Seeking Engagement: The Art of Richard Kamler

Art, for Richard Kamler, is active: it does something. What it does may be personal; it is also, in most of Kamler’s work, political, social, often collaborative, and always seeking to engage us as participants. If any statement could encapsulate Richard Kamler’s full and diverse body of work over four decades it would be the assertion that art acts as a corrective to that failure of imagination declared by Robert McNamara that caused the tragic wars of the 20th century. What art does is provide a vision, an opening, the potential for a real transformation—not just of consciousness, but in the words of Kamler’s early mentor Frederick Kiesler, “With art we can change the laws of the world.” And with steady conviction Richard Kamler’s art rouses us to see beyond our conditioned reactions—to challenge apparently unbendable realities with the possibility: imagine how it could be different. What if Picasso had painted Guernica before the bombs fell? The works in this retrospective volume span Richard Kamler’s productive career, ranging from Out of Holocaust (1976), a full-size reconstruction of a barracks from Auschwitz, to the Table of Voices (1996–2013), installed on Alcatraz Island and traveling throughout the United States, to Seeing Peace (2002–present), a continent-spanning collaboration with international artists and the United Nations, to The Tower of Babel (in progress), which explores the origins of language and proposes building a literal tower at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.


Review:

"Conscience, vision, play. All collaborate in Richard Kamler's unique conceptual art. His goal is process; all his work is in process, a process that continues in the awakening observer and her life thereafter. His goal is community, engaging antagonistic groups in shared experiment. A Table of Voices invites visitors to take the seat of a prisoner and listen to the recorded voice of a victim, or to sit in the victim's seat to hear the perpetrator's story. A piece commissioned by a New Haven synagogue invites Muslim to break bread with Jew over a tablecloth which interweaves strips of Koranic and Talmudic texts. (The synagogue rejected the finished product.) Kamler's tables offer confrontation and fresh nourishment. He goes beyond tables, by inviting artists around the world to paint their vision of peace on billboards, for example, or by planting metal silhouettes of bison on the grounds of a San Francisco prison. His work is “an ongoing act of tikkun olam, the Hebrew phrase for the effort to heal the world,” as Mark Van Proyen, the editor of Seeking Engagement: The Art of Richard Kamler, puts it.


-Bell Gale Chevigny
[Editor, Doing Time, 25 Years of Prison Writing, A PEN American Center Anthology]"

Creating a Better Place to Live: The Argument for Craft Education

Where would we be without the movements that corroborate our feelings and desires and make a practical difference in our lives? In a timely fashion, this book challenges our understanding of craft activity. Creating a Better Place to Live: The Argument for Craft Education reads as a social critique that champions the culture and relevance of this practice in a refreshing way. A redefined account of craft activity is given, while different positions are postulated as to its role. This book asserts that the teaching, professional practice, and policy making of craft activity needs to change in order to benefit society in a more constructive manner. Far from being just an adjunct to production requirements and a slave to economic conceptions of life, the theory, history, and contemporary practice of craft activity can be utilized considerately to create a better environment for us all. The delights, hard hitting conceptions, foibles, and intelligence of craft work are debated. This discourse argues that craft activity is vital for living well and is a voice of freedom, common observation, collective effort, and reason that can affect our social cohesion, sympathetic unity, independence, and passions in life.

The Search for New Media: Late 20th Century Art and Technology in Japan

There has been burgeoning interest in documenting the history of digital media within the international art and technology movement so prevalent today. What once was referred to as “computer art” has earned the new title “digital media” in the art world. In the field of art history it dissolves into the larger art category called “New Media” which includes performance, installation, environmental art, and other venues that do not necessarily include technology. This book makes parallels between the process of production in traditional media and the reiterative algorithm in digital media within Japan’s avant-garde of the 1970s. Looking even further back in time reveals that the avant-garde attitude to the exploration of materials and processes of the 1960s in Japan may have provided the impetus to search for new types of media, an attitude which naturally led to experiments with technology and eventually opened the way toward the digital realm and the use of computer algorithms and interactivity in the fine arts. An exploratory attitude toward the abstract concept of the computer’s virtual environment, and the inclination to see the algorithm as the process of art, may have its roots in these early experimental currents. This also gives insight into the nature of non-narrative interactive and performance art in the today’s digital media realm of Japan.

Immersive Theatre: Engaging the Audience

Immersive Theatre: Engaging the Audience is a collection of essays that look to catalogue the popularization of “immersive” theatre/performance throughout the world; focusing on reviews of works, investigations into specific companies and practices, and the scholarship behind the “role” an audience plays when they are no longer bystanders but integral participants within production. Given the success of companies like Punchdrunk, Dream Think Speak, and Third Rail Projects, as current examples, immersive theatre plays a vital role in defining the theatrical canon for the twenty-first century. Its relatively “modern” and new status makes a collection like this ripe for conversation, inquiry, and discovery in a variety of ways. These immersive experiences engage the academy of “the community” at large, going beyond showcasing prototypical theatre artists. They embrace the collaborative necessity of society and art–helping to define the “stories” we tell and the WAY in which we tell them.