ideafestfeaturedThe Art @ the Edge panel, presented by Creative Capital Foundation, featured four multi-media artists, and attempted to explore what art looks like, sounds like, feels like, and even tastes like, out there on the “edge.”

Four artist took the stage: Eric Dyer, Paul Rucker, Jesse Sugarmannn, and Elaine Tin Nyo. They appeared separately to explain their work, and then all sat down to answer questions.

All artists have received grants from Creative Capital that helped to fund the projects they discussed, and each artists was effusive with their praise of that foundation.

First up was Eric Dyer. Dyer started as a film maker, mostly working on music videos in the late 90’s.

He felt his work becoming stagnant, and he was very unhappy.

He wanted a way to “get my hands back on the art.”

His new work is inspired by the zoetrope, an optical illusion that was popular before the creation of the motion picture camera. It takes a series of images and spins them in a way so that they seem to create simple animation.

Dyer takes this basic premise and uses sculpture, digital photography and 3D printing to make spinning works of art that create animations, and films of on these spinning pieces.

The works defy description.

In addition to introducing the overall thrust of his work, Dyer discussed two large scale installations that he is working on.

The first is a huge spinning hot air balloon, lit from the inside to illuminate drawings on the skin of the balloon that create a zoetrope effect.

He is also working on a tunnel that viewers can walk through. The tunnel will spin around them, and they will light their own way with handheld strobe lights. The strobes will have adjustable speeds; different speeds of flashing light will reveal different animations.

Dyer said he hopes this tunnel will be of interest to science museum and showcased an   undersea animation effect that can be achieved with the tunnel. I hope our local museums are listening, because I want to go to there.

Jesse Sugarmann then took the stage and described his “monument to the Pontiac Motor Division.”

An admitted car enthusiast, Sugarmann explained that he began with “the car accident as a location of sculpture, using that idea to do monuments.”

He said, we approach accidents “with a lot of the same emotions and expectations that we bring to monuments.”

Sugarmann followed up his individual sculptures with a full fledged art installation that took the form of a car dealership in Pontiac, Michigan. A Pontiac dealership in Pontiac. This all happened shortly after GM closed their Pontiac division.

Word play aside Sugarmann had real emotional responses to explore. “I felt lost when Pontiac ceased to exist.” He says that the company has been a source of great failure over the years, but also great innovation.

The dealership/performance space/art gallery featured non traditional dance, video installations and filming, and car crashes. Sugarmann also boasts “and I sold three cars.”

During the question and answer session, Sugarmann shed even more light on his motivation when he said that the 2009 governmental bailout of GM was the ultimate car accident.

Elaine Tin Nyo took the stage to discuss what was the least understood, least comfortable, but perhaps most revolutionary work.

Her project is called “This Little Piggy.”

She has just received her grant money, so her work is still in the planning and implementation phase.

She wants to “adopt five pigs, and follow them from birth to ham. It will start as a baby book, and end as a cook book.”

As she said this, her slide show brought up a picture of adorable piglets.

Her next slide said, “Let’s think about meat…”

Many of her ideas did not sit well with the audience, including myself, but it is this discomfort, and this disconnect that much of Tin Nyo’s work addresses.

She works with food and and butchering to explore our relationship with animals and with their meat.

“Nobody thinks that killing animals is art, or eating is art.”

As uncomfortable as it made me, I will be watching those pigs grow up on facebook, as Tin Nyo has promised that large portions of the project will exist only on social media.

Just when she was starting to bring portions of the audience over to her way thinking, she introduced what will be her last work of art ever.

When she dies she wants to be made into sausage.

She will prepare a cook book with instructions as to how she should be butchered and eaten, and she is looking for an estate lawyer who can help her make sure it happens.

When she told us this, the audience laughed uncomfortably. Many seemed to be pretending she was kidding.

I feel certain she was not, and I personally would be honored to eat such an innovator, even if some of her ideas are difficult to stomach.

Paul Rucker brought us back to more familiar uncomfortable territory, as he spoke about the connection between slavery and the prison system.

His presentation began as a more academic lecture; slides, images, and numbers that attempted to draw parallels between the two systems. The visual tools are part “Recapitulation,” a short film.

Rucker made a compelling and disturbing argument.

He then moved onto an animation he created using old lynching post cards, “Stories from Trees.”

The animation was eerie and beautiful.

Rucker then treated us to an improvisational cello piece that had me pulling up iTunes to see if any of his work is available for repeated listenings.

All the works featured reinforced  Creative Capitals statement that “traditional barriers (between media) are breaking down.” There was not a single artist who did just one thing.

This is perhaps the most important message for our local artists to take away from the day.

To truly do what you do, you must follow themes and ideas far past the traditional boundaries our teachers and predecessors gave us.

The artists also implicitly challenged us all to continue to reevaluate our comfort zone, to challenge and questions ourselves, our relationships with everyday objects, and our societal assumptions.