Queen Poster Project

Essay by Adam Feldmeth

During the day of the deinstallation of Nate Page and Harvey Opgenorth's poster relocation project in the Main Gallery of Calarts discussions were circulating within the School of Art on the project, its "demise", and the politics which it stirred up using the bylaws of the institution as its praxis . It was with these issues in mind that Mike HJ Chang proposed the idea during one such discussion of developing a collaborative response to the backlash of the project and subsequent reactions to include himself, Nate Page, and myself. As the initial project had dealt with freedom of speech, vandalism, and display at its core--all policies addressed in the institute's student handbook--the formulation of the collaborative response began with the notion of spelling the issues of these policies out, as the
relocation had tried to through a combinatory gesture, by structuring a new policy that attempted to spell out the issues by the manner in which they are written in the handbook.
The context of the initial relocation should briefly be discussed. Calarts as a campus is comprised of one central building of five levels with a number of annex buildings around its perimeter. With the exception of the Broad Graduate Art Studios and the Wild Beast Concert Space these annexes maintain a quasi-permanent shipping container-like appearance. Within the central main building all wall space that is not defined as part of a gallery may be used by the community as a place to display advertisement and, in a specific case of the graphic design students, personal work. All wall space within the institute is guarded for artistic display and for this reason anything on a wall must be considered as stemming from an artistic process. Thusly, to remove, throwaway, or take down any of these advertisements, etc. before a date for which it is advertising has passed is considered by the institute an act of vandalism to artwork. These works exist then materially as private spaces whose content is public and are being displayed publicly as long as they remain fixed and visible on institute walls. In the case of the relocation project and its intended implication, more thoroughly discussed in a letter of complaint written to the dean of students, the freedom of artistic voice and right to use these walls was superseded by the accused negligence displayed in the relocation of others' personal property as Page and Opgenorth's own through an act of proposed colonization of private material. Moreover, in the discussions that followed it was conceived that
the relocation could possibly be used as a contra-example by the administration to further frustrate the opportunities of artistic expression among the school's community. As the administration prepared to use the relocation project as an inspiration and case in point to set limitations for the school-body, the response was tailored through this reaction to the relocation and designed to replicate the gesture and invite the community to engage with it without the aspect of vandalism attached.
The statement: "The artist(s) of this poster allow it to be relocated to any other area of free wall space in the main building indefinitely by anyone." was developed to encourage the reappraisal of the action of relocation and challenge the barrier between artistic freedom and vandalism that was previously addressed by Page and Opgenorth. Using the poster as the display space the response needed to be grounded as a material advertisement in itself instead of a disclaimer tacked onto another. The response had been initially conceived as solely this statement, which could be adopted by any poster designer thereafter and included at the bottom of their advertisement.
"the statement took the original position as a disclaimer for the poster instead of its entire content. To encourage movement and a metaphoric approach to the response the choice of placing a chess queen as the major visual content of the poster was made..."
It was soon realized however that because the policies that were under scrutiny in the initial relocation focused on the inseparability of the poster as material from the institute wall as display space the response needed to be grounded as a material advertisement of its instead of
a disclaimer tacked onto another. Once it was decided that the response would be in the form of a poster, which allowed the passerby to physically engage with it, the response became more complex in relation to the policies as the provision of material created a situation where its designers were placing their work in a vulnerable space and doing so consciously. No date was conceived of and as suggested in the statement the poster demands to remain (hypothetically) indefinitely on the walls.
A decision was made that a poster with the statement alone may have been to definitive, declaring itself as a static fixed object. Thusly, the statement took the original position as a disclaimer for the poster instead of its entire content. To encourage movement and a metaphoric approach to the response the choice of placing a chess queen as the major visual content of the poster was made. In chess it is the queen out of all the pieces which has the most versatility in movement. The number of posters printed was equivalent to the number of pieces found on a standard chessboard. Two posters were subsequently produced, a set of black queens and a set of white. The condition this arrangement suggests is something like a game of chess with all pieces as queens. With the chessboard becoming the institute's wall space spanning five levels, numerous hallways, corridors, and stairwells. This conditional board would be impossible to see all at once and forces a player to move around and look for their own pieces and that of the opponents. The number of players would be indeterminable. The sides of the board would not be dictated by the end of a wall but by the point at which it meets the ceiling and floor.
The posters were installed two days after the relocation project was deinstalled by the institute in various areas throughout the main building. Once installed the relocation of the posters by the community was immediate. Due to the artist(s) of the posters remaining anonymous the autonomy of the poster as is prescribed by institute policy wastransfered over to the "players" of the game by adoption of its suggestion. The posters in confronting the action of relocation did not condone or encourage the act of vandalism. That is to say that if one removed, threw away, or took down a queen poster he/she would still be breaking institute law. And while it is clear many of the queen posters were taken down for personal possession it was nearly impossible to know exactly how many were "vandalized" and how many were simply relocated to obscure areas of the building's wall space. The posters were around campus for only a few days as they slowly were removed by the community after an amount of relocation had taken place. Students, faculty, and staff were seen relocating the posters during the period that they were up on the walls.

~Adam Feldmeth

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