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Working (and Playing) with Alberto Aguilar

Alberta

Alberta

A view of Alberto Aguilar's "Sensitive Equipment" in action

A view of Alberto Aguilar’s “Sensitive Equipment” in action, with his family participating. Photo: Alberto Aguilar.

As a Museum Educator of Studio Programs at Crystal Bridges, I have the privilege of planning classes for Museum guests that allow them to create work alongside living contemporary artists from State of the Art, such as the upcoming multi-generational workshop with Alberto Aguilar. Many of you may already participated in Alberto Aguilar’s world by playing with the bells and balloon in Sensitive Equipment, his interactive work of play in State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now.   Each time I pick up a bell, I feel the sweetness of sharing a unique moment from someone else’s life.

We each have habits and games that we play with our loved ones and Aguilar’s work not only connects me to the artist, but also reminds me of the many times that I have spent laughing and playing games with my own family.   It is these relationships and interactions between family members that Aguilar will be exploring with visitors next weekend in his Multi-Generation Workshop.    This class will result in a video work similar to this one from Aguilar’s Intergeneration Workshop at the Elmhurst Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois.  Earlier this week, Alberto discussed with me his ideas behind this workshop and its creative possibilities:

Alberto Aguilar

Alberto Aguilar

JV: What  exactly is an Inter-generational workshop? AA:  Rather than using traditional materials for making artwork, we use the raw materials of real life.  This includes interaction with one another and drawing from the everyday, seemingly mundane tasks that we don’t necessarily think of as creative acts.  It’s intergenerational but also interactive in the sense that it makes you interact in a creative way with other people, including your family members. It explores how these things can generate an artwork in the end.

JV: In the first part of the class, visitors will create drawings using a ballpoint pen to scribble.  How does this get people comfortable with the class? AA:  By making lots of mistakes. That’s why I do the scribbling. You’re told not to scribble because that’s the wrong move.  A little bit of scribbling might be the wrong move, but once it becomes intentional and you become tuned to it and do it excessively it becomes the right move.  It can have the potential to create a stimulus in your brain and get your thoughts flowing and moving. When we start, we draw on one another’s energy. The more people scribbling, the more energy there is.  The more you hear the scribbling, you feel the motions, you feel the warmth of everyone in the room. It’s a good way to dispel fears.  The more you make, the more possibilities there are of getting something really good in the end.

JV:  In the second half of the workshop, adults and children split up to work on separate projects. Can you explain why you break up into groups? AA:  Both groups have the potential to teach the other group something else.  Each age group works in a different way.  Adults have to be retaught not to use logic, but to use chance and different accidental elements and spontaneity and intuition.  Adults sort of have to be directed or trained to do this again, where kids still have it in them.  What kids create is amazing and interesting but there is something that adults have that can improve the things that kids make.  So by separating, when they come back together they both perform their thing to each other and both groups are shocked and confused and surprised by what the other presents.  It’s a way to shock and confuse both of the groups.  I believe that confusion is an act of learning.  When we’re confused it’s because we’re not expecting it but are stretched in a new direction.

JV:  Why do you bring in your own family to participate in this workshop? AA:  My kids have gotten used to interacting with other kids through these art events that I have organized. They have given workshops as parts of other exhibitions and led other groups of people in doing things.  In this workshop they actually take the kids and lead the group, not in a very authoritative way, but they play with the kids to come up with some sort of performance with them.  Mine is more of a structured play and theirs is more of a play that generates a performance.

JV:  So, will your family be able to come back to Crystal Bridges for the Symposium and workshop next week? AA:  Yes, they will be there.  I always bring everyone with me wherever I go.  We just went to Colorado for a week for a residency.  I’ve been incorporating them into my artist talk for the State of the Art Symposium on Saturday, November 14.  They will be part of the talk, which will be performative.  So people will get to see how the work becomes performative in front of Sensitive Equipment.   The bells will be part of the performance – both what’s on the television and the actual piece, but there will be other elements.  My daughter Madeleine is a musician and will be playing and performing as well.

JV:  What do you hope participants will gain through this workshop? AA:  I think that one thing is that family life can be a creative place and space.  The interaction between family members can be a creative exchange. That interaction with family members can be a fun and creative thing.  That’s what I hope for people to take to be a little more sensitive to the relationships in your family and to everyday life and its potential to be more than what we tend to think it is.

Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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