Guided by the theme of sustainability, the 5th Annual Duke Arts Festival took place over a ten-day period from Friday, October 25 through Sunday, November 3, and packed the campus with exhibitions, performances, guest artists, and special events.
The first event of the festival, weeks earlier than its main block, on September 20, was the communal construction of "Fort Duke" — a structure erected in front of Duke Chapel, made from a world-record-setting 3500 cardboard boxes collected after move-in. James B. Duke, the fort's main occupant, acquired a stylish scarf for the occasion, made by local environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck from discarded plastic bottles.
Fort Duke panorama
This is part 2 of an interview with Pedro Lasch, faculty member in Duke's Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies (return to part 1).
Though Lasch's work is conceptual, he also teaches the introductory and intermediate painting classes, and he has a very practical, hands-on approach to the subject. As he explains below, this bifurcation is not just a professional duty, it a reflects his basic philosophy as an artist.
You seem to teach very specific, individual, conceptual seminars and also Duke's version of Painting 101. How do you approach such fundamental, traditional material, what do you bring from your own background?
I went to Cooper Union in New York, which is a pretty specialized school, in that you have engineering, you have architecture, and you have visual arts. It was a very competitive place — up until last year it was the only free private institution left in New York, so a lot of people applied, but because it's free, very few people could be accepted.
I benefitted from that, but I also lived with this frustration. On one hand, there were the conceptual artists who I loved, who like to question everything about contemporary art and traditional media. On the other hand, I loved tempera, I loved fresco, I wanted to learn all these really old techniques as well as invent new ones. But I couldn't find a single professor who could do both.
Pedro Lasch, LATINO/A AMERICA, 2003/2013 *
Pedro Lasch — Associate Research Professor in Duke University’s Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies — is an artist who produces conceptually rich, reflective, and socially engaged works of art.
Lasch joined the Duke faculty in 2002. A lot has changed around campus since then; one landmark of this change was the opening of the Nasher Museum of Art in 2005. Lasch describes the Nasher as a great teaching institution, a venue for his own art, and a gathering point for the arts community in the Triangle. A second landmark event was the launch of Duke's MFA Program in Experimental and Documentary Arts, currently in its third year. This program, says Lasch, raises institutional challenges that reflect the culture gap between, on the one hand, the research university organized around scholars who analyze and write, and on the other hand artists, who make things. But the rewards are considerable. Artists in the program have the pick of courses across the university, which gives them “access to some of the most amazing knowledge being produced in our times.” The artists can then make the knowledge tangible, so the university becomes a more eloquent, productive, outward-facing institution.
Lasch’s piece LATINO/A AMERICA, is currently on view at the Nasher Museum. The piece requires an explanation (which follows, from the Nasher web site) but its effect is larger and more mysterious than that explanation suggests.
Lasch’s evolving installation consists of maps printed with red images of North and South America labeled “Latino/a” and “America”, respectively. Lasch provides two of these folded up maps to each person he meets who plans to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. One map they keep for themselves, the other they return to Lasch following their crossing. Each sheet is marked with the evidence of the journey, the stains and tears creating an altered, more personal map.
The celebration of 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University culminated on October 4, 2013 with the premier of Billy Childs' composition "Enlightened Souls," a piece commissioned by Duke Performances. The celebratory mood was heightened by the setting — Baldwin Auditorium — which had reopened just 3 weeks earlier after its magnificent $15-million makeover.
The hall was packed and buzzing with anticipation when Aaron Greenwald, Executive Director of Duke Performances, stepped out to make his introductory remarks. Greenwald acknowledged several African American alumni from the first integrated class who were present in the audience, thanking them and the many black students who followed them for all they have brought to the university, for making Duke a better, richer place.
In the first half of the program, Childs presented works from his repertoire. He took the stage initially with a sextet — a standard jazz configuration of saxophone or flute, piano, bass, drums, and guitar with the highly unusual addition of a concert harp. After one selection, the sextet was joined by a quartet — specifically, the Ying Quartet, an acclaimed ensemble with a long, independent history. For the rest of the evening, Childs' music emerged as a seamless interplay of the sextet and the quartet.
Don’t miss the Chronicle’s Recess Interview with Chris Jordan at Duke for the 2013 Duke Arts Festival
From The Chronicle: Seattle-based visual artist and activist Chris Jordan returns to Duke to participate in a panel and Q&A for this year’s Duke Arts Festival on Oct. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. His work addresses issues of mass consumerism and environmentalism.
Recess staff writer Derek Saffe spoke with Jordan about his journey, environmental activism as art and the experience of creating his new film, “Midway: Message from the Gyre,” which will screen [a film preview during the Festival] at the Nasher Museum of Art on Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.
[Both events are part of the 2013 Duke Arts Festival: ARTS + Sustainability festival, which will take place at Duke University, October 25 – November 3.]
Read the full interview here.
View a work-in-progress version (view trailer) of the trailer.
Image credit: Soaring Albatross by Chris Jordan
And read the Chronicle story on the arts festival: Duke Arts Festival brings sustainable focus to campus
Download the Google festival calendar and not miss a single event!
Durham, NC - The 5th Annual Duke Arts Festival: ARTS + Sustainability will take place from Friday, October 25 through Sunday, November 3, 2013. This annual ten-day arts showcase celebrates the creativity of our student painters, photographers, printmakers, sculptors, musicians, composers, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, filmmakers and poets.
The purpose of the Duke Arts Festival is to bring this creative energy to locations all around campus, with events that include an exhibition of visual art in the Bryan Center and performances by student dancers, musicians and actors. With this year’s environmental focus, the Festival has asked student participants to imagine how their art can connect to sustainability, whether it’s a percussion ensemble of recycled metals, sculptures made of discarded plastic, sound installations based on field recordings or poetry and spoken word that addresses our changing environment. This year the festival will offer opportunities for hands-on involvement with notable environmental artists attending the Festival. Chris Jordan will screen a preview of his film Midway: Message from the Gyre on Oct. 31 (Nasher Museum Aud.), Bryant Holsenbeck will create and install Falling Water: Plastic Sea (Bryan Center), a work made from discarded plastic bottles, and Duke PhD student Pinar Yoldas' will install her work, the Very Loud Orchestra of Endangered Species in the Brown Gallery in the Bryan Center; all three artists will participate in a panel discussion about art, and activism around environmental issues on Wednesday, October 30 at the Center For Documentary Studies. Read more about these artists on the Arts Journal.
In addition to the exhibitions, performances and visiting artists, the Festival includes special events sponsored by the Duke Alumni Association. Alumni in the Duke Entertainment, Media, and the Arts Network (DEMAN) will visit campus to attend a special dinner and a reception with students and faculty held at the Nasher Museum of Art, as well as offer career workshops for students who want to explore a profession in the arts. These returning alumni demonstrate that a career in the arts is possible after graduation. Duke Alum Adam Chodikoff ’93, senior producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will give the keynote on Friday at 1pm in Reynolds Theater.
To learn more about the festival, visit the Duke Arts Festival website at arts.duke.edu/festival or call 919.684.0540.
The 2013 Duke Arts Festival: ARTS + Sustainability is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, Duke Alumni Association, DEMAN (Duke Entertainment, Media, and the Arts Network), VisArts, duARTs, Duke Sanitation and Recycling Services, Sustainable Duke and the Duke Career Center.