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Cover Design: Dave Pittman Catalog Design: Andri Alexandrou Copy Editor: Erica Ciccarone Parthenon Museum www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Parthenon.aspx phone: (615) 862-8431 fax: (615) 885-2265 info@parthenon.org All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from Seed Space Press. This catalog was made possible with funding and assistance from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. ISBN: 978-1-312-99100-2 Copyright 2015 Seed Space Press 1201 4th Ave South Ste 131 Nashville, TN 37210


01.

Acknowledgments

03.

An Introduction to FLEX IT!

05.

Social Practice and the Athens of the South

Essays on a Living Exhibition 13.

Flexing the Curatorial Muscle, Mary Jane Jacob

17.

A conversation on art, politics, and DEVO, Amy Mackie and Nato Thompson

25.

Pushing Against the Parthenon: Three Social Practices, Samuel Shaw

29.

ArtFear and Badminton: Observing the Museum Visitor, Susan Shockley

33.

Stretching Minds and Bodies, DeeGee Lester

35.

Breaking Boundaries, Wesley Paine

Projects Commentaries by Erica Ciccarone Words on FLEX IT! 73.

Go Slo-mo, Carrington Fox

77.

Making Connections, Wan Rashid

79.

The Art of Community, Blake Schreiner

81.

Experiencing True Social Practice, Kayla Saito

Index 83.

Artists and Contributors


EXHIBITION CHECKLIST 39.

SUSAN O’MALLEY (Berkeley, CA, 1976-2015) Your Body is the Architecture is a series of six signs located on park grounds on the southeast corner of the Parthenon.

43.

BRYAN LEISTER (Denver, CO, b. 1963) and BECKY HEAVNER (Denver, CO, b. 1962) Pygmalion’s Challenge is an app that unlocks sculptural markers located near the museum’s east entrance.

47.

PUBLIC DOORS AND WINDOWS HARRELL FLETCHER (Portland, OR, b. 1967) MOLLY SHERMAN (Portland, OR, b. 1985) and NOLAN CALISCH (Portland, OR, b. 1984) The One Mile Loop is a series of public signs installed along the park’s walking trail. Musical performances took place October 11, 2014. For The Highlander Spring Project, located inside the museum, visitors drink water collected from the Highlander Folk School spring while learning about Highlander’s history.

55.

ADRIENNE OUTLAW (Nashville, TN, b. 1970) MeetUp is an evolving video installation. Located inside the museum, it highlights community events organized for park visitors by the artist.

59.

MOIRA WILLIAMS (Brooklyn, NY, b. 1962) Socrates’ Wagon Sings with Demeter’s Torch is a communitybuilt oven and wagon available for use on park grounds. Yeast packets and sourdough starter are located inside the museum.

63.

NICOLE CORMACI (Portland, OR, b. 1982) Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone) is a series of yoga sequences to be performed while sitting. Sessions are held in the museum and on park grounds.

67.

LEUNG MEE-PING (Hong Kong, b. 1961) Chronicle is an installation of guidebooks located inside the museum. Visitors may also speak with elderly people seated at the work.

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We would like to thank our sponsors and partners. MAJOR SPONSORS National Endowment for the Arts The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt Scarritt Bennett Center Metro Board of Parks and Recreation MEDIA Nashville Arts Magazine Native Magazine PARTNERS The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park Seed Space The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville Bradley Arant Boult Cummings Fort Houston Centennial Sportsplex Watkins College of Art, Design & Film Global Education Center Company H Signs First Fituprising Kidsville at the Parthenon

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// INTRODUCTION

An Introduction to FLEX IT!

The Parthenon Museum and Centennial Park are pleased to present the ongoing work of ten nationally and internationally exhibited artists for the social practice exhibition FLEX IT! My Body My Temple. Each artist has completed a residency at the Parthenon, during which time they worked with the community to create participatory artworks addressing obesity prevention. The artists’ works are exhibited both in the Parthenon Museum and on the grounds of Centennial Park to engage audiences in a hands-on exploration of healthy lifestyle choices. Working within the evolving framework of social practice art, FLEX IT! draws from the communal and societal values of both the original and recreated Parthenon to generate conversation, ideas and action regarding obesity prevention. Through a series of engaging and educational participatory artworks, this exhibition realizes collaboration between artists and the public in a way that is both challenging and accessible to a broad audience. Social practice is an exciting new territory for the Parthenon. Preceded by a complex lineage of socially-oriented art movements—such as Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Body Art and Feminist art movements—social practice has emerged in the last three decades as a bold new art form committed to addressing community issues through artistic collaboration with the public. Social practice artwork is made with a dedication to community participation. After gaining notice and popularity during the activities surrounding Occupy Wall Street, social practice has continued to explore the possibilities of an art form that uses humans and human interaction as media. The artworks exhibited in FLEX IT! My Body My Temple are created by and for Nashville. Whether in the form of clay pieces made by the community, words exchanged during public workshops, or interaction with visitors to Centennial Park, the ideas and objects presented are the result of direct engagement with the people of Nashville. As such, FLEX IT! is a unique example of the possibilities of community action and awareness.

Parthenon exterior, view from the west.

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// INTRODUCTION

SOCIAL PRACTICE AND THE ATHENS OF THE SOUTH Social practice art, though relatively young, has a rich and complex lineage in socially-oriented art, evolving out of a series of movements that each challenged conventional methods of art-making. During the twentieth century, artists began to explore what it might mean to forgo brush and canvas and instead make art out of the materials of everyday life. Some artists approached this challenge literally, making paintings and sculptures out of found or ready-made objects. Others, however, began to question “material” in general: Could a work of art exist not as an object to behold, but as a place for audiences to enter? Could a human being serve as an art object? Could an action? Could thought itself exist as a work of art? Questions like these gave rise to decades of bold new art movements, many of which are still evolving today. One of the most recent and exciting developments in this tradition is social practice art. In the 1960s, an explosion of social activity spawned a range of new art movements that encouraged human interaction. American artist and theorist Allan Kaprow coined the terms “Environment” and “Happening” to refer to designated places and specific performed actions as works of art, thus welcoming audiences physically into the artworks themselves. In these situations, the audience would remain a distinctly separate entity from the artwork itself, but the manner in which they viewed the work became more personal and interactive than ever before. Meanwhile, the development of performance art allowed for yet another dimension of human interaction with the art world. As performers, artists were able to explore the possibility of a human existing simultaneously as art-maker and art-object. The growth of these practices spread into the 1970s. From Kaprow’s ideas sprouted numerous other facets of social art. Fluxus artists experimented with the idea that life itself can be structured as art, simply by “scoring” and “performing” one’s actions. Conceptual artists explored the notion that materiality is optional in art making—thus, a thought or a process, rather than paint or clay, can serve as the medium. The 1970s also saw a growth in socially conscious art in the activities of the feminist movement, which often used interactive or performance artwork to explore social structures and hierarchies of the time. It is out of this history that social practice art eventually emerged. In the early 1990s, socially engaged art began to develop under the name “relational aesthetics,” exploring forms of participatory performance art that used people,

FLEX IT! participant plays Pygmalion’s Challenge.

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Installation view of the gallery.


// INTRODUCTION

specifically audience members rather than performers, as a medium. Over the next two decades, artists continued to toy with relational aesthetics in relative obscurity. However, more and more traditional artists began to be interested in a kind of art-making that not only included community audiences, but collaborated with them on their turf. One notable example of this, which still draws attention today, is Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward. In the mid-1990s, Low turned his attention from socially inspired paintings to a socially engaged project. Project Row Houses turned a series of run-down properties in a struggling neighborhood into usable spaces such as artist studios, community galleries, and other public centers to foster art and culture in the community. Over the next decade, social practice continued to develop in this fashion as artists turned outward to their communities, rather than inward, for ideas. A defining moment for social practice arose in 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Among the variety of social demonstrations made by the large groups rallying in New York City were a myriad of art activities designed to merge art and social activity into a single entity. Since then, social practice art has grown steadily into the bold and exciting art form of today. At its core, social practice art focuses on community—its needs, its involvement and its ability to create change. To a social practice artist, aesthetic and critique are not the most important considerations in art-making. Rather, the substance of the artwork is found in the very activity of a group of people creating something together, rallying around an idea, and making a change in their community.

THE PARTHENON Built in Nashville for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon is the city’s art museum and the centerpiece of Centennial Park. Modeled on ideas of the Greek agora or gathering space, FLEX IT! My Body My Temple invites people to use both The Parthenon Museum and Centennial Park as a central place to consider and engage in healthy lifestyles. During the dates of this exhibition, the Parthenon is the location of the largest exhibit of socially engaged artwork presented in the South. Acting within an evolving framework of collaborative artistic works, the FLEX IT! exhibit will develop over time as projects unfold and people participate. In May of 2014, FLEX IT! artists began traveling to Nashville from as far away as Hong Kong to make art with and for the Nashville community. Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle installation raises awareness of how the speed of contemporary life may affect individual and community health. Adrienne Outlaw’s MeetUp events and video installation promote health and harmony. Susan O’Malley’s Your Body is the Architecture encourages visitors to playfully interact with The Parthenon. Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner’s Pygmalion’s Challenge rewards skill and athleticism. Nicole Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone) incorporates yoga into sedentary lifestyles. The Public Doors and Windows collective encourages a musical journey along The One Mile Loop. Their second piece, The Highlander Spring Project, offers hydration of body and spirit. Moira Williams’ Socrates’ Wagon Sings with Demeters’ Torch invites consideration of food sourcing, standardization and production. In their efforts to make participatory works that promote health, FLEX IT! artists are connecting history, contemplation and action. Taking cues of community engagement from the historic Greek agora, FLEX IT! projects encourage participants to flex their minds and bodies to create a better future.

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ESSAYS CRITICAL CONTEXTS FOR FLEX IT!

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// ESSAYS

Visitors interact with Your Body is the Architecture.

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Flexing the Curatorial Muscle Mary Jane Jacob

There was a period when the artist-curator became, dare I say, a style. This arose in the 1990s when artists began organizing shows as a means of institutional critique. This mode ranged from Fred Wilson assertively reinstalling and relabeling museum collections, or artists with even greater name recognition outside the postcolonial debate being asked by museums to curate from the collection (such as Chuck Close to select works from the storehouses of The Museum of Modern Art in New York), to a wide range of individual artist’s projects and artist’s group initiatives.

reforming the system. In each instance, the artist had to take a more active role as both subject and agent. This was not, in my perception, a move to take authority away from the curator. Rather it was a need to express and carry out a consistent ethic and point of view through all the aspects of a project or a work. As a curator, I saw this more as an alliance with artists, never adversarial. The same might be said of the dual role of artist as theorist, writer or critic, which was another way in which artists exercised their voices: “Seize the means of production,” said Karl Marx.

This groundswell of activity was different from those artists who had banded together as cooperatives working in alternative spaces in the 70s to gain exposure for their own work. It was an evolution, in part, from the multicultural 80s in which artists, activists and administrators joined forces to bring their messages forward. As a curator who often commissioned artists to make new works in the 90s in reaction to specific social contexts (and who was often asked whether I was a curator-artist), I was keenly aware of this latest artistcurator phenomenon.

This brings us to a revision of the terms of public art— and audience or community engagement—that emerged forcefully in the early 90s and which remains strong today, that is, what we now call social practice. It shares with the above referenced movements a wide and reformatory view of culture; it, too, has its communities of concern. And again, naturally and necessarily, the artist plays a formative role. Each project requires the artists not only to conceive but also to enact their work with or for others. And here, too, we find artists themselves as organizers, calling others to join in a joint research and work on a shared platform.

What’s interesting when we look back on these critical practices—alternative, multicultural, post-colonial and institutional critique—is to see that each shared ideas—a value, moreover—that focused on finding equity and

What does this mean in actuality? As a curator, I can’t help but pause to think what work lies ahead for anyone impassioned, if not foolhardy, enough to take this on:

Photo courtesy the artist.

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endless e-mails, a myriad of logistics, funding worries and much more. But we do it, somehow believing in both the transformative power of the work of art and the irreplaceable, cumulative experience that an exhibition affords. The audience gives back, and we are repaid for our efforts. I think there are other paybacks at play with FLEX IT! My Body My Temple for artist-curator Adrienne Outlaw. The chance to contribute to the overall health and vitality of the local art scene is one, to make Nashville a more

vigorous place to be for artists and citizens alike. Then there is the chance to do something that has not happened in that place before, to update the scene in terms of what’s contemporary in the arts, and in this case, to introduce social practice. Meanwhile, there is the benefit of enabling fellow artists to have an opportunity to advance their own work even as they generously bring it to new audiences. Finally, there is the chance to contribute to the discourse and practice of this field of artmaking, to hope one is doing something as worthy of note as this is. While the term social practice is new, as a practice, it is not—in fact, the exchange and involvement it elicits

goes to the very foundation of how civilizations have made art and why culture is an important life stream for humanity. Thus introducing social practice to Nashville might reconnect us to a part of our humanity we have forgotten or left dormant. It is a way of thinking about art from which we have been severed by the very professional structures and institutions that represent and keep its culture, but which often place barriers to ensure their domain and authority and, thereby, limit our access. What is perhaps new here is that the individual artist

is not touted as greater than the viewer, as solely determining of the form and life of a work. Instead, collaboration rules, and it begins with the artist-exhibition organizer of whom I’ve spoken; then it depends on assistants and collaborators in the process; and ultimately it relies on the engagement of an unknown but self-driven participant constituency. Actions unfold over time all along the way, and it is these actions that realize the work and its value, giving it meaning. The trope and impetus for FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is the subject of self-determinacy of our health. It does this subtly, taking humorous but effective forms like Nicole


// ESSAYS

Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers, which alludes to anonymous users out in the world, as well as poetically in Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle, in which elders from the community willingly put themselves on view and offer their life stories in conversation with gallery visitors. While personal, even biographical motivations are always at the core of any show, rooting the process in determination and vision, in this case, the site of the Parthenon as location is nothing short of brilliant inspiration on the part of the artist-curator; it is a gift, too,

on the part of her partners, chiefly Susan Shockley. The Parthenon, a symbol of Greek ideals marshalled toward the attainment of personal and social development, is a structure intended to edify the public. Symbolizing Nashville as an educational mecca, it embodies the appellation of “Athens of the South” it earned long ago. It speaks to the ideals of body and mind, as Susan O’Malley’s Your Body is the Architecture remarkably, succinctly and handsomely demonstrates (making it a personal favorite, I must admit). With the building and exceptional park setting working in concert, it also affords the chance to show work inside and

to create participatory installations outside, and Moira Williams’ and Bryan Leister/Becky Heavner’s works would not have been possible otherwise. But it is also the visitors who come to the Parthenon (or its park site) that make this such an appropriate location and allow this exhibition to show just what social practice aims to be: not a museum experience, not a conventional art viewing relationship, but a means by which we make meaning for ourselves and, in so doing, reshapes ourselves. Public Doors and Windows’ siting

and memorialization of park users speaks to this, and as everyday revelations, makes us look again and view things differently. Outlaw’s engagement of children and grownups alike brought this alive in a range of iterative forms over the course of the show. I find I’ve returned to the artist-curator, yet the curator is not the beginning and end of this text. The curator forms an open circle. That’s what curators do—with this show, for me in my work, and in the work of other curators I admire. Curators find a permeable way to let others in. And that’s a social practice, too.

FROM LEFT: (1) Children at the park join a class of Zumba, one of 12 MeetUps. Photo courtesy Kayla Saito. (2) Amanda, a yogini, discusses yoga practices for driving, part of Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone), with Lonnie, a career trucker. Photo courtesy Susan Shockley. (3) Catherine, volunteer elder, speaks with visitors in the gallery as a part of Chronicle. Photo courtesy Courtney Adair Johnson. (4) Detail of adobe oven structure artist Moira Williams made with FLEX IT! participants in Centennial Park.

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Installation shot of Adrienne Outlaw’s MeetUp documentation in the Parthenon.


// ESSAYS

A Conversation on Art, Politics, and Devo I recently saw Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Denver, and I keep coming back to something written in one of his early journals: “Must you consider yourself an artist to be one?” As a member of the commercially successful yet politically engaged band DEVO, Mothersbaugh might seem an odd reference in the context of the socially engaged exhibition FLEX IT! My Body My Temple. Yet as MCA director and chief animator Adam Lerner lays bare, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Mothersbaugh was a student at Kent State when soldiers opened fire on protestors in 1970, or that he actively opposed the Vietnam War, or that he saw DEVO as a way to talk about culture. Now as we witness a new wave of artists engaging in what has come to be defined as “socially engaged art” that utilizes activist strategies as ammunition, it is impossible not to consider their work as a reflection of our warped economy and the relentless violence worldwide. I guess I’m wondering why we insist on calling these participatory social projects “art”? Clearly the art world (or at least the non-commercial corner of the art world) has made these ways of working a priority, but as we all know, most socially engaged projects have little to do with art other than being sited in a contemporary art venue, framed by a contemporary art organization

or curator, or initiated by a creative, socially engaged thinker who calls him or herself an artist. Perhaps it’s that the art world is the only place where such initiatives carry any weight, and grass roots strategies embraced by organizations like the Black Panther Party have proved the most effective way to encourage and sustain social change. I’d actually like to ask the artists included in FLEX IT!, “Must you consider yourself an activist to be one?” I love DEVO, funny enough. When I was quite young, like ten years old, I became obsessed with them and bought all their albums. I don’t know if it was the red flowerpot hats or the song “Whip It,” but I really adored their work. I like this line of inquiry to a very old problem. For certainly the question of “Why call it art?” has haunted political work all the way back to Brecht and before. Certainly with this exhibition, we can locate myriad ways to answer that. Obviously, the work itself is art-inspired and one could go down through the history of performance art, conceptual art and even painting to find causal lineages. For example, Susan O’Malley certainly works within a history of sign tours such as those by RepoHistory or Los Angeles Urban Rangers, and the collaborative work of Moira Williams has conceptual linkages to Mierle Laderman Ukeles or Suzanne Lacy.

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That said, I have often found that the tautological response that “artists learned from artists and thus it is art” sort of weak. This kind of answer, which is used so much, doesn’t quite provide all that much meat on the bone. Who cares that they learned from artists? The other response, which is all the weaker, is, “if you say you’re an artist, then you are one.” This kind of answer, which we frankly hear all the time, doesn’t exactly clarify much. And it certainly leads to the Mark Mothersbough question you raise. So, if you don’t say you’re an artist, you aren’t one? Ultimately, I think untangling the riddle of what constitutes art or not is no simple task, and thus we find a range of pithy, unsatisfying answers. Ultimately, I think the goal shouldn’t be whether it is art or not per se, but instead, does the project provide something interesting for those that participate in it? Is it interesting for you? Do the people that exercise to Susan O’Malley’s signs find some kind of insightful experience through it? Did the attendees who used the free app by Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner to run around collecting these virtual coins find the experience illuminating? These kinds of proof-in-the-pudding concerns certainly offer a more tangible approach to the question of art. So to turn, albeit briefly, to the question of activism, which is substantially different: I see a lot of this work as inspired by a civil society impulse. I am not sure if the production of social moments, or methods to participate in society, is exactly activism, but they are related. AM: One of the most interesting things about this exhibition is that it is situated in the Parthenon in Nashville, a national landmark that draws thousands of visitors every year—many more than most contemporary art venues. I love that the majority of the public primarily visits this structure to learn about the history of the building and of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897, and they just happen upon a contemporary art

exhibition. In fact, $1 of each ticket sale for visitors to the Parthenon supports FLEX IT!. On more than one occasion during my recent visit to Nashville, I observed gallery visitors curiously investigating the exhibition, asking questions and spending extra time to understand what this strange intervention was doing in the ground floor gallery of the Parthenon. In New York, Los Angeles or other major metropolitan areas, exhibitions like this have become much more common, but in a secondary, rather traditional city like Nashville, it raises new challenges for the audience. The cynic in me can’t help but wonder if informed art audiences are becoming desensitized to what were once considered very progressive strategies, though perhaps FLEX IT! makes a more noticeable impact, simply because its audience is so mainstream. They don’t often arrive with the art world baggage we have in tow. NT: Frankly, I suspect the audience at the Parthenon is much more like most audiences around the world. In general, I find that the amount of people even remotely aware of an art movement called socially engaged art are few and far between, even in the tiny sector called contemporary art. I do like art projects outside of art contexts, as they provide a very fresh way to deal with audience expectations. In an art context, visitors are frequently confronted with things they don’t understand. If you go to an art museum with your family and you come upon some irrational social art project, if your family doesn’t understand they will say, “Oh well, that is art.” But in the non-art world, where people are used to having things spelled out for them, confronting these non-linear ways of engagement can be really exciting (and at times frustrating). People aren’t used to confusion. I suspect with FLEX IT!, the challenge is knowing just how challenging to make it without losing


// ESSAYS

the attention or interest of your audience. AM: It is important to note that this exhibition tackles the issue of health and encourages active lifestyles in a state that has one of the highest obesity rates in the United States. Susan O’Malley’s project, Your Body is the Architecture, effectively uses the building to get people moving through a series of signs. Designed like everyday directory signs, they encourage the public to position their bodies in relation to the structure. This also draws attention to Centennial Park as a place where people often congregate for group sports or where runners can be seen circling the perimeter of this large city park. For all the time we constantly spend with screens in front of our faces as Orwell so brilliantly predicted, we still have cities populated with parks and playgrounds. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Noguchi’s beautifully designed and educationally-minded Playscapes in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park was recently restored. This playground shares some commonalities with the artists included in FLEX IT! In both cases, simple means and methods engage and socialize the body and mind. I’d like to see more playgrounds designed by contemporary artists. NT: Me too, Amy. Well, as long as they are good. I know that’s obvious, but let’s be honest, there could be a lot of horrible playground designs out there by artists. I like the idea of a socially engaged art show taking on a very specific issue. Obesity. Sure, why not? Issues like this allow one to make more tangible the goals and dreams of a project and also is a nice foil for the artworks to maneuver around. I was surprised that there wasn’t any workout gear. But I do like this framing. It also helps to provide a nice way to address that activism/art question. Clearly this project is a very nontraditional way to approach a very real social concern. Participants stretch according to instructions from Susan O’Malley’s Your Body is the Architecture.

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With the works in this show, the artists are basically saying, “Hey audience, stop being an this.”

Nato Thompson

AM: FLEX IT! was also clearly inspired by classical Greek ideals of health. The Olympics brought people together and was an integral part of life in ancient Greece. The United States has ultimately become a country of spectators rather than participants. Americans love their football, but they rarely engage in the activity themselves. Many socially engaged projects actually do the opposite and often require the viewer to get involved in order to “see” or “experience” the work. Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner’s Pygmalion’s Challenge, a free iPhone and Android app-based game, promises a reward for not only utilizing technology, but also for finding their sculptures

on park grounds, earning virtual coins, and exchanging them for keys to finally unlock digital characters. This task-driven project involves physical work, bringing together real and virtual realities. Moira Williams took the idea of sourcing food locally to the extreme and harvested wild yeast from Centennial Park, which she later used to make sourdough starter and bread that she baked in an oven created by park visitors. Ingredients and natural resources are right under our noses, yet in our consumer driven culture, they are often overlooked in favor of something shiny and new. I like

Treasure marker installed on grounds at Centennial Park. Photo courtesy the artist.


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Visit http://www.bryanleister.com/games/pygmalions-challenge/

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FLEX IT! participants play Capture the Flag with artist Adrienne Outlaw in Centennial Park. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hutchinson and Asia Adams.


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that many of the projects in FLEX IT! are really lo-tech. They use basic logic and simple materials but make you think while getting you to move. NT: Let’s face it, gardening art projects are popping up everywhere. And Moira is hitting the nail on the head. Why? Because everyone in every city knows that food is a big deal. How many times do I wake up and think, “dinner again?” It’s amazing to me that I have managed to solve this problem every day. I know it sounds mundane, but talk about a uniting concern. It’s a global industry that clearly connects us personally! AM: Adrienne Outlaw’s series of videos serves as both an installation and documentation of collaborations with the Glendale Spanish Immersion School and Casa Azafrán, a community center in Nashville. She filmed activities she organized such as Capoiera, Zumba and Capture the Flag in Centennial Park, as well as dozens of badminton games played inside the Parthenon. She also included portions of other FLEX IT! projects—people pushing the Parthenon as O’Malley’s signs suggest, volunteers mixing mud and straw for Williams’ oven, and Williams collecting yeast for her bread. And as co-curator of the exhibition, she has been a guiding force in every project produced for FLEX IT!. I wonder how she might answer Mothersbaugh’s inquiry about being an artist? Clearly Outlaw wears many hats: curator, community organizer, host, writer, grant writer and of course artist are just a few of them. NT: Adrienne is a collaborator. Is that even a question? I really believe for her kind of work, you need to throw out that artist-as-genius crud. It’s really enmeshed in the spirit of people doing things together to make dreams happen. That is the spirit of any civic association or PTA meeting or city council meeting. What Adrienne is doing

is absolutely important, and if it is important to spell it out, let’s do it. Art can sometimes make us forget things we already know. She is undermining the authorship tradition in the arts so far as it isn’t always important to have one mind come up with the entire idea. Or to put it in the positive, she is saying that we as a community have amazing ideas. And frankly, if people think this kind of stuff is hippy dippy, just look at the power and influence of Wikipedia. I swear nothing could be more evident of the power of collective knowledge than this very basic website that has created every undergraduate thesis under the sun. Anyone that works in an office knows that the people at the top don’t come up with the ideas. AM: The works the artists created for FLEX IT! following their Nashville residencies reflect the dynamics of the local community. They are ultimately about listening, giving and sharing—not showing or taking. Generosity is key here. It is a team effort. NT: So much of art in the past was about showing. Go to a museum and look at what an artist thought. Go to a retrospective and try your best to get into the head of an artist. Not that I don’t like that kind of thing, but certainly there is room at this point for other approaches. I think the participatory switch has really clicked. While some people might think of this cynically (Red Bull wants you to make something out of Red Bull cans!), I think that there is a lot to be said for it. With the works in this show, the artists are basically saying, “Hey audience, stop being an audience. Let’s get into this. We’re not passively shopping. We are living!” That is a reasonable attitude. “Let’s get into this life,” they are saying. They want an engaged attitude beyond that kind of cruddy MTVwatching kind of thing. They want you, the viewer, up in its grill. So get up in it. Get in that grill, people.

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Artists Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner demonstrate Pygmalion’s Challenge during an interactive workshop on the art of gaming.


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Pushing Against the Parthenon: Three Social Practices To a sociologist like myself, or Michel de Certeau perhaps, all ‘practices’ are, of course, social. But a badminton game at a Nashville art museum in the basement of a full-scale replica of the Parthenon is one that makes as interesting sociology as it does art. To fully appreciate what FLEX IT! My Body My Temple does and accomplishes requires looking past the episode itself and towards the social-practical efforts and exchanges that make it possible, as well as the more lasting effects of their making. Social practices make art, they generate worlds, and they make place. In the first sense the term is unfair to what good social practice actually accomplishes (which is partially why the term is fraught). The medium is fundamentally interventionist. Its projects seek to rupture the takenfor-granted, plant-a-seed of possibility in its place, while pushing the definition of Art outside the studio and cube altogether, making you and me the material of this mode. The best social practice tears down the social barriers (race, class, gender, age) that the institution Art has spent centuries erecting. FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is an impressive example of social practice as such, involving hundreds of direct participants and thousands of visitors to Centennial Park, flexing their selves, their minds, bodies and communities against the built environment of their city.

But FLEX IT! goes further in the direction of intervention than it might intend. In making the project, FLEX IT! has also generated networks and exchanges that go well beyond Nashville. As well, the project raises Nashville’s arts profile and relative status as a budding regional arts center. Focusing on these other, let’s call them latent social practices, one might be accused of forsaking the art itself. I know because in meeting with other writers for this catalogue, one in particular was not satisfied with my assertion that one could be interested in artists’ ‘practices’ without also having anything to say about the content of the art. She grilled me on this. But imagine that as an encounter instituted by and for FLEX IT! (which very purposely brought participants together from around the U.S.), the contents of that conversation may be less important than the fact that it took place (and in Nashville). Let’s now consider instead how FLEX IT! creates worlds and makes place. Note: In the world of sociology, a world means something less sinister than does the term “Art World” in the world of art. By world I mean the complete set of roles, relationships and interactions that make any kind of endeavor possible. In the art world thus, this includes the dominant actors and the status quo usually referred to as “Art World,” but it includes every other actor who aspires toward art as well. Worlds are made when and where

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// ESSAYS

people come together around a common pursuit.

regenerated through projects like FLEX IT!.

The making of FLEX IT! included a call for artists that drew an international cast from San Francisco, New York, Denver, China and Portland. Adrienne Outlaw is the only Nashville artist involved, and so she is also the only one to meet and spend time with each of the others. When in Nashville, however, resident artists do not only plan and implement their projects; they also have opportunities to encounter other local artists and residents. The same occurs with each of the writers involved. To the extent that these artists and writers engage in similar projects in other places around the U.S. and the globe, their careers (or practices) are ‘worldly’ in more than one sense of the term.

But why Nashville? Only the 37th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., Nashville’s share of professional artists in the U.S. in 2010 was even smaller than its relative size. Most artists would not expect a residency in Nashville to lead to the types of opportunities they might find in New York. On their bios, it is unlikely that Nashville will replace some of the other high profile destinations that artists use to characterize their careers. Until it does.

Translocal networks and exchanges such as these are immensely valuable. Few artists support themselves by making and showing work in one city alone. Some say New York is the place where that type of career is possible, but most American artists don’t live in New York and most aspiring New York artists will not make a lasting career in that city either. Practicing artists are thus compelled to cast their network and exhibition opportunities widely. Especially in the absence (or scarcity) of money exchanged for artistic work, social and exhibition opportunities that extend across cities (and countries) become a more general means of career maintenance. Moreover, reputations in the world of art are often understood (hierarchically) according to the geographic reach of artists’ exhibition records: local, regional, national and international. FLEX IT! artists have careers that span multiple places, and the worlds (relationships and exchanges) that make these careers possible are

In fact, cities carry reputations that matter in the art world in addition to the social opportunities and the quality of art that they offer, and place reputations are dynamic, moving targets as well. They change, for example, when the geography of its artists’ own reputations change, and/ or when individuals or organizations make conscious attempts to draw positive attention toward its cultural attributes. Ask FLEX IT!-participating artist Harrell Fletcher [of Public Doors and Windows], whose move to Portland changed that city’s art status and reputation, particularly as a wellspring of social practice art, even if most of his and his collaborators’ projects do not take place there. Outlaw knows too that social practice is an effective means of making place. As an artistic practice FLEX IT! breaks down barriers and strengthens bodies and communities. As a world building practice, FLEX IT! helps build the translocal networks that will continue to push artistic dialogue into the future and around the world. As a place-making practice, FLEX IT! strengthens Nashville itself—its citizens, its artists, and the reputation of the city as a whole.

A visitor to Centennial Park walks by a historical marker, installed for One Mile Loop.

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Installation view, Highlander Spring Project by Public Doors and Windows.


// ESSAYS

ArtFear and Badminton: Observing the Museum Visitor Susan Shockley FLEX IT! My Body My Temple’s intention was to address obesity prevention through healthy living. Seven social practice artist/collectives participated; we selected five from an international call. A quarter of the projects were designed to be primarily experienced in the museum. Objects and documentation of outdoor works complemented the gallery experience and encouraged participants to also enjoy the exhibit in Centennial Park, where the museum is located.

crushed it with his large hands, ultimately flinging it into the waiting garbage can. The man with the big silver belt buckle did not realize he was drinking water from the same spring that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks had once drunk from. Nor did he view the 1957 video featuring those leaders and others, both white and black, leaving the Highlander Library, talking, laughing, and even embracing. The man with the large silver belt buckle and his wife left without reading the text or viewing the video.

As museum curator, I spent time observing visitors as they viewed FLEX IT! to gather a sense of how people reacted. The majority looked at several pieces at length and read the accompanying text, which spurred some quiet conversation. And there is always a small percentage that read every text panel and contemplates the contents. But I became interested in those visitors who scurry through the gallery: the visitor who never reads text and is likely uncomfortable around art, especially contemporary art. I call them the ArtFear group. This man got my attention:

Similar actions occurred often at the water dispenser: rush to the water, drink, throw the cup away; and usually those visitors would then leave the gallery. I did not realize it at the time, but these visitors were gravitating to the water because it was an activity.

“Honey, look they have water!” said the man with the big silver belt buckle. His voice echoed off the gallery’s marble floor. “Want some?” His large hands grasped the tiny cups, as he delicately slid one off the top, filled it with water, and handed it to his waiting spouse. She sipped as he filled another small cup, drank it in one gulp and

Some of the ArtFear group headed to the center of the gallery, where a metal table stood. On top of the table were two magnifying glasses leaning over a small mound of locally gathered yeast; on the shelf below stood three clear glass jars storing unknown matter. People would peer into the magnifiers to look at the yeast, many mumbling, “Cool, I wonder what that is?” before moving on. They would often move the magnifiers or yeast, which was permitted. Again, this was an activity. I still had not recognized the answer to my question of how to engage this group in our exhibition.

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Artist Adrienne Outlaw plays badminton with FLEX IT! participant in the Parthenon.


// ESSAYS

Toward the end of the show, Adrienne Outlaw, co-curator and artist, introduced badminton into the gallery space. This supported her MeetUp project, which included Capture the Flag, a bread-making group, a Zumba class, a community picnic and more. We set up a portable net that we made available for visitors on a daily basis. This activity brought palpable change to the gallery vibe. The badminton set was extremely popular and people became engaged in the exhibit. The gallery was full of discussion and laughter. People playing were having fun while those who watched encouraged the players and helped to teach the youngsters the proper way to serve. Visitors interacted easily in this

now animated space, as strangers met strangers. They remained longer in the gallery, lingering while waiting for friends or for the completion of a match. The social practice art on view in FLEX IT! benefited from the action activities because it playfully engaged our visitors and let them know that art can be fun. With the addition of the badminton, the exhibition became a playing field of social practice. While the art on the walls was speaking to many museum-goers, it was not reaching this group. They were instead welcomed by activity, and perhaps the next art gallery they come upon will seem a little more inviting thanks to our eorts.

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Artist Moira Williams takes Socrates Wagon through Centennial Park to collect yeast for breadmaking in an on-site adobe oven.


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Stretching Minds and Bodies DeeGee Lester

FLEX IT! My Body My Temple proved to be a springboard for our visitors to look at themselves, the park, and the familiar presence of the Parthenon in new ways. The educational aspect of the exhibition offered a myriad of engagement opportunities, which, as Director of Education, I was thrilled to see. In both the park and museum people could participate in activities ranging from free exercise classes to picnics, from an interactive gaming app to yoga, from outdoor baking to indoor badminton. I especially enjoyed watching visitors slow down and consider the effects of our non-stop lifestyle as they talked with seniors participating in Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle. Several interns and volunteers likewise benefited from working on FLEX IT! Student internship projects included 8th grader Jareesa Hawkins’ web page Jareesa’s Parthenon Confidence Builder for Girls (http://jaressa84268.wix.com/

jaressaparthenongirl), which uses Susan O’Malley’s art to help students create self-confidence through healthy eating choices, exercise and positive affirmations. Glencliff High School senior Wan Rashid used FLEX IT! for her senior capstone business project, demonstrating the process for development and execution of an international art exhibit. College students Kayla Saito and Blake Schreiner and FLEX IT! volunteer Courtney Adair Johnson gained significant experience by helping FLEX IT! artists realize their projects. An engaging and innovative exhibit, FLEX IT! My Body My Temple has successfully introduced Nashville to the concept of social practice art. For visitors to the Parthenon and Centennial Park who are accustomed to traditional art exhibits and installations, this exhibition expanded their notions of art itself and lured them into the participatory nature of cutting edge art practices.

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A local yogini meditates for Nicole Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone). Photo courtesy Julia Allen.


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Breaking Boundaries Wesley Paine

When artist Adrienne Outlaw and museum curator Susan Shockley proposed FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, social practice as an art form was new, not only to the Parthenon but to the Southeast. With patience and wit, Outlaw and Shockley enabled the rest of the Parthenon staff to grasp the concept and join their excitement. When more than forty artists from around the world submitted ideas for the project and when the project was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, we knew we’d arrived at an important benchmark. Riffing on the museum’s identity as a re-creation of a temple (and one of the iconic buildings of Western architecture), along with the concept of the human body as a temple, FLEX IT! was appealing and clever. An artistic enterprise that would encourage healthy living

and combat obesity also falls in line with the mission of the Parks Department, so we could count on installation support from the maintenance and groundskeeping divisions. An exhibition that involves the indoors and outdoors simultaneously, that requires active engagement from the museum visitors—including badminton in the gallery!— and whose presence has evolved during the run, has opened our minds to new possibilities and unleashed new creative energy. It has also succeeded in opening the eyes of our many visitors to the pleasures of community and the idea that healthy eating and exercise can be great fun. Success, then, is My Healthy Body My Beautiful Temple!

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PROJECTS ARTISTS CONSIDER WAYS TO ACTIVATE MIND AND BODY IN PURSUIT OF HEALTH

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Photo courtesy the artist.


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Your Body is the Architecture Susan O’Malley

Signs in public spaces provide direction and identification, prohibit action, and give permission. They are stand-ins for authority, warnings or welcomes, and we treat them as such. Artist Susan O’Malley expanded on the function of signs, providing visitors with suggestions for personal engagement with the structure of the Parthenon in her work, Your Body Is the Architecture. The signs invite visitors to interact with the architecture of the building, connecting them with the people who built the Parthenon, both in Nashville and ancient Athens. During O’Malley’s residency in Nashville, she talked to museum and park visitors about the ways they use these public spaces. The park is place for activity, the museum a place for contemplation. Riffing on these conversations and observations, O’Malley designed illustrative sings that give visitors permission to play but also to practice mindfulness, connecting to both their bodies and the structure itself. “Push the Parthenon like you can move it,” one says. “You are a column, tall and proud,” another reads. “Spread your arms wide as the Parthenon.” O’Malley created five poses that turn the building into a fitness center. She connects the poses to our emotional state. “Take a deep breath here. Smile,” one sign suggests. “Pay attention to how you feel.” “Be mindful of your needs.” Like many works in FLEX IT!, Your Body Is the Architecture encourages visitors to slow down, explore the interconnectedness of health and emotional well-being, and be present in the body. O’Malley’s work heightens everyday experience, relying on exchanges with her audience for conception and enactment. In the past, she has led happiness walks, listened to the dreams of strangers, and delivered individual pep talks in public spaces, to name a few. She acts as a conduit to enliven the dreams of others and quell their anxieties, while grounding them in the present. Erica Ciccarone

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Photo courtesy the artist.


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[FLEX IT!

O’Malley’s Your Body is the Architecture

Mary Jane Jacob

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Five markers are installed on the grounds at Centennial Park. Photo courtesy the artist.


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Pygmalion’s Challenge Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner

FLEX IT! combined augmented reality with exercise through artists Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner, whose interactive, app-based game Pygmalion’s Challenge had Centennial Park visitors pointing their smart phones at batches of flowers and racing up the Parthenon steps. New media artist Leister and landscape architect Heavner joined forces to riff on the theme of obesity prevention, healthy living and community. The goal of the game is to collect coins that allow you to unlock sculptures and watch them come to life. The artists set sculptural markers on the Parthenon lawn that, by the end of September, were lush with flowers. Pointing a smartphone at a marker caused several gold coins to pop up on the screen. Then came the exercise: contestants raced to the “Treasury” behind the Parthenon to cash in coins for keys. They then raced back to the markers to unlock colorful, animated characters from the sculptures. The app includes an option to take a picture with the dancing sculptures and post it to social media, which the artists hoped would encourage participation from kids and adults. Gold coins are apparently heavy though, so they had to make several trips to unlock all of the treats. Leister’s interactive artwork is a perfect match with Heavner’s landscape architecture. Both disciplines require an audience. “It all revolves around anticipating what people want and providing them with that experience,” Leister says. “With landscape architecture and interactive design, there is no photo opp. It’s more about the experience of people walking through the space and thinking, ‘How can I make people happy and enjoy themselves more?’” He returned to Nashville on September 19-21, where he and Heavner presented a talk on their design process for Pygmalion’s Challenge. At Watkins College of Art & Design, he facilitated two workshops: Creating 2D and 3D Content for Video Games and Augmented Reality. Erica Ciccarone To see or play the game yourself, visit http://www.bryanleister.com/games/pygmalions-challenge/

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Artist Bryan Leister demonstrates how the markers are designed to interact with the player, showing the digital sculpture that emerges after completing the challenges. Photo courtesy the artist.


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Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner’s Pygmalion’s Challenge iPhone and Android

digital characters. This bringing together real and virtual realities.

Hrag Vartanian and Veken Gueyikian play Pygmalion’s Challenge.

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Visitors to Centennial Park enjoy faux historical makers made by Public Doors and Windows that celebrate regular users of the park.


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One Mile Loop Public Doors and Windows

Harrell Fletcher, along with Molly Sherman and Nolan Calisch, make up the collective Public Doors and Windows, which staged One Mile Loop, a multi band performance in FLEX IT! exhibition space based on the habits and musical preferences of six park regulars who were interviewed by the artists. Their music ranged from Rancid to Rodgers and Hammerstein and was performed in varied genres, from melodic pop to heavy soul. The group constructed faux historical markers commemorating the park’s regulars and invites visitors to enjoy a diversity of experience and intimately engage with the tastes and habits of others. There are two hot questions about social practice work: Is it art? and How do we place work in museums and galleries when it takes place in non-art contexts? The former question deserves an exhaustive debate, while the latter demands experimentation. With FLEX IT!, the availability of gallery space to document social practice works presented the opportunity for artists to negotiate this space while staying true to the participatory model. Much has been said about the inclusion of social practice works in museums and galleries, and artists have reason to tread carefully. As Harrell Fletcher wrote, “social practice artists ultimately need to maintain autonomy and freedom as artists to work on projects that have no obligation to fulfill museum interests.� The site-specific nature of FLEX IT! allowed artists to use the space within the museum gallery and around the park itself, making a flexible space more conducive to social practice work but still containing an aesthetic element. Erica Ciccarone

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For an event on October 13th, Public Doors and Windows hired six Nashville-based bands to each play favorite songs of the runners featured on the signs. The event, meant to take place outside next to each sign, was rained out and instead happened inside the gallery. Shown here is Mike of Light performing “Freak-A-Leek� by Petey Pablo, which was a song selected by Phyllis West.


// PROJECTS

But it is also the visitors who

location and allow this exhibition to show just what not a conventional art

ourselves. Public Doors and Windows’ siting and

Mary Jane Jacob

A historical marker in situ at Centennial Park.

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The Highlander Spring, present day. Photo courtesy Nolan Calisch.


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Highlander Spring Project Public Doors and Windows

In their second work, Public Doors and Windows built personal and community investment with the Highlander Spring Project, making available water from the spring that fed the original Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. Established during the Great Depression, the school began as an adult education center to train labor organizers. By the 1950s, it had become a meeting place for civil rights organizers and activists to work, play and learn together. Openly integrated, Highlander hosted visionaries like Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Pete Seeger and Eleanor Roosevelt. Fletcher, Sherman and Calisch traveled to Monteagle to learn about the natural spring and collect its water. In the Parthenon, they erected a fountain allowing Nashvillians to drink spring water from this site while learning about its history. The simple water cooler allowed visitors to be nourished by the water from this spring and reflect on Tennessee during the turbulent 60s. Although our basic knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement would have us believe that it was successful because of the boldness of a few key players who acted on the impetus of a nation ready for change, in reality it depended on extensive training, education and cooperation even as it was challenged by setbacks and long stretches of waiting. At Highlander, workshops and training sessions were held that launched initiatives such as the Montgomery bus boycott, the Citizenship Schools and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Erica Ciccarone

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Children at play in the Highlander Spring at the height of its civil rights activities. Photo courtesy the Wisconsin Historical Society.

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FLEX IT! participants play Capture the Flag in Centennial Park. Photo courtesy Thomas Hutchinson and Asia Adams.


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MeetUp Adrienne Outlaw

MeetUp, the capstone work in FLEX IT! is Adrienne Outlaw’s series of events that invited participants to consider the ways they exercise health and harmony with each other. At its core is the concept that individual responsibility can cause a sea change. A subtle shift in our lifestyle choices can affect change around us, rippling out to transform our society at large. A potluck in the park, a game of Capture the Flag, badminton in an art gallery and lessons in Zumba and Capoeira provided plenty of footage for a video installation in the Parthenon Museum that serves as a living document of the events in social practice work. True to her oeuvre, Outlaw’s MeetUp underlines what we hunger for—communion with each other, the unity of purposeful action, and the benefits of being present for what moves us. Adrienne Outlaw has been a pioneer in engaging community members with artists, fostering positive relationships among them. Contemporary art can have a positive impact on communities, but sometimes, residents of those communities feel separated from it. Gallery spaces might appear welcoming only to those who are already engaged. Outlaw’s work endeavors to bring both art into community and community into art. Outlaw organized 12 MeetUps that engaged roughly 200 people aged six to sixty from varying socio-economic backgrounds. Some responded to personal invitations, others through Parthenon and park promotions, and still more who joined spontaneously. MeetUp events invited participants to consider what we hunger for and why we move. Do we eat for sustenance? To commune with those we love? Do we ever eat to feed something that food alone will not satisfy? Why do we exercise? To beat back stress, to socialize, to meet a set of prescribed expectations? Do we exercise to live longer or to look better? The deluge of media attention on fitness and the emotional gymnastics of well-being are enough to cloud our intentions. By getting out of the gym and onto the field, MeetUp players became willing participants in a workout that left them sore but emotionally nourished. Erica Ciccarone

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FLEX IT! participants Meet Up with artist Adrienne Outlaw for a Zumba class in Centennial Park. Photo courtesy Kayla Saito.


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What Adrienne is doing

we already know. She

A FLEX IT! participant plays badminton in the Parthenon.

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Moira Williams and FLEX IT! participants build an adobe oven in which to bake bread made from yeast collected on the grounds of the park.


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Socrates’ Wagon Sings with Demeter’s Torch If you happened to be at Centennial Park during the first week of September, you may have seen artist Moira Williams walking along the loop with a wagon in tow or operating an adobe oven on the Parthenon lawn. As part of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, the Brooklyn-based artist created an ongoing, participatory art event. “When I do socially engaged work,” says Williams, “it’s always about the community and supporting the community.” The physical structure of Demeter’s Torch was in fact community-made. Williams worked with park visitors to construct an oven and the mini Parthenon-shaped wooden structure surrounding it. Together, they configured it to be about Athena, exercise, and eating healthy—topics that arose naturally in the course of conversation. With the oven complete, Williams walked the mile loop with Socrates’ Wagon, collecting wild yeast and conversing with park visitors in a kind of Socratic Dialogue. “My work is always about starting a dialogue—talking and listening to people,” she said. After she harvested the yeast, she returned to the lawn and the oven and baked bread, pizza, yams, garlic, apple crumble and dosas with park visitors. Together, they cut ties with the commercial food chain and ate food harvested from the park itself. “When we eat together, we slow down, we think about things,” Williams says. She hopes that the experience will show participants how easy it is to step away from commercial foods. Williams has made walking part of her artistic practice for many years. A founding member of The Walk Exchange, she also enjoys night walks through New York wearing various safety suits, walks pigeons over the Brooklyn Bridge and makes trips to the post office to mail letters to the Milky Way Galaxy. When she’s not walking, she’s engaged in other participatory works that are rooted in reciprocity and social responsibility. Erica Ciccarone

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FLEX IT! participants begin the adobe oven by mixing mud and straw with their feet. Photo courtesy the artist.


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harvested wild yeast which she later used starter and bread that she baked in an oven Ingredients and natural resources are right

new.

Moira Williams inspects yeast and dough mother, from which visitors are invited to take for baking bread at home.

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Photo courtesy the artist.


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Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone)

We don’t think about it much, but the goods we use have been transported great distances by machines operated by people—the book in your hands, the coffee in your cup, the gasoline in your car. When performance artist Nicole Cormaci found herself travelling from British Columbia to Indiana regularly, she became empathetic to the physical effects of the long haul, spurring her social practice work Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone). Cormaci’s piece offered a new element to FLEX IT!, applying the ancient, specific knowledge of yoga practitioners to the sedentary practice of operating trains, planes and automobiles. It’s not just for transportation folks, though. In our screenbased world, many of us find ourselves sitting for long stretches, only to find our bodies cramped and knees aching long after we unwind. For truckers, the damage is lasting: hip, back and knee issues can permanently damage posture, making mobility difficult and painful. Yoga for Truckers investigates whether yoga can correct some of the damage that’s been done. In the Parthenon, local yoga instructor Amanda Wentworth led trucker Lonnie Keller in a sequence of yoga poses that can be practiced while driving. They continued this in November in a taxicab in Centennial Park. Wentworth also led a free community yoga class that builds on these sequences. Much of Cormaci’s work is site specific, and Centennial Park is an interesting place for a work that revolves around transportation, considering that it was largely financed by railroad companies in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Tennessee’s admission into the Union. The train is the predecessor of the trucking industry, and Cormaci’s work as a whole asks us to consider the people who move things across the country, while we reflect on our own postures as we move through the world. Erica Ciccarone

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Yogini practices meditates for Nicole Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers (+ Everyone). Photo courtesy Julia Allen.


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FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is the subject our health. It does this

for Truckers

Yoga

users out in the world. Mary Jane Jacob

The artist demonstrating yoga positions.

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Visitors speak with an elder participating in Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle.


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Chronicle

There are still places where the speed of contemporary life slows down long enough for quiet contemplation: a library, a museum, an outdoor spot that keeps us attuned to the natural world. Chronicle, an installation in the Parthenon gallery by Hong Kong artist Lueng Mee-ping, provides opportunity for visitors to pause and reflect. Lueng’s installation is comprised of a long shelf of self-help books she collected in Nashville. Visitors can browse the library and consider the ways our fast-paced culture affects personal and community health. On either side of the shelf sits an elderly Nashville citizen who has volunteered to talk to visitors about how they experience health and happiness. Chronicle adds balance to FLEX IT!, reminding us that mental space and emotional health are as vital to wellness as physical fitness. Chronicle also reminds us that when our bodies age, we do not lose value. The fetishization of youth in Western culture is not lost on Lueng. Where we typically remove our elders from public places and place them in retirement homes, Chronicle encourages filial piety and reverence. Lueng’s installation positions elders in a place of veneration, further giving us permission to slow down and re-examine how we move through the world. Erica Ciccarone

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Visitors speak with an elder participating in Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle.


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such as The Impatient Gardener...suggest that could be achieved in

otherwise. As they

Carrington Fox

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WORDS ON FLEX IT! PARTICIPANTS REFLECT ON THE EXHIBITION

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// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

Go Slo-Mo Carrington Fox

As a food writer for the past decade, I’ve heard the expression “Slow Food” creep into the vernacular to describe the shift toward artisanal farm-to-table cuisine. Slow, the opposite of Fast, refers to deliberateness in the culinary process—from pasture to plate. It is in the languorous spirit of Slow Food that I raise egglaying chickens behind the garage and grow kale by the kitchen door. It is in this spirit that I pay through the nose for grass-fed meat and nurture a pungent jar of kombucha in a dark cabinet.

Now you’re doing math: Three up, three down, plus drive time home, plus preheat to 375 degrees, plus cook to 145 degrees. It dawns on you that America’s pastime is the ruination of bedtime. Then somewhere in the calculations of Slow Food and the Catch-22 that exercise, nutrition, and sleep cannot reasonably coexist, you miss the moment when your little batter finally connects with a kid-pitch fastball.

A process-oriented approach to cooking can vastly improve eating habits, but it can also wreak havoc on a family’s busy schedule. After all, if you swear off value meals, you can’t swing by the drive-thru between soccer practice and Little League. Now you’re stuck on the sidelines Googling recipe shortcuts for organic pork to prepare when the double-header ends—that is, if this baseball game ever ends.

That’s part of the point of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, whose conceptual exhibits and concrete activities couple with the theory and practice of healthy living.

What’s that? Extra innings? Seriously? But it’s a school night.

In short, it’s hard to slow down.

Look no further than Leung Mee-ping’s Chronicle for a metaphorical speedometer of modern life. The seemingly haphazard display of self-help and how-to books shows just how broad is our appetite for efficiency. Time-saving titles such as The Impatient Gardener, The One-Minute Organizer and Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans would suggest

Installation view, Chronicle..

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FLEX IT! participant Carrington Fox high-fives her opponent after playing Capture the Flag in Centennial Park. Photo courtesy Thomas Hutchinson and Asia Adams.


// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

that the whole happiness of health and hearth could be achieved in just over a month. Or could it? Elder docents, bookending the shelf in comfy chairs, suggest otherwise. As they engage visitors on time-intensive traditions of topics from gardening to quilting, they remind us that home was not built in a day, that there is value in process. While you’re thinking about that, stop and play some badminton in the middle of the Parthenon gallery. But what’s the point, you ask? That was a question my kids asked when I loaded them into the minivan and drove to Centennial Park for a game of Capture The Flag, which was a FLEX IT! MeetUp. “When did you sign us up?” they asked. “Whose team will we be on?” “But we don’t have jerseys.” To be sure, it wasn’t something we were used to, this intergenerational, mildly competitive game among strangers who wore no

uniforms and expected no trophies. After all, I’m usually on the sidelines watching—or at least fretting about how to get everyone fed before bedtime. But quickly enough we pick-up players learned our teammates’ names and were conspiring to steal a hidden flag. “Mom, You’re playing?” my kids asked. Yep. Mom’s playing. In fact, I ran so hard I pulled a muscle. When we got home, the boys told Dad all about it—about sprinting through roses and escaping jail in the colonnade, about Mom actually being pretty good, for a mom. We all agreed it was a great afternoon, and we resolved to play more games—not just the kinds that come with schedules and trophies but the kinds that give us time together. Then we picked some kale by the kitchen door, fried up some eggs, and went to bed early.

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// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

Making Connections Wan Rashid

From a young age I assumed the meaning of business was to own a shop. Yet I have come to learn there are many aspects to business. As I’ve grown wiser I have come to realize that business is in everything we do. Take for example the FLEX IT! show at The Parthenon. I was given the ability to do an internship with the Director of Education, DeeGee Lester, who has not only been a help, but also a mentor to me. Ms. Lester has given me the chance to understand how a museum works, the dedication to it and the involvement in the community that comes with it. Through this process I have seen sides of business from a simple yet extremely meaningful exhibition about life, health, and society that has changed my mind on so many things.

I would like to first point out that in organizing an art exhibit, one has many roads to cross. An example would be the funding, which Susan Shockley, the Curator, has done an amazing job with. She taught me what hard work is. For instance, she enlightened me on the arduous task of grant writing that organizations must do to secure funding. She worked on this project for three years, and was able to get people from the other side of the world to Nashville. Ms. Shockley taught me about the skills and commitment it takes to achieve this goal and I am thrilled to have experienced it. Ms. Shockley and Ms. Lester changed the way I see things and my time at The Parthenon will be something I remember for years to come.

Installation view of the gallery. Photo courtesy Allen Ralph.

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FLEX IT! participants MeetUp for a free capoeira class in Centennial Park. Photo courtesy Kayla Saito.


// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

The Art of Community Blake Schreiner

As an intern, my work on FLEX IT! My Body My Temple began by scouring local businesses and websites for artists’ materials. In searching for resources and craftsmen throughout Nashville, I became deeply aware not only of each artist’s unique vision, but also of the community and the issues which had inspired them. The works of art exhibited in FLEX IT! beautifully showcase the possibilities of healthy living through awareness and community action. As I followed the artists through their individualized processes of inquiry, discovery, and engagement with the city of Nashville, I saw just how much positive change can be effected when critical and creative thinking meet. Besides learning the ins and outs of exhibit curation and installation, my time with the curators and contributing artists of FLEX IT! afforded me a rare opportunity to see what happens when art and community support each other to their fullest

potential. As the artists explored what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, I saw visitors and craftsmen from all walks of life begin to consider this important question as well. When I began to write accompanying text for the FLEX IT! show, I drew on these experiences as well as on my research about each artist’s past activity. What I found was a rich history of social engagement that has impacted communities all over the world. I was therefore honored to have been a part of yet another chapter in the exciting development of social practice art, and I was equally honored to have spent time at the Parthenon as it welcomed such a brave and important genre of contemporary art. I look forward to seeing what the Parthenon and the contributing artists of FLEX IT! have in store for the future.

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Exhibition assistant Kayla Saito at Centennial Park. Photo courtesy artist Susan O’Malley.

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// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

Experiencing True Social Practice Kayla Saito

As a BFA student, I have belonged to a studentrun artist collective for two years, working as the Social Practice Coordinator and Co-chair for the group. My interest in the social practice field led me to my involvement with FLEX IT!. Over a year-long period, my role with FLEX IT! expanded from intern to artist and exhibition assistant. I worked directly with co-curator Susan Shockley, catalog contributor Amy Mackie and FLEX IT! artists Susan O’Malley, Moira Williams, Harrell Fletcher, Nolan Calisch, Molly Sherman, and Adrienne Outlaw to facilitate connections, source goods and materials, conduct research,

test ideas and even physically fabricate the entirety of one of the projects. I now know a national network of prominent artists and better understand the burgeoning social practice field, and deeply appreciate the behind-the-scenes work of building an exhibition as ambitious as this. With the fusing of ‘art and life’ and ‘community with artists’ at the basis of this work, I realize how every participant’s role is fundamental to both the success of this exhibition and in all social practice work.

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// WORDS ON FLEX IT!

INDEX ARTISTS AND CONTRIBUTORS

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// INDEX

ERICA CICCARONE is an independent writer living in Nashville. She contributes art criticism to Temporary Art Review, Nashville Scene, BurnAway, and Nashville Arts Magazine, and has published fiction in Epiphany, ThisRecording, and H.O.W. Journal. She taught English composition and literature at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Berkeley College, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She blogs about art and culture in Nashville at NYCnash.com. She holds an MFA from the New School Creative Writing Program and a BA in English from Loyola University New Orleans. 39, 43, 47, 51, 55, 59, 63, 67 NICOLE CORMACI holds an MFA in Performance at the University of British Columbia. She has completed collaborative projects nationally and internationally in both Canada and Japan. 7, 14, 15, 34, 62-65 CARRINGTON FOX’s writing has appeared in Southern Living, Food Network and culture magazines, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Louisville’s LEO Weekly, Esquire.com and Chapter16.org. She has appeared on Throwdown! With Bobby Flay and been a guest on Martha Stewart’s radio program. Carrington is a graduate of Princeton University and holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University. 69, 73-75 BECKY HEAVNER is an artist and landscape designer in Denver, where she also teaches illustration at the University of Colorado. In the past, Heavner has worked as an illustrator with the National Institutes of Health and the Washington Post, and as a landscape designer for Michael Vergason Landscape Architecture. Her work has received awards from such prestigious organizations as the Art Directors Club of Washington DC, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. In collaboration with Bryan Leister, she creates interactive installations that explore the possibilities of space, environment, and virtual experience. 4, 7, 15, 18, 20, 21, 24, 42-45 MARY JANE JACOB is a curator, writer, and educator whose practice is rooted in the nature of artmaking and art experience. Having served as the Chief Curator of the Museums of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Los Angeles, Jacob shifted her workplace from the museum to the street to critically engage the discourse around public space, organizing such site and community-based programs as Places with a Past and Places with a Future in Charleston, Culture in Action in Chicago, and Conversations

at The Castle in Atlanta. She is the Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 13-15, 41, 49, 65 BRYAN LEISTER has a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MFA in Art and Visual Technology from George Mason University. He works from his studio in Denver where he is also Assistant Professor of Digital Design and Transmedia at the University of Colorado. With a background in painting, illustration, and design, Leister has supplied commissions for the covers of numerous international publications, including TIME, Forbes, Der Spiegel, and BusinessWeek, while his paintings, animations, and installations have been shown in museums and galleries across the country, including The Museum of American Art, James River Paper Company, The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and The Corcoran Gallery of Art. 4, 7, 15, 18, 20, 21, 24, 42-45 DEEGEE LESTER has served as Director of Education at the Parthenon for seventeen years. She received a Bachelor’s degree in history from Belmont University and a Master’s degree in public history (museum studies) from Middle Tennessee State University. The author of six books, her writings have been published in a number of magazines and journals including Cricket Magazine, The Tennessee Historical Quarterly, and Eire-Ireland, as well as The Tennessee Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America. She is a monthly contributor toNashville Arts Magazine and Validity Magazine. 33, 77 AMY MACKIE is a curator and writer based in New Orleans. She is also Co-Director of PARSE (parsenola. com). Mackie curated numerous exhibitions as the Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans from 2011 to 2012 and as a Curatorial Associate at the New Museum in New York from 2007 to 2010. She is currently working on a book that traces the evolution of the artist-run spaces in New Orleans from 2005 to the present. 17-23, 45, 61, 81 LEUNG MEE-PING received her BFA from L’ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, her MFA from California Institute of the Arts, and her Ph.D. from Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is an internationally exhibited artist specializing in socially engaged mixed-media work. She is based in Hong Kong, where she is an assistant professor of Cultural Studies and Integrated Creativity at the Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University. Primarily concerned with

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community, memory, and the ethics of the human condition, her dramatic, issue-based artworks draw from a range of creative practices to promote reflection and dialogue on daily culture. In the last decade, Leung Meeping’s artwork has frequently been featured in both public venues and galleries throughout Hong Kong and other major cities of South Asia. Her latest activity, entitled Made in Hong Kong, is the culmination of a seven-year project examining the nuances of Hong Kong’s commercial culture through the lens of modern “souvenir paintings.” 7, 15, 33, 66-69, 72, 73 SUSAN O’MALLEY received her MFA from California College of the Arts Social Practice Area. She participated in museum exhibitions and publicly interactive art installations throughout the San Francisco Bay area and internationally in Denmark and Poland. As the former Curator and Print Center Director at San Jose ICA, O’Malley oversaw the production of numerous contemporary and social practice art exhibitions. Her own work relied heavily on the exchange between herself and the community, with the hope of fostering optimism and meaningful human connections in daily life. Her past projects such as Community Advice, a series of signs bearing random quotes of advice from citizens of Palo Alto, and A Healing Walk, a series of sign-post suggestions placed along a hiking trail, explore the positive influences of the written word on experience and the human psyche. 7, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 33, 38-41, 80, 81, 89 ADRIENNE OUTLAW is a socially engaged, interdisciplinary artist whose work is informed by ethical issues, especially as regards individual choice in an increasingly diverse and rapidly advancing world. She has exhibited her artwork in public spaces, galleries and museums across the U.S. and abroad in Italy, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Nigeria. Her work has been positively reviewed in such publications as Art in America, Sculpture, Art Papers, NY Arts, and M Magazine, and is documented in three books and a dozen exhibition catalogues. Outlaw is a recipient of several grants, awards, and fellowships from such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. She founded and directs Seed Space, an artist-run lab for site-specific installation, sculpture, and time-based media in Nashville. Outlaw conceived of and co-organized FLEX IT! with Parthenon curator Susan Shockley. She holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MLAS

from Vanderbilt University. 7, 14, 15, 16, 22, 23, 27, 30, 31, 35, 54-57, 74, 78 81 WESLEY PAINE is Director of the Parthenon in Nashville, TN, the world’s only full-sized replica of the ancient Greek temple, built as the Art Pavilion for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897. For more than thirty years she has been fueling enthusiasm for the ancient civilization which built the original Parthenon and to whom our civilization owes a great debt. As a passionate believer in interdisciplinary learning and the ability of museums to help people make connections, she takes great pleasure in helping to forge mental links between Tennessee and Nashville history, Greek mythology, American art, religion, and ancient architecture, all of which come together in Nashville’s Parthenon. 35 PUBLIC DOORS AND WINDOWS is a collaborative artist team made up of HARRELL FLETCHER, NOLAN CALISCH and MOLLY SHERMAN. They are based in Portland, Oregon. Together they work to create participatory and site-specific projects that engage with and include local people and the broader public. Drawing inspiration from small-scale farming and the community supported agriculture (CSA) model, PD&W bring similar elements into their artistic practice, creating work that values collaboration, reciprocal relationships, and a sense of investment with the people and places where they work. Currently, they are collaborating on projects with the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France, the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, and the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon. In 2013 they published A Children’s Book of Farming in Le Cateau-Cambrésis (One Star Press) as part of Le Nouveau Festival at the Centre Pompidou Center in Paris. 15, 26, 27, 28, 46-53, 80, 81 WAN RASHID is a FLEX IT! Intern and a senior at Glencliff High School. 33, 77 KAYLA SAITO is the FLEX IT! exhibition assistant. She holds a BFA from Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. 33, 81 BLAKE SCHREINER is the Parthenon gallery intern. 33, 79 SAMUEL SHAW is an urban and cultural sociologist. His research focuses at the nexus of cultural production and inequalities in the 21st century city. His current and past research has been published in Ethnography, City &


// INDEX

Community, Urban Affairs Review, and The Politics of Urban Cultural Policy. 25-27 SUSAN SHOCKLEY (b. 1957) was born in Nashville, TN. She earned her BFA from Memphis College of Art in painting and her MFA from Cornell University also in painting. For nearly ten years she split work between her studio and a small 100-acre family farm in upstate New York before moving to Nashville to join the staff at the Parthenon Museum. During her tenure Shockley has curated or co-curated nearly 70 exhibits in the museum galleries as she has continued work in her studio. 29-31, 35, 77, 81 Since January 2007, NATO THOMPSON has organized major projects for Creative Time including the annual Creative Time Summit, Living as Form (2011), Paul Ramirez Jonas’s Key to the City (2010), Jeremy Deller’s It is What it is with New Museum curators Laura Hoptman and Amy Mackie (2009), Democracy in America: The National Campaign (2008), Paul Chan’s acclaimed Waiting for Godot in New Orleans (2007) and Mike Nelson’s A Psychic Vacuum with curator Peter Eleey. Previously, he worked as Curator at MASS MoCA where he completed numerous large-scale exhibitions including The Interventionists: Art

in the Social Sphere (2004) with a catalogue distributed by MIT Press. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including BookForum, Frieze, Art Journal, Art Forum, Parkett, Cabinet and The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. The College Art Association awarded him for distinguished writing in Art Journal in 2004. He curated the exhibition for Independent Curators International titled Experimental Geography with a book available by Melville House Publishing. His book Seeing Power: Socially Engaged Art in the Age of Cultural Production was published by Melville House in January 2012. 17-23, 57 MOIRA WILLIAMS holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, a Cultural Studies Certificate in Spatial Politics from Stony Brook University, and an MFA from Stony Brook University. She is active in her native Brooklyn with a myriad of projects including the Brooklyn Walk Exchange, an annual walking tour of the borough with a different focus each year. Williams has also worked on social practice projects in Spain, Haiti, and in Bogotá, Colombia, where she studied beekeeping, the cycle of which informs many of the natural processes in her work. Currently, Williams is the Artist-in-Residence at Syracuse University. 7, 15, 17, 20, 23, 32, 58-61, 81

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IN MEMORIAM

We would like to dedicate this book to Susan O’Malley, whose lifetime of work showed that there is profound connection underlying every mundane interaction, if only we are willing to look for it. Her time in Nashville working on FLEX IT! was an inspiration to participants and artists of the project. She will be missed.

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FLEX IT! My Body My Temple  

Built in Nashville for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, The Parthenon is the city’s art museum and the centerpiece of Centennial Park...

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