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By Maiza Hixson
A proposal by Maiza Hixson
What is imPERFECT CITY?
The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA), located on the Wilmington, Delaware Riverfront, presents between 20 – 30 exhibitions annually of regionally, nationally and internationally recognized artists that explore topical issues in contemporary art and society. Initiated by DCCA Curator Maiza Hixson, imPERFECT CITY is a discursive, durational process for generating community within the museum that ultimately directs its gaze to long-term, local civic engagement. Based upon the principle of radical participation, the project hinges upon visitor-generated content and institutional transparency, and calls attention to the act of curating itself as a medium for activism and social practice.
An example of curating beyond traditional exhibition-making, imPERFECT CITY is designed to advance the field of curatorial discourse surrounding contemporary art and cultural production. As a model, it is based upon critical theory and knowledge-generation through an improvisatory process of visitor collaboration and grassroots self-organization.
Supported by a significant catalog publication, participatory discussions, and town hall style meetings with multiple publics and related activities, imPERFECT CITY, endeavors to create the conditions for audience engagement while acknowledging the limits of its seemingly utopian goal to achieve full visitor participation. The visitor is invited to become a citizen of imPERFECT CITY by attending the DCCA for utopian conversation, interfacing with the people involved, and helping to decide the nature and future of this community.
The project includes 4 phases:
I. Conversation: exploring Utopian concepts in Town Hall Planning Meetings with local and visiting scholars, artists, urban planners, architects, volunteers, and others who constitute the “Citizens” of imPERFECT CITY.
II. Proposals: for museum implementation; an ongoing open call for proposals for utopian projects realized as sites, workshops, and programs within DCCA Galleries.
III. Implementing Utopia: Group 1 of selected Utopian projects generated for imPERFECT CITY in DCCA galleries.
IV. imPERFECT CITY Symposium: After Group 1 projects have been fully implemented, DCCA will present its annual Gretchen Hupfel Symposium on the theme of the participatory exhibition.
V. Implementing Utopia: Group 2 of selected utopian projects generated for imPERFECT CITY in the city of Wilmington.
In order to support the utopian community planning process, a series of free and public Town Hall meetings organize visitors around a common goal: discussing what constitutes an ideal city. While participants include utopian scholars, artists, activists, curators, social media specialists, and other interested parties form the nexus of the citizenry, it is important to note that regardless of one’s professional affiliation, everyone who attends the meetings and engages with imPERFECT CITY is a citizen of imPERFECT CITY. Different citizens maintain diverse levels of engagement. Some may wish to participate by attending the Town Hall meetings or providing commentary on ideas of utopia and others propose specific projects for the exhibition.
imPERFECT CITY evolves from a series of Town Hall conversations into an intentional community within the DCCA. The exhibition “opens” during the planning phase to allow citizens to interface with DCCA curatorial staff who are present to answer questions visitors may have about curatorial process. Ultimately, the citizens and staff conceptualize and implement imPERFECT CITY together over the course of several months. To facilitate curatorial transparency, promote broad public participation, and to create an archive of events and ideas relating to imPERFECT CITY, imPERFECT CITY discourse in the Town Hall meetings is reflected online via social media outlets such as Facebook and in blog form, where the minutes from each Town Hall meeting are available to read and download. The blog itself constitutes a free, online “university” for concepts raised in imPERFECT CITY, providing online discussion forums, access to related material, including utopian and museological readings, and web links to other related exhibitions.
A videographer-in-residence will document the daily conversations taking place within the galleries and develop a virtual audience for the show through social media channels. Artists with backgrounds in a variety of areas, including philosophy, curating, architecture, design, sculpture, and new media, will work in tandem with the DCCA’s preparator and installation crew to help implement proposals. Guest critics and lecturers will be invited to create programming for and provide commentary on imPERFECT CITY, which, as an exhibition, functions as an experiment in curating diverse cultural practices. The DCCA will host a plethora of weekly events including music, performance, and symposia featuring artists, curators, activists, city officials, and others.
As an organizational strategy, the imPERFECT Citizens propose specific individual and/or collaborative projects. The guide to proposals, developed out of Town Hall meetings, consists of suggested prompts for the proposer to address. All proposals are utopian ideas and are immediately accepted for inclusion. The implementation of each project depends upon its logistical viability, based upon DCCA staff time, available resources, and the ability of the Citizen proposing the project to support its functioning within the galleries. The questions posed in the guide to proposals include:
Title of proposed project:
Name of primary facilitator/proposer(s):
Number of people involved in producing the project, their names & their individual roles:
Availability of primary facilitator between 2/9/2013 – 6/16/2013:
Preferred days/dates/time/duration of proposed project:
Is this a: Workshop___Activity___Performance___Experience___Other___
Will it involve a physical component in the gallery? Will wall space be necessary?
If physical component is involved, please describe in as much detail as possible:
Proposed location (in DCCA Gallery or elsewhere):
Proposed spatial requirements:
List of necessary materials and supplies (include associated costs):
Description or narrative of proposed project (1-2 paragraphs):
Please answer the following questions regarding the conceptualization of your imPERFECT CITY project (include as much detail as possible):
How is your proposal intended to be interactive? Who is the audience?
How is your proposal geared toward or related to the particular space/locale where the activity is to be held (e.g. Bieber Ham and DuPont II galleries at the
DCCA and/or offsite locations in the city of Wilmington)?
How does your proposal acknowledge particular art historical or cultural precedents?
How does your proposal critically and creatively initiate a dialogue with the premise of utopia as a collaborative process and intentional community?
How does your proposal favor a collective or social approach to artistic expression (i.e., does it involve multiple “artists” or “assistants” who help realize the work)?
Does your proposal include a realistic assessment of your ability to complete the activities you are proposing? Please consider: staff, time, gallery space, materials, and visitor attendance.
III. Implementing Utopia: Group 1
The following are proposals for imPERFECT CITY, which the DCCA curatorial staff is implementing throughout the winter and spring of 2013.
UTOPIA ABOVE THE LAW
Utopian scholars Annette Giesecke and Donald Dunham appropriate a museum wall for signage reading UTOPIA ABOVE THE LAW to define the utopian space’s boundary. Visitors may test the bounds of utopia by writing and drawing on the wall.
Civic Seats: by Delaware artist Stephen Ruszkowski
Loosely based upon Shaker principles of utopian design, Civic Seats, allow visitors to engage in spontaneous conversation and exchange for the duration of imPERFECT CITY.
DCCA Athletic Club: Philadelphia artist Lauren Ruth
Featuring a makeshift gym, the Club invites visitors to get fit in the galleries.
Radical Reading Room (RRR)
Featuring a micro-library of formerly-banned books, contemporary philosophy, and texts that inform the imPERFECT CITY exhibition, RRR is assembled by the DCCA Curatorial department. RRR is equipped with ambient lighting, comfortable seating and an experimental coffee table designed by Chris Golas. RRR is strategically located next to the Athletic Club and is designed for mental exercise.
Micro-Farm and Cyber Café: Philadelphia artist Chris Golas
Four custom-designed vegetable planters on wheels, this movable farm will take root inside the DCCA’s Cyber Café and help sustain the Citizens of imPERFECT CITY.
IV. imPERFECT Town Halls & Symposium
Town Hall & Symposium Presenters include:
John Muse & Jeanne Finley
Ashley John Pigford
V. Implementing Utopia: Group 2 of selected utopian projects generated for imPERFECT CITY in the city of Wilmington.
Eric Leshinsky’s People’s Park, Chris Golas’s Micro Farm, Lauren Ruth’s Athletic Club and other select projects will be long-term projects that imPERFECT Citizens will help bring to fruition in the city of Wilmington. Due to the still early stages of imPERFECT CITY, the future of how the imPERFECT projects will be implemented remains to be decided. However, the Citizens have articulated that this is the one of the main goals of imPERFECT CITY as a utopian design process that starts with a conversation surrounding the aspirations people have for not only utopia, but for the city of Wilmington, DE.
About the Curator
Maiza Hixson is a performance artist and curator currently based in Santa Barbara, CA. She is the resident Chance Encounter Specialist at the Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology (SBCAST), a solar-powered, live/work community. Her most recent performances at SBCAST include: Dream Disaster; Running For Office; and Art Movement Desensitization and Recall (AMDR Therapy). Her most recent curatorial projects include: Campos de Ensueños: The Photography of Antonio Arredondo Juarez and Ricardo Palavecino for Channing Peake and Betteravia Galleries in Santa Barbara County and Welcome to the Anthropocene for Gallery 110 in Seattle, WA. While serving as Chief Curator of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) from 2010-2015, Hixson organized such exhibitions as Radical Participation: A Series of Four Interactive Exhibitions funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation; Wilmington Trap Stars: A Street Art Exhibition and Young Country: On Rural Themes in Art. Prior to working for the DCCA, she was a curatorial assistant at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and served as Associate Curator of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati from 2006-2009 where she curated group and solo exhibitions including American Idyll: Contemporary Art and Karaoke and Marilyn Minter: Chewing Color. Hixson’s experimental curatorial video work, Oh Boy: On Men and Masculinity was featured in the People’s Biennial curated by Jens Hoffman and Harrell Fletcher, which traveled to five contemporary art museums across the United States between 2010-2012. Hixson is also co-founder of the conceptual art space, The Shaft, with Lauren Ruth. As part of The Shaft, Hixson has performed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cannonball, Miami; The Koban in Baltimore; Little Berlin Gallery in Philadelphia; and Soap Factory, Minneapolis. Hixson studied Art History, Theory, and Criticism and Performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received an M.A. in Critical and Curatorial Studies from the University of Louisville and holds a B.A. in French.