Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest Post | Matt Olson

“Yes, Goodbye” 2007 studio view – Jessica Williams

Love at first sight is such an intoxicating concept and feeling. But with art, music, design and such, I’ve learned, as good as it feels, I can’t really trust it in the big picture. And though once in a while something I immediately fall for does continue to dazzle, it’s the work that I have a measured or occasionally even indifferent reaction to, but then for some reason, keeps making its way up to the surface and into my thoughts that is both most interesting and most likely to have a deep effect on me. Sometimes it feels like my creative unconscious self is sending signals to me from some murky depth. It’s almost as if some things seem to get inside and then begin a life of their own. This piece, “Yes, Goodbye”, by the artist Jessica Williams has been a recent example of this phenomena for me. Here’s her description of this piece:

“Yes, Goodbye" consists of a two-part site specific installation and accompanying zine. The dual title reflects the decision to have the zine available in both English and Swedish because it was given away for free to the general public at the exhibition.

The installation was shown at the Malmö Art Academy's Yearly Exhibition in Malmö, Sweden. The first part was installed in my studio and on the last day of the exhibition the small trees were planted in the back yard of the school, without permission. They were arranged in a way where they were not visible to the passerby, but only from the third and fourth-story windows of the school or if someone physically walked into the space where they were.

The trees were planted the day before I left Malmö. I came back a month later and they were in a mess of tall grass surrounded by perfectly mowed grass, as if the gardener did not know what to do with them. A friend of mine who was traveling checked on them again for me a month and half after that, and they had disappeared.

“Yes, Goodbye” 2007 installation – Jessica Williams

I’ve always believed that creative people have a responsibility to their own work and life to explore new ideas and stay current with the arts in all of their disciplines. This is an extension of my belief that the things we ‘feed’ ourselves become the fuel for concepts and ideas that are born later. I’ve worked to create an internal environment where I leave both the time and mental space to fill myself with art and then act as a sort of detached observer as these things seem to order themselves in some mysterious way inside, emerging later as variations of the original or informing new concepts. I’ve learned to honor and pay attention to this seemingly unknowable process of what I could describe as my creative internal ecosystem.

“Yes, Goodbye” 2007 installation site view - Jessica Williams

“Yes, Goodbye” 2007 free zine – Jessica Williams

So it’s fitting that I can’t yet tell you why “Yes, Goodbye” keeps coming to the surface. Maybe it’s because before it was executed as an installation, the eventual outcome of the work because of its use of plants suggested the probability of growth in a literal and yet open-ended and uncertain sense. Maybe it’s because the spirit of making a free lo-fi zine/pamphlet about the piece seems to suggest its impermanence as an actual thing and thus implies its part in a possibly larger dialogue as an idea rather than an action or object. Or to expand on that… that the photo of the space, after the trees disappeared, is still a relevant part of the piece even though the work only exists now as an idea with photographic documentation of the action.

“Yes, Goodbye” 2007 site after trees are gone – Jessica Williams

The one thing I can tell you for sure about this piece and why it’s becoming important to me is that, when she installed the work she didn't have any idea how it was going to turn out. And in a way, that's a lot like the idea of using art and music and such to enrich your perspective. All you need to do is put in the effort; the outcome is by nature, unpredictable and thus, filled with possibility.

Matt Olson is co-founder of ROLU, rosenlof/lucas, ro/lu, a design studio located in Minneapolis, Minnesota that's focus is on modern residential landscape design and installation. Its practice also extends to exterior design and collaborative architectural projects as well as urban planning work and public art. He also blogs about architecture/art/design culture at ROLU and keeps an almost daily photoblog of the studio’s projects at ro/lu.

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