Make Things (Happen) is a participatory project organized by Christine Wong Yap featuring artist-created activity sheets to make things or make things happen.
Artists: Lauren F. Adams, Oliver Braid, Maurice Carlin, Kevin B. Chen, Torreya Cummings, Helen de Main, double zero, Bean Gilsdorf, Galeria Rusz, Sarrita Hunn, Maria Hupfield, Ariana Jacob, Hannah Jickling & Helen Reed, Nick Lally, Justin Langlois, Justin Limoges, Jessica Longmore, Mail Order Brides/M.O.B., Kari Marboe & Erik Scollon, Betty Marín, Mark Anthony Martinez, Meta Local Collaborative, Melissa Miller, Roy Meuwissen, Laura Napier, Susan O’Malley, Dionis Ortiz, Kristina Paabus, Piero Passacantando, Julie Perini, Ryan Pierce, Pavel Romaniko, Risa Puno, Genevieve Quick, Mary Rothlisberger, Pallavi Sen, Elisabeth Smolarz, Tattfoo Tan, Lauren Marie Taylor, sharita towne, Emilio Vavarella, David Gregory Wallace, Lexa Walsh, Alex Wilde & Emily Chappell, Brian Zegeer, Lu Zhang.
In memoriam: Susan O’Malley, 1977–2015
Make Things (Happen) is intended to multiply creative activity. It began with artists creating activity sheets—downloadable here and freely available as photocopies in the exhibition—for anyone and everyone to use and share, encouraging further activation.
ACTIVITIES. I was inspired by memorable, shared experiences—from showing my niece how to sew her own holiday decorations, to initiating a book club via video chat with distant peers. The invited artists enrich the project with diverse artistic and didactic pursuits. Their approaches to how-to directives reflect their optimism, ambivalence, and sensitivity. They offer concrete objectives, space for interpretation, and opportunities for collaboration.
Make Things (Happen) spans making things and making things happen. Hands-on make things activities include drawing worksheets, through which one can encounter techniques and social concepts (Kevin B. Chen, Dionis Ortiz, Lauren F. Adams), make a scroll painting using heat (Tattfoo Tan), draw algorithmic patterns (Nick Lally), or increase positive sentiment (Galeria Rusz, Pallavi Sen). Build three-dimensional projects, like a shadow puppet show (David Gregory Wallace) or multi-person swing (Kristina Paabus). Create conceptual art in miniature (Pavel Romaniko), minimal art from IKEA (Melissa Miller), site-related text art (Kari Marboe & Erik Scollon), or glitch art (Emilio Vavarella). Record your own conceptual video (sharita towne).
Participants are also invited to make things happen out in the world: Explore your neighborhood by bicycle (Meta Local Collaborative), or a space via line (Lu Zhang). Re-think the art studio (Jessica Longmore, Maurice Carlin). Organize communal meals (Lexa Walsh, Alex Wilde & Emily Chappell). Catalyze or facilitate interpersonal exchanges (Helen de Main, Maria Hupfield, Ariana Jacob, Laura Napier). Call an interactive telephone line (double zero). Learn a power stance (Mail Order Brides/M.O.B.) and how to make an entrance (Ryan Pierce).
Make things happen towards social change with radical re-imaginings (Sarrita Hunn, Justin Langlois). Challenge whiteness (Julie Perini); consider solidarity after Ferguson (Mark Anthony Martinez, Betty Marín).
Make things happen, internally. Visualize (Susan O’Malley), improve a bad day (Elisabeth Smolarz), meditate (Piero Passacantando), and have a moment (Mary Rothlisberger). Don a therapeutic mask (Brian Zegeer), if you dare. Make things happen, imaginatively. Use the divination tools of astrology (Lauren Marie Taylor) and pizza (Hannah Jickling & Helen Reed). Get inspired by activities sparked by writings and feature films (Justin Limoges, Torreya Cummings, Roy Meuwissen). Take a personality quiz (Risa Puno). Discover how to use “it” (Bean Gilsdorf). Time-travel (Genevieve Quick).
Visit the Discover page to find activities by what you want to do—draw, cut, assemble, listen, send, collaborate, perform, write, imagine—or what the activity is about—culture, politics, site, food, inner life, time, and science and technology.
PARTICIPATION. To facilitate participation, the exhibition at Interface Gallery will include a workstation with art supplies. Finished sheets can be displayed on the gallery windows, visible to viewers at all hours. Visitors can also design their own activity sheets, make copies, and leave them for others to take. Activity sheets can always be downloaded here, and results tweeted to #mkthngshppn.
ARTISTS. Last year, I invited 29 artists, duos, and collaboratives to submit activity sheets for exhibition in NYC. This year, for the Oakland, CA exhibition, the artists suggested colleagues, bringing the total number of activity sheets to 45. I’m most interested in artists whose practices are hands-on, participatory, and engaged with the world. They work across social practice, drawing, sculpture, video, and performance. A few international artists hail from the UK, Canada, Poland, Italy, and India. Most are from the West Coast—especially Portland, OR and Oakland, CA—as well as NYC and other parts of the US. A few actively create new conditions for art and engagement by founding organizations and initiatives (Temporary Art Review, Signal Fire, Ortega y Gasset Projects, and Broken City Lab, for example). All excite me with how their lives and art making are interconnected with the world at large. I am particularly interested in highlighting practices unconcerned with, despite, and agitating against the demands of the art market. Profiles and links to their sites are included so you can learn more.
BACKGROUND. About a year ago, I wrote an essay and created a diagram to explore “What Artists Make (Happen).” I wanted to think through how artists who create art objects make things in their studios, also make things happen with others beyond the studio walls—events, dialogues, possibilities. The point was that artists also involve and affect other people, and therefore manipulate social realities.
Make Things (Happen) continues to explore these ideas. In this case, making things is still defined as hands-on fabrication, while making things happen includes social, conceptual and performance actions. By participating, the public can sample activities that manipulate objects, forms, and social realities, and experientially encounter artists’ practices and thoughts. These activities are intended for participation. Now it’s your turn.
—Christine Wong Yap, 2015
THANKS to Suzanne L’Heureux, Tony Miller, and Interface Gallery; Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas; NYU Tisch Department of Photo and Imaging, Karl Peterson and Sonia Louise Davis; and the Nathan Cummings Foundation; and neighboring offsite hosts. My sincerest gratitude to all the artists for their time, enthusiasm, and thoughtful contributions. Special thanks to Lauren Marie Taylor and Lexa Walsh for their wonderful events and interviews; Sarrita Hunn for exploring the potential of the initial concepts; and Justin Limoges for kind installation help. Additional thanks to Shir Ly Grisanti and Erin Mallea at c3:initiative, Josephine Zarkovich and David Huff at Portland ’Pataphysical Society, Harrell Fletcher at PSU MFA in Social Practice, and guest dialogists Julie Perini and Lexa Walsh for making possible a talk about Make Things (Happen) in Assembly 2015. And thanks in advance to participants!
LINKS. For more participatory contemporary art projects, see Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher’s Learning to Love You More, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Do It, and Paper Monument’s Draw It With Your Eyes Closed.