Walker Art Center
spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!spider!
Interactions/Intersections: Cultural Globalism and Educational Practice


SR: In fact, we work with a whole group of people here whom we call guides. In their training we encourage them to ask questions rather than to provide definitive answers. The idea is to point to the variety of paths that are open for understanding or engaging with a work of art.

SS: This initiative has reminded me of how important it is to make our work transparent to the public, especially why and how we make the artistic choices we do. Last summer, as part of the exhibition Superflat, the Walker had installed in the main lobby a work by Japanese artist Katsushige Nakahashi that was a re-creation of a World War II Japanese military aircraft constructed from roughly 15,000 color photographs of a model airplane. On September 11, and in the days that followed, we received several comments from visitors who found the work very threatening in light of the terrorist attacks. Suddenly, the context for the piece had changed. The museum staff debated whether or not to take the work down, knowing that it was stirring up powerful and unsettling emotions. We chose to keep it up and provided an expanded label that articulated the artist's intentions in making the work as well as our debate about visitors' responses to it and a comment book in which people could share their thoughts. The responses were remarkable, with many visitors commenting on our decision to leave the work on view. One person wrote, "I'm glad you left it up after September 11. It reminds us that there are ways to move beyond grief."

Moments such as this reinforce how a small, intimate, and honest encounter, which perhaps lacks a lot of conclusions, can be a very profound moment, although you may not realize it until much later. This idea of the "modest practice" that we talked about so much in one of our last meetings has given me a new sense of permission and renewal about my work.

MW: One of the points, when we talked about modest practice, had to do with the incorporation of everyday objects, not in terms of high culture and low culture, but simply objects that are a part of our daily lives. For us, that has meant presenting the opinions and the expertise of people who aren't necessarily artistic and cultural professionals, as with the comment book and some of the public programs that I am currently working on. It's interesting that we learned from artists to bring that into our educational practice.

SS: I agree. We learn a lot from the artists. When I talk to my colleagues in other institutions, I realize what a luxury it is at the Walker to work with so many practicing artists. Not only are we dealing with contemporary issues, we are collaborating with living artists who literally create new ways of seeing the world. In a conversation with Carol Becker, Okwui Enwezor articulated a phrase that really resonated with me.[14] He talked about how curators who curate within cultures and outside the confines of conventional art history make room for "unruly forms of intelligence." I think that phrase can be applied readily to the ways in which so many artists are currently working and their willingness to engage with audiences.

Looking ahead to How Latitudes Become Forms, I am eagerly anticipating the "unruly" outcomes of our residency program with Robin Rhode, a young artist from South Africa. Rhode's interventionist work is rooted in the street and youth culture of South Africa. He'll be spending several weeks with teens from WACTAC creating some kind of public work with them that will be visible around Minneapolis in the form of bus shelter posters or some other public, nontraditional outlet. It will be fascinating to see what new possibilities arise out of a collaboration between a South African artist and a group of teens from the Upper Midwest. These are the kinds of artistic and cultural intersections that make our education practice here at the Walker so vibrant and dynamic.

14 See Carol Becker, "A Conversation with Okwui Enwezor," Art Journal (summer 2002), p. 26.