The Finder Things Pattern Conference: Diagram, Ornament, and the Construction of Joy

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The chilly brick warehouse invited any and all into its creativity-inducing spaces for a potluck pattern conference on a beautiful sunny day in East Garfield Park.

Peppered with eclectic vintage sculptures, roaming cats, and DIY instruction books, Catington Station feels more like a friend’s house than a warehouse. The Finder Things, a DIY-inspired collective of Chicago-based artists and entrepreneurs, hosted a conference at Catington Station on Sunday, May 5, 2013. The Pattern Conference was held in conjunction with the monthly Kedzie Stop Market at 3144 W. Carroll. The Kedzie Stop Market is a great way for artists to get their work out to the public. More exposure is a good thing when it comes to crafters, artists, and entrepreneurs. Windy City Mindy had a table full of cheese boards set up for sale, which puts her in direct competition with well-known artisanal shops like Pastoral and Foodstuffs.

Morgan Martinson and her husband Dave started a string of studios in an attempt to make affordable living more accessible for Chicago’s creative crowd. And it worked. Catington Station is now home to Astrolab Studios, Adela Red, and other notable parts of the network.

Designers, artists, business-owners, and musicians all came together to share their views on lifestyle, art, leisure, work, craftsmanship, and more. The “lonely adventure” from a nascent career to a mature livelihood is a long path, and people like Adela Red, Jessica Calek, and Jackie Lerash discussed some of the obstacles freelancers are faced with on a daily basis. They also gave suggestions for successful interdisciplinary collaboration and how to be truly inspired by the work you do.

The presentations ranged from knit artistry to architectural design to a drumming demonstration by author and professional skateboarder Amos Soma Fuller. Explaining linear and cyclical rhythms in beat-keeping, he gave examples of each, showing that patterns are auditory and kinetic as well.

With such a strong community of artists, it is no wonder Chicago is home to the tightest DIY culture in America. The more events Catington Station hosts, the more in-tune we’ll all be with the youthful sentiment of this global shift in cultural consciousness. Capital can be hand-made.

6 Music Genres You May Not Know

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Nothing new in your stereo is a sad, sad thought. Listening to the same old music is a surefire way to bring you down via auditory deprivation. Your ears need music that sounds good, and you’re not getting it from that wasteland known as the radio. Unless you have satellite radio, in which case you’re a step ahead.music

Listening to different types of music not only keeps you stimulated, it gives you something to talk about when you meet someone new. Nothing makes a better conversation starter than a new song you like. Here are some suggestions to expand your musical taste.

1. Americana

What is Americana ? It’s a mix of blue grass, folk, rock, and everything in between. Although this music uses a traditional repertoire of acoustics, it has an electric sound that is unmistakably contemporary. Think Lana Del Rey, Allison Kraus, and Kacey Musgraves.

2. Trip Hop

A mix of hip hop and trance, trip hop started in the UK (specifically, Bristol) in the 1990s and made its way across the pond thanks to promotion and modern technology. It combines downtempo beats from soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop. Tricky, Massive Attack, and Bonobo are examples of the atmospheric, bass-heavy beats that give this genre its urban roots. If you want to know more, NPR’s Vivien Goldman did a recent overview of trip hop.record

3. IDM

An offshoot of the popular electronic dance music so many of us know and love, “intelligent dance music” is a term coined by listeners of electronica that wanted to distinguish the tunes the loved from the rest of the pack. Ambient, groovy, and synthetically produced, IDM is best exemplified by artists like Autechre, Aphex Twin, and Crystal Castles. It’s prodcued in museums, laboratories, and institutes, and it started in the Netherlands (go figure). Although artists think this is a pretentious label, there is an IDM mailing list and community for all those interested in this heady music movement.

4. Tribal House

If you like world music, you’ll love tribal house. It’s a synergy of synthesised drums and ambient sounds that will make your ears do a double take. If dark and deep indigenous rhythm is your thing, check out Afefe Iku, Zoe Badwi, and Robbie Rivera.

5. Gypsy Jazz

Deep in the throes of soulful music is gypsy jazz. Known by some as ‘jazz tsigan’, ‘manouche jazz’, or ‘jazz swing’, Jean “Django” Reinhardt got this ball rolling in France in the 1930s. Reinhardt literally set the bar by making it standard to not using major/minor chords. Instead, the major 7th and 6th chords are substituted for a sound that’s trill-tastically harmonic. Besides Django, John Jorgenson, Stephane Grapelli, and Tim Kliphius are all great places to start being eclectic.

Hopefully your curiosity has led you to listen to at least one of these genres by now. Diversifying your musical collection is an inexpensive way to develop a new interest and share it with other people. Music’s been around forever, and it’s constantly changing. It’s to your benefit to stay on top of those changes and keep your ears entertained.

What’s your take on music ? Classical all the way or modern must-haves ?

Are Blogs the New Pamphlet ?

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“Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.” – Mark Twain

Since we live in a day and age where blogs are a booming avenue for aspiring artists of all kinds, a nagging thought has been bothering me. It’s a struggle that’s been sitting in the back burner of my mind for aeons.

Is blogging relinquishing the rights to your own material for the sake of gaining exposure ? Or is it a way to get noticed ?Blogger

It’s got to be a little bit of both. People sacrifice your rights for exposure. There are so many different publications out there that are accepting submissions from freelancers. Most of them are digital. In the olden days, people like Emile Zola, Balzac, and George Orwell would write political and literary pieces for publication and the recognition that would inevitably come with it.J'Accuse - Zola

Anyone with an internet connection can create content and post it online. There’s a difference between knowing how to blog well and knowing how to write stuff and click “publish”. Just because a hopeful blogger has hits, doesn’t mean they’ll turn into a blossoming book publisher. I used to think blogs were just channels for artistic noise, but now I see that without them, countless writers and photographers would go unnoticed. Photojournalism has gotten a huge boost from blogs; it’s an awesome phenomenon. Some of my favorites are Rania Khalek (social justice), Cristian Mihai (writing), and Ma Cuisine et Vous (French food porn).

Writers have the option of forgoing the harrowing publishing process and simply self-publishing via Amazon. Thought Catalog recently started putting out e-books. At $1.99 a pop, it’s no surprise that portable pdf files are a huge revenue booster for high-visibility blogs. They also give freelancers a chance to add a couple lines to their CV. It’s like in the HBO TV show ‘Girls’, when Hannah goes “You guys, I just wrote my first e-book !” (Sidenote : I don’t actually watch that show, I just turned it on when that line was being broadcast.)

Mark Twain’s quote rings true with all the artists hopping in to the blogosphere from every corner of this lonely planet. Before blogs, people wrote for pamphlets. All we can do is roll with the punches and learn how to navigate this complicated, virtual sphere.

What are your thoughts on blogging ? Is it a useful democratic tool, or a sneaky way to steal others’ content ?

Wall to Wall: National Geographic Goldmine

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My humble abode used to be plastered with images. Each section of the walls in my room was dedicated to a theme : pinups of women from fashion magazines, breathtaking landscapes, giant posters, inspirational quotes, and a shoe collage. As time went on, I cared less and less about clothes and materialistic items, so I tore down the fashion and shoe smorgasbord. The National Geographic photos stayed because they provided an escape for me when I stared at my walls (which I still tend to do), begging them to take me somewhere else.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

Nowadays, my decorating scheme is minimalistic. I have a small, geometrically-shaped arrangement of volcanoes and constellations from National Geographic, a few postcards from my travels, a couple photos on my bookshelf, and the Desiderata quote next to a dry-erase calendar and a cork board.

Instead of visual chaos, it’s visual stimulation. Whoever walks in to my room should feel at ease when they look at the palm trees on my curtains and the coral reef fold-out above my bed. The last thing I want is for them to cower due to sensory overload.

My sanctuary is the ocean waves crashing over the Caribbean sand. I’ll be there someday soon…

What is the Cultural Significance of DIY Collectives ?

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The process of creation is as mysterious as the process of destruction. Say ‘Yes’ to the exploration of both.

My last job had everything to do with me cranking out articles about how to make easy DIY crafting projects. Ever since I left the corporate world, I’ve been bombarded with situations in which I say to myself, “You could totally DIY that.”

I was covering a First Friday event at the MCA in Chicago and saw Jason Lazarus’s Phase 1/Live Archive exhibit right at the entrance. It had a bunch of picket signs that didn’t seem like they were of the beaux arts type. Like so many contemporary works of art I encounter, it was screaming “DIY” to me.

Jason Lazarus exhibit

It’s been said that the best ideas are the ones you wish you’d thought of yourself. This got me thinking: how is DIY culture connected to the anti-corporate mentality ?

The internet defines DIY culture as being part of the punk, anti-consumerist movement. Let’s be real though. Anti-consumerism gets more widespread the less money people have. Makers are mavericks in the years of the “Great Recession”.

2013 DIY collectives : 1600s Crafting guilds ?

My series on the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement explores the new developments in modern protest culture. More and more people and organizations are using crowd-sourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to make their goals financially possible. Nowadays, DIY culture is everywhere. The microsites at the company I worked at had over 6 million subscribers. Whether it’s cooking food, sewing clothes, or making decorations, all of us DIY something everyday. This fad is beyond anarchists and hippies, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Individuals that are well-off tend to not ask others for favors and often live more isolated lives because of it. Be proactive, collaborate with your community, friends, pets–even your alter-ego.

Say ‘Yes’ to the satisfaction that comes from making something. You will find countless doors opening to let you inside.

Squats That Went Straight: Dispatches into Alternative Art Culture in Paris

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By: Kera Mogue
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Wisps of smoke intertwined with music escape through the window, which is cracked open ever so slightly to properly air the studio. Pascal is oblivious to the steady flow of observers that walk through his open air gallery as his hands craft the next project: a canvas that uses the principles of light perception to optimize the visual experience of the observer. “When I was invited to work here, my only condition was that I wouldn’t work in trash”. Pascal prefers the company of his clients to the solitude of his courtyard, where he used to design his masterpieces. He could care less that artists at illegal squats look down on him for “selling out”.

At the 59 Rivoli art gallery, 30 artists spread their studios over 6 spacious floors and have the opportunity to interact with their visitors on a daily basis. The artists welcome local bands and singers to expose their work by contacting the administration. Located in one of Paris’s most commercial districts, this squat-turned art gallery is undergoing an audit by the government of Paris to verify that all artists are properly paying their dues, among approximately 40 other items on the list.

The Story Behind the Squat
Before 2001, “59 Rivoli” was the shortened address of a squat called “chez Robert électron libre”: a community of artists illegally living and working in close quarters. “It was a tree in the forest of other squats in the city,” explains Pascal. His good friend and fellow artist Gaspard found the building, which had been empty for 15 years and belonged to Crédit Lyonnais. As the leader of the group of artists, he fought for their right to stay there when the city of Paris threatened to seize the building and expel them.

Gaspard hired a lawyer that insisted they use the “lois d’hiver” (laws of winter) to their benefit. The laws of winter state that squatters may stay in a building from November 1 to March 15 without being expelled as long as they did not enter the building by force. So they stayed where they were. Before winter had turned to spring, the giant snowball of the press and the public had melted into a puddle of success; the squat had gained such a large acquaintance that the city of Paris decided to purchase the building in 2001 and let the squatters stay as long as the association paid its monthly rent.

Today, that rent equals €130 per artist, or €3,900 euros total a month. The audit being carried out by the Mairie of Paris is to verify that each and every artist whose work is on display in the gallery is paying rent to 59 Rivoli to prevent ongoing squatting and undue exposure for friends of resident artists. The audit also involves making sure the gallery is open when it says it will be and that the building meets fire codes. The results of this audit will determine whether or not the Mairie decides to renew the contract with the 59 Rivoli association.

“If the audit fails and the City is not happy, it’s all over,” says James Purpura, an artist from Ohio.

Although James’ 6 month stay is almost over, he hopes to move up on the waiting list. But competition is rough. “It’s very communal here. People here feel like they have the right to make use of an abandoned space. This is owned by the people, it’s accessible to everyone.” Indeed, the gallery’s open door policy and free entry represent the change in attitude toward alternative art galleries in a culture that prides itself on prodigies of the past.
The political attaché of the city of Paris said : “The politics of squats has evolved since we bought the squat and is continuing to change.” It is true that in the past decade, the political aspects of squats consisted of a binary pitting classist ideology against that of a counterculture. When trying to make a statement about homelessness, individual resistance and collective resistance are not synonymous.

According to Cécile Pechu, artistic squats in Paris are traditionally collectives based on the counter-cultural concept of redistribution of wealth. Pascal Foucart’s baguette sculpture says it all: a 2×4 row of freshly baked baguettes are lacquered in brightly colored acrylic paints, illustrating the daily action of buying bread without realizing that some people are too poor to afford such a luxury. While this work of art is a clear example of counter-classism, today it is appreciated by the public thanks to the government’s purchase of the property in 2001. Without 59 Rivoli’s current level of exposure, Pascal would still be painting in an empty courtyard.
Jeux Politiques
As the politics of squats softens, the housing market in Paris gets even more competitive.

“Squats, especially the illegal kind, have a short life-span”. Pascal references La Miroiterie in the 20th district of Paris, which has recently been shut down due to property laws. A dozen artists will have to find a new home, and 8 others will be losing their workspaces.

Despite the level of culture the squat contributes to the neighborhood, they have no choice but to concede to the property demand. For galleries like le Point Ephémère, being endorsed by Paris is good news, as it gives structure to their exhibits and allows them to be creative in other ways. Still, Le Point Ephémère is about to be closed, too, and art-loving Parisians are buzzing about it.

Not all artists have a circulation of over 40,000 people a year in their studio. Some of them do not want this kind of traffic because it disrupts their creative process. Still, the future forecast for squats can’t be too cloudy if the government is going along with the concept of alternative art in an abandoned space.
The results of the current audit at 59 rue de Rivoli will determine the future of a place that offers 30 different perspectives and a cultural spot different from all the rest. Like the sign on the second floor says, ‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘meh’.

 
For more information about expositions and upcoming events, visit the official gallery website of 59 Rivoli.

Note: This piece was also published on Citizenside. You can find the original here.

Paris : La Bohème Expo at Le Grand Palais

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Wikipedia: Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds

“Je sais quand je suis né, mais pas pourquoi…” – Proverbe Rom

Walking through the archways of Le Grand Palais is sort of creepy. Nobody expects to find themselves in a damp wooded labrynth with gilded paintings and burgundy tapestries. La Bohème Expo in the Grand Palais gallery is coordinated to match the Bohemian lifestyle, which is to constantly be living in tune with nature, and to always be on the move.

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Artists started recreating Bohemia right around the plague— in other words, the mid-15th century. The paintings featured a chaste virgin/tempting gypsy dichotomy. Gypsies, or Roms, had been around in Europe for centuries before art made them famous, though. Their traveling lifestyle formed the foundation of the philosophy based on living off of the good intentions or naiveté of others. Roms found their way to Western Europe through Bohemia, or what is now called the Czech Republic.
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“La Bohèmienne” – Pierre Auguste Renoir
PHOTO: Gilles Nèret

The exhibition begins with plaques written in French and English, explaining the history of Roms in Central and Western Europe. The first statue is a marble bust of a chaste Bohemian woman. The following paintings show gypsies and women who wore their hair down and curly (gasp), defying social norms and rendering them rebels of the times. Renoir’s “La Bohèmienne” has a girl with long wavy hair and a worried look on her face, probably due to the auspicious bulge in her stomach. Audio guides go into further detail about the alleged inspiration behind each painting.
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“A Pair of Shoes” – Vincent Van Gogh
PHOTO: Leslie Parke

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting resonates with the traveling spirit of Bohemianism. It’s not about the quality of the shoes, it’s about where the person wearing them has been and what they’ve experienced.
“Qui voyage beaucoup, apprend beaucoup…” – Proverbe Rom
At one point or another, every Bohemian gets the travel bug. But this is a specific kind of wanderlust, the kind that makes people crave crépes and hot wine. The Montmartre neighborhood in Paris has aging cafes and cabarets that draw artists like flies to honey. Le Chat Noir is the family crest for people that used to thrive in these social boxes, whether it was to philosophize, commiserate, or participate in some harmless debauchery. The painter, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, was born on the hill in Montmartre.
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“Le Chat Noir” – Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Glorified by counter-culturists to this day, the Bohemian era is still not over. Each decade, the creative milieu reinvents it to incarnate the sentiment of the times. The beatniks, the hippies, the squatters, and the ravers of today all have one thing in common: a reverence for all things Bohème.
A bunch of people at the exhibit were dressed up like the museum was a themed party. No one else got that memo. I guess the freedom of La vie Bohème is too attractive to pass up.