of sincere appreciation or etiquette.


From 10-19


Doing the piece at the exhibition was difficult. I had to spend a lot of time making work for colleagues and not for strangers. I tabled most of the people that I could (Tom, Sachiyo, Jared, Yoshi, Peter's daugther) just so I could focus on those whom I didn't know as well.


One of whom was Pattie Chalmers. She and I talked about her and her husband's upcoming trip to Nashville. She's never been. He's a musician, it turns out. She picked nice colors and we talked about how nice pinks and browns were together. She suggested that I get a hole punch for this endeavor. I said I'd think about it.


I made a collage for Jake's mom, Margaret. She was very interested in the piece and wanted to know how I decided things, why I was doing it and so on. She also told me I could be asking for donations for it, but I told her I'd rather not. Everything I was using was free, so there's no reason to profit from it. We talked about Jake's performance and how well it came across. There was discussion of a Haz-Mat suit next time.


Another interesting encounter was Ruth-Ann. She had her mother with her. Her mother worked at the Glove Factory when it was still a glove factory. "That was in 1933" she said. That was quite incredible, but the two of them did not stay to watch, instead, they sat together on the gallery bench and had some finger foods. When they returned to see how it was going, Ruth Ann said that I somehow managed to make the collage speak to her and speak about her personality. I was glad. She also wanted to give me money.


She hugged me, but it was awkward on my part due to the pencil and wet brush I had in my hand.


I made 7 that night. Time went quickly because I never stopped. Don't know if I'll do it in the gallery situation again...



"hi ben how are you? i am really interested to see what you are going to do with your project. in my mind i am thinking of a flat screen (30 inch maybe) with your videos playing. then over the peice there would be that dome that only plays music to the person under it. this would make it possible for you tp have many "paintings" close together with out musical interferance. i also think that you should take out the lyrics like we were talking about"


Yeah, I have been trying to loop that song's guitar part, but it sort of makes it annoying since it removes all the progression built into the song. There may just yet be vocals. Either that, or it may be a silent film. Maybe I'll make some songs for these films like Colleen was saying about her film--it's better if you make the visuals AND the audio. Sparklehorse still rules though.


Lucas and I have been making some noise down in his basement, maybe he could help me with future musix...ps, check out his piece in the Vergette before you go on Fall Break.






i hope this makes sence

i was thinking about the Videos you were showing and wonding if the videos should look like your paintings. because the videos are of the landscape looking out side the pasenger window of your truck, but your not looking out that wind



*Note: I found this exercise easiest after I put "I am interested in..." in front of each thought. It gets kind of repetitive, but it helped.




Titles are of interest to me—they always have been. I used to jam words together to make titles (Thingamajiguana, Dumbrellaphant, Bipedagrog) thinking that there should be new, unique words that supplemented their new, unique visual counterparts. After taking a class on Duchamp, I can see a pattern of titling works that someone else has worked with. Duchamp was very interested in the visual/textual split and oftentimes his titles were puns. He took specific care titling his works, so now I want to think harder about the titles I choose. Typically, everything is titled as part of a series (the Chromonolith series, the Intellectual Landscape series is referred as the IL series). Usually it goes like this IL #23 (A Long Walk). The parenthetical titles usually come from something to do with what the piece is referencing, other times the parenthetical titles are phrases that I can’t stop saying in my head (Why Can’t People Our Age Pick Up Their Feet? Or The Tops of Trees). Titling is important—even Untitled is a title.


Reading theory has become an interest for me. My interest lies in the fact that, in terms of comprehending written language, nearly all cultures process words as shapes. A vocabulary is built on word shapes that one familiarizes themselves with—we first learn the individual letter shapes and sounds, then form them into word shapes whose definitions we accumulate. We process these word shapes in conjunction with other shapes around them and this is how we read. An interesting study has been brought to my attention regarding reading miscue analysis. RMA is a study put forth by educators, so I find myself disconnected from it in specific areas, but the essence of a miscue is simplified by this example given to me by my girlfriend, who is an educator studying reading theory:


One sees “mint” printed on a box and forms their assessment of the words following it such that the box is read “mint chocolate chip pancakes” when in actuality, the box reads “mini chocolate chip pancakes.


The miscue was that the reader sampled the first part of the shape and then predicted the final portion it. Similarly, one could miscue chew for chow by recognizing the word shape as a whole, but only sampling the beginning and end.


This miscue idea is interesting in its application to how humans recognize and order color and shape. If I study further, I may find ways of allowing for miscues in my paintings. A viewer could sample the painting initially, predict its overall understanding and be surprised by the actual nature of the work. This is a difficult and perhaps impossible endeavor, nevertheless, I hope to somehow integrate this knowledge into discussing how one reads a work of art as well as how one reads one of my paintings. I'm currently thinking of how I can utilize the idea that "here" is now and "there" is elsewhere. By depicting here & there simultaneously, perhaps my work can create a miscue for the viewer that will require them to spend some more time with the painting. I recently saw a video from an exhibition of Jasper Johns' work and people really DO cruise by a painting in under 3 seconds...even a well-known painting of target. Maybe it's too well-known to be stared at.


I am interested in the stillness of painting and how it can be a silent rebellion against the fast-paced, sleek society that we live in. There should be time for contemplation and exploration of a fixed image. Powerful paintings have a slow burn that allows them to linger in the memory of their viewers.


I am interested in how I could make sincere work that informs. If a viewer were able to spend time with the work, it would reveal some kind of knowledge to them. I do not want to make a “one-liner” that is quickly and easily read (and just as quickly and easily forgotten). I find comfort in the immobility of a painting.


I am interested in familiarity. This is a broad term I apply to several avenues of my work. Familiarity with materials and art history are important—I should be rooted in my medium so that I can speak of it knowledgeably and articulately. Subject matter should be familiar, as it seems flawed to stumble into a subject. Surprise is all well and good, but I consider subject matter to be a singular path with many off-shooting paths leading you the same direction.


I am interested in the narrative quality of working in art. My assessment of narrative is as follows:


Personal narrative: In this stage, the artist is simply interacting with his/her day-to-day experience. Eventually some visual/cerebral catalyst for work presents itself. Some event spurs creativity, leading the artist to the studio.


Narrative of making: In the studio, the artist is responding to and relying upon one or more of the experiences that has driven him/her there in the first place. This narrative involves the processing experiential ephemera through the intellectual process of art making. When the piece is “finished” the narrative ends.


Viewer narrative: Once the piece is finished, it is to be viewed. Viewers range—they could be friends, family, loved ones, strangers in a gallery or fellow makers. The viewer is now in a similar position to the artist (back in the personal narrative) where they have seen something new—a visual/cerebral catalyst for thought and contemplation.


I __am__ interested in blue. And green. And how if one is to put the two together, a viewer could interpret landscape from the combination of two colors.

Moreover, I am interested in the psychology and physiology of vision. I want to learn more about how the brain and retina translate visual data. As in reading, everything happens simultaneously so that we do not see frame by frame but seamlessly. I am reading texts on visual thinking and visual illusions to understand how we process color, shape, movement, stillness and how our brain abstracts what we see. In terms of illusions, I am most interested in afterimages and how I collect color and shape in a bank of hazy afterimages that turn up in paintings. For example, I have both painted what I have seen and seen what I have painted.


I am interested in work that looks like mine. I have relied upon various artists’ visuals to get where I am and I feel as though I am starting to develop my own visual vocabulary. Knowing that there is no way to create something entirely without similarity to someone else’s work, I only strive to come to the completion of my works on my own terms.


I am Midwestern. I have always lived in the Midwest, strictly Illinois. I am interested in my faith, my upbringing in the church and how my family has rooted itself in the area around Sullivan Illinois. I associate myself with ruralism and regionalism, but not in a competitive way. I don’t necessarily browbeat people into appreciating the place I’m from, I just expect them to treat it with the same amount of reverence as they would their hometown. To paraphrase Yi-Fu Tuan, home is the epicenter of familiarity and we as individuals relate to our home or homeland more deeply than any other place. It echoes us as we echo it.

Having to drive to nearby towns, villages and cities to get anything that I required, I am experience in viewing the terrain through a window frame. This has allowed me to be an observer of the landscape while not an active part of it. I was not in the same plane as the field I viewed from the car window; rather I was removed from it. A painting is not a window, for you have to look through a window onto something. A painting is a painting. One could look through a window to see a painting but one could not look through a painting to see anything (save if the painting in question were actually transparent, again, Duchamp.)


I am interested in quadrilaterality both as a word and as description of all things quadrilateral. I am most interested in the visual stacking of rectangular 3D forms like buildings, file cabinets, semi trucks, boxes, books, etcetera. Pavement is an especially interesting thing to look at. There is so much subtlety in the old and new slabs of concrete in a sidewalk. Surface changes and color temperature differences are of particular interest, but so are the forms of curbs and landscaping elements. The way the sidewalks and the roads carve out the land into rectangular sections of color is visually engaging and has been for about 5 years now. I continually see these shapes on my walking and driving routes. Being constantly reminded of their presence, they often end up as compositional elements.


Recently, the story of the assassination of Lincoln has come across my periphery and I found it to be an interesting subject of study. I even made work about it. I had not realized the number of people involved in the whole conspiracy (which was initially supposed to be a kidnapping of President Lincoln by J. W. Booth and associates, but was abandoned when the President was not where he was scheduled to be on that night). The players involved were interesting characters in the accounts I have read with a wide range of commitment to the Confederacy and Booth. Furthermore, Mary Surratt, one of the accused that was hanged, was the first woman to be executed by the Federal government—despite the fact that her involvement was far less pervasive than some of those who were merely sentenced to terms in prison. President Johnson was quoted as saying “she housed the nest that hatched the egg” meaning that since she was responsible for allowing her boarding house to be used as a hub for meetings, weapons and conspiracy, she should be held ultimately accountable for the actions of the group (are you kidding me?).


Lincoln as a figure is an interesting subject given that he was from Kentucky, moved to Illinois with his family to further their farming away from slave labor and became the adopted figurehead for our state. He was born in Kentucky. Some readings even suggest that he wasn’t an abolitionist but that he, like many of the politicians and the population of the nation, wanted to keep slavery from spreading West to ensure the future for white Americans to succeed in business and agriculture. It’s alarming to read the contradictions that I have found (in ONE book) because I was taught to believe Lincoln was the destroyer of slavery…perhaps not.


Fahrenheit 451 is very good book.


I used to be much more interested in poetry than I am now, though by studying Duchamp’s interest in language, I have found myself pulling old books down from the shelf. I like to think of reading a painting like one might read a text. You begin oblivious of the subject and finish with a broader understanding than when you began. Pretty tidy, no?


Music is another avenue of creative outlet for me. I find a lot of release in trying to create a new song with my friends. A song can be equated to a work of visual art in that you begin with no preconceptions as you listen, but you are taken some place else. You have learned something by the end. Well, good songs do that. Moreover, they surprise you every time you listen to them because you listen to different parts of them each time (remarkable how a 3 minute song can change for you over the years). A song never changes, the same way a painting doesn’t. Over time, either grows with you, adapts to you and potentially changes your understanding.

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