Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 18 PA Arts Sunday

Don Decker's thoughtful analysis of New York visual artist Michael Joo's interactive installation at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, brings together - at least, in my mind, a couple of strands about art in Alaska, that I've been trying to tie together in my addled mind.

Decker's Sunday Anchorage Daily News article on Joo's installation, begins:

Alaskans have been known to dislike outsiders who try to tell them what to think -- unless the outsider has walked the proverbial mile in arctic boots.

New Yorker Michael Joo did better than that. He hiked a good part of the Dalton Highway. Film of Joo's trek is part of his video performance and installation at the Anchorage Museum.

Don Decker goes on to comment on aspects of installation, and installation with video art in Alaska, and on perceptions or misperceptions of the state of art here some outsiders seem to have:

In a recent conversation with a distinguished New York writer and art critic, I was asked if Alaska had a museum and if we had a university.

That reminds me, in a way, of a common question I'd get back in the late '70s and early '80s, when I was the harbormaster in Whittier -- "Do people really live here year-round?"

He also describes how a visit to Joo's multi-faceted installation might be a bit bewildering to anyone just walking into the room, encountering video feedback, and so on. It sounds like a real adventure to me.

Don describes the technical integration involved in Joo's installation, and the implications of Joo's artistic observations:

There are political, emotional, intellectual, scientific and environmental aspects to Joo's work. The art focuses on international cultural issues. His intent can be deduced but is intentionally enigmatic, allowing interpretation as well as participation by the audience.

In 1993, 1998 and 2000, I produced or co-produced lecture-presentations involving video, slides and film in live "installations," of a sort, by Seattle nuclear activist artist, James L. Acord, Jr, twice at UAA, once at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, and once at Mead's Coffee House in Wasilla. In 1993, I created a sonic landscape for Seattle bronze sculptor Peter Bevis, at the International Gallery.

Bevis and I are working on a new project called Moose Meats Train, for 2009, that will involve bronzes of moose killed by the Alaska Railroad, using documents, film, lighting, panorama, and music. We're not sure where it will find a local venue.

Thinking about the film of Joo's Dalton Highway trek - I've yet to see his installation - brings to mind the trek from Seattle to Unimak Island by Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman. They aren't on their trek as artists any more than they're on it as adventurers, or as environmentalists, or as spokes people for sustainability in our daily lives and outlooks. But the quality of the images they are creating, the beauty of erin's prose, and the artistic inspirations from others their journey has already evoked, challenge many notions of conventional installation art.

Their videos often show the vulnerability they have been exposing themselves to:

The photographs not only help portray the incredible adventure they're now wrapping up, they also show us the raw beauty they are witnessing. If, as Don Decker observes about Michael Joo, walking a bit in boots around Alaska gives an artist creds here, erin and hig are artists of enormous credibility. They've actually gone through several pairs of boots.

Here are some of my favorite photos erin has taken:

sea anemonies at Lynn Canal

birch fungus

packrafting on the Copper River Delta in late November

other images by erin are located here

image of Michael Joo by Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News
image of Peter Bevis by Meryl Schenker, Seattle PI


Katherine Gill said...

Hi Mr. Munger-
My name is Katherine Gill and I work at the Daily News. It was brought to my attention that you posted a photo of Bill Roth's on your blog. We have a copyright fee of $100 to post photos on a website. Please contact me at if you would like to proceed with paying the fee, or please remove the photo from your website.

Thank you,
Katherine Gill

Philip Munger said...

Hi, Ms. Gill

Why do I have to remove the photo or pay the fee? I've used many photos from your paper before. This is the first time this has come up.

Was there something different about this particular image and its use, or are you going to go back through my blog posts, asking me to remove any images for which you might charge a similar fee?

I've commented here and elsewhere about your photo policy or whatever you call it in shop, but this is the first time someone from your organization has contacted me by any means.

Until you or somebody from your company answers here, the image stays.


Phil Munger

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