Selina Trepp Wins The Present Prize: Family Matters!

Selina Trepp is the winner of The Present Prize: Family Matters!

After about 16 nominations and ~9000 votes, we’re proud to announce that she has been awarded $1250 for her work as an artist while being a parent. She says,

Thank you again, I feel honored to be the recipient of this award, beyond the help that the money provided, it is so encouraging to know that people who don’t know me enjoy my work, and this award, due to the democratic nature of voting, communicates that so well to me.

About parenthood:

Becoming a parent has resulted in fundamental changes to how I work and live. My method of dealing with the obvious drawbacks of parenthood — less time and less money — has been to turn them into assets. Less time forces me to use my time well, to use all the little pockets of free time to make work. When Maxine still napped, I would work on hand drawn animations during her naptimes, this resulted in an entire body of work called  “Nap Animations”, that functioned as abstract animations, but also as a documentation of the lengths of her naps. If a nap was short, the animation reflected that, it was short too, if she slept long, then the animation was longer.

The effect of less money has brought me to the main conceptual restraint that I am currently working with: I work with what I have. I do not bring anything into my studio; instead I use and reuse all that has accumulated in there over the years. I began this experiment in October 2012. This constraint necessarily affects the form of my work, as materials run out my work is changing with the circumstances. Now when I make, the challenge is to see the potential of things. What remains is that the camera brings all parts together, flattened into a single reality.

Beyond the benefit of saving money, I see this mode of production in itself as a political position; I use my actions, my production choices of non-consumption and recycling, to express my stance. In addition to that I see it as an affirmation of creativity itself. I can make what I need with whatever is at my disposal. Seeing my daughter play has been a huge inspiration, often she doesn’t know what the intended purpose of an object is and uses it in unconventional ways, anything can be anything.

Selina Trepp is an artist who’s work explores economy and improvisation. Finding a balance between the intuitive and conceptual is the goal, living a life of adventure is a way, embarrassment is often the result. The best and worst advice she ever got was: If in doubt be radical. Her work combines installation, performance, painting and sculpture via photography. Additionally she developed a practice of singing combined with creating realtime animated projections and has been performing as one half of the duo Spectralina, an audiovisual collaboration with her husband Dan Bitney.

The Present Prize #4: Family Matters

“For those who have defied the advice of mentors and gallerists by deciding to raise children while also pursuing an artistic practice, it can be hard to know how to proceed. While many well-known artists have managed to be engaged parents while pursing successful careers, mention of this creative balancing act is largely absent from critical discourse, and so we find ourselves reinventing the wheel again and again.”

-Christa Donner, Cultural ReProducers (Half Letter Press, 2014)

Over the past 4 years, since our girls were born, Oliver and I have become more and more aware of the challenges and struggles parents go through in balancing a creative practice and raising children. Remember when you were a teenager and full of angst and relationships were just hard sometimes?  When life’s big questions felt like they needed an answer, now?  When you were struggling to find out who you were and how you were going to find your place in the world? I’ve found that becoming a parent is sort of like that: challenging emotionally, full of identity crises, and a process that involves a re-alignment of your priorities and world view.

That’s not to say it’s all bad – in fact, if we stick with the high school metaphor, think of all the strong memories you have from those short 4 years and compare that number to any previous set of 4 years.  All that change, those struggles, those questions of identity that challenge us can make space for beautiful new things to happen, for a new open-ness to experiences, and for spaces of awe and wonder.

I don’t know if it’s really harder for parents pursuing a creative practice, but I do know that it’s hard.  Artists are  great at scrimping for money generally, but sometimes being responsible for a helpless little thing makes many of us less willing to scrape the bottom. While we’ve toted along our children to many art events, sometimes inappropriately, it’s pretty much unacceptable to participate in a lecture with kids in tow.  While we’ve never been great at getting out, you might say that our social capital has decreased in the past years.  Many opportunities and residencies are off limits. Even ones with good intentions don’t always work out.  The Bemis Center announced a residency for artist-parents this past November only to have to pull the program when it became clear they hadn’t fully figured out all the childcare logistics.  Time changes as you work around naptimes, more rigid mealtimes, and meltdowns. Getting from bed to door in the morning can no longer be a 15 minute endeavor.

Too many artistic lives are built for single, childless, workaholic 23-year-olds. That can’t last. Raising children forces us to change, and that is good in the long run for us and for our field. It’s true that I could no longer write grants at midnight when I had a kid. But thank god I stopped writing grants at midnight, right? – Andrew Simonet, Artists Raising Kids

The adjustment that happens after having kids happens to everyone who has kids.  You know it will happen, but it’s still surprising when it does. But sometimes it forces us to face things that were not working.  We stopped taking jobs – either self-assigned or asked for by others – that didn’t pay or didn’t have at least some small stipend or grant attached to it. It forced us to professionalize in that way. I used to be a floral designer.  Now I rarely take a job because the cost of childcare is the same as what I would bring in. Instead I do web design more professionally now, where I can work less for more money.

I’m pregnant again and am looking forward to and dreading the phase that will come this fall, so this topic is close to my mind.  But before that happens, Oliver and I want to announce our call for nominations for the next Present Prize – to be given to someone balancing a creative practice and parenthood.  The money we give away might be enough for a month of daycare, for some on-demand childcare, or for whatever else the parent in question needs. Let’s reward someone for making the time, for playing the long game, for proving it can be done, for taking a break or taking it slow for a while, for being selfish while at the same time giving all of themselves, and for setting the example for their kids that balance is possible – you just have to work at it. Because in the end, family matters.

If you are a current web hosting client, nominate up to three parents pursuing a creative practice.  Include their name and some sort of contact info (preferably email). Email your nominations here.

If you think this is a good idea and want to both contribute to the prize and nominate some people, go here to Buy in.


Additional Resources for Parents:

Cultural ReProducers - an evolving group of active cultural workers who are also parents – has compiled a great list of Resources for parent cultural workers  that includes grants, publications, and parent friendly residency programs.


No Justice, No Service!

Join local artists, educators, unions, activists and workers to celebrate the recent excitement and organizing success of Adjuncts at SFAI, CCA, St. Mary’s College, Mills, Dominican University!

Performances! Installations! Speak-outs! Readings! Food! Art! Books! Socializing! Community-building! Help cultivate a cultural front for ongoing activism in arts, education, work and life.

We’ll be there begging people to fill out surveys for Compensation Foundation and trying to show some stats through live action visualizations. We’ll see how that goes. :)

Sunday, March 8 at 3:00pm
2948 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Participating artists, adjuncts, workers, groups, organizers, cooks, beer-makers and people include:
MC: Irina Contreras
Cara Emily Levine
Danielle Wright
Carrie Hott
Congratulations Pine Tree Podcast (Kate Rhoades, Maysoun Wazwaz)
Jessica Tully
Jessica Lawless
Christian Schoff-Nagler
Jennie Smith-Camejo
David Buuck
Stephanie Young
Ann Schnake
Compensation Foundation 
SEIU Local 1021
Give Me Cred!
Peak Agency
La Pocha Nostra
Kristi Holohan
Lauren C Elder
Amanda Jane Eicher
Chelsea Wills
Catherine Powell & The Labor Archive
Bay Area Strike Debt
Debt Collective
Fight For Fifteen
Chris Higgenbotham
Adjunct activist’s agit-prop from around the country
Keith Hennessy
Mess Editions
Words of Resistance
Critical Resistance
Modern Times Bookstore Collective
Joe Berry
Helena Harlow Worthen
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo
Grace Chen
Zach Ozma
Adjunct Action Bay Area
Amy Rathbone
Francisco Grajales
Leslie Dreyer
SFAI Poster Syndicate
Shaping SF

Gifotrope – take control of your gifs

In the latest edition of “little things that we make for other people to use (but probably no one will,)” we’re proud to announce Gifotrope.  Gifotrope is a bit of code that helps you take control of gifs by breaking them up into little pieces that only animate when a user is scrolling.  You can’t read well while you’re scrolling, so something else interesting visually could and probably should be happening during those times.

TPG on Congratulations Pine Tree

Maysoun Wazwaz and Kate Rhoades are making a podcast- Congratulations Pine Tree – it’s the #1 Arts and Culture podcast in the Bay Area.

They are very fun to talk to and to listen to, and I’m excited that I can have them in my life more through my ears.

We’re on the podcast briefly this week talking about Compensation Foundation and the Present Prize.

Go here!

Open Call for Potluckers!

It’s not always true that if you build it, they will come. We get it. Surveys aren’t always so fun to fill out. But maybe if we come together in small groups, share food and drinks, and commiserate it will be a little more fun. That’s why we are asking you, individually or in groups, to host a potluck for your visual artist friends ideally in the first weekend of February and fill out Compensation Foundation’s “Bay Area Artists Report!” and anonymously contribute your experiences towards a better infrastructure for self-advocacy for artists.

The “Bay Area Artists Report!” is an effort to gather and make apparent how visual artists working in the Bay Area are compensated, what they value most, and what hurdles they face.  It’s the time of year for digging through old receipts and bank statements to appease the IRS, so what better time to put that effort to use for a common cause?

Artists and organizations across the globe (W.A.G.E., Visual Artists Ireland, CARFAC, Brooklyn Commune) are advocating for transparency and the establishment of standards when it comes to compensating artists for their labor. Our hope is that by contributing to a clearer picture of what’s happening here and now, we can help pave the way for a shift in cultural values and expectations.

We are working on securing beer and/or wine donations for fun. If you would prefer not to host something in your house, we can pair you up with one of several Bay Area organizations that have offered up their space. Please let us know if you plan something so we can track our progress and make sure to get you what you need!


Thank you!

Eleanor, Helena, Oliver

P.S. In an ideal world, these potlucks will occur in the first weekend in February, but anytime in the next couple of months would also be great.

Rotterdam Experiences: Off the Press: Electronic Publishing in the Arts and DEAF

Last week the Institute for Network Cultures and Digital Publishing Toolkit brought us to Rotterdam to speak about The People’s E-book.  The conference brought together an interesting mix of academics, students, artists, practitioners, and a few other designers and publishers.  There was a focus on what are artists producing in terms of e-books, what different production workflows look like, and what the future for libraries looks like.  They did a great job documenting most of the conference, so I thought I would continue that trend.

program for the conference

You can view many of the presentations here:

You can see images of the days here:

There are re-caps of most of the presentations here and here


Making Epubs Easy with The People’s E-book: 

Oliver did a demo of the tool, explained pe-epub (the open source epub generator that we built for People’s E-book), and talked about Streambooks, our Tumblr to epub conversion tool.

Off the Press – Oliver Wise: Making ePubs Easy with the People’s E-book from network cultures on Vimeo.

As you’ll see in the video, we had a little trouble with the slides, but you can see them below!


Publishing Constitutes a Public

There aren’t photos or video from the Arts and Crafts Session organized by Silvio Lorusso, but our slides are below and you can read the full text of our presentation here.  Oliver and I spoke about our thoughts about publishers as a support structure for a public, our past work that relates to digital publishing, and how and why we focused on artists when building The People’s E-book.


DEAF: The Progress Trap

We also were honored to be a part of the DEAF (the Biennial Dutch Electronic Arts Festival) at the Het Niewe Institute in their TV Lunch Program.  It was more of a casual conversation about our practice as well as the others’ who were also a part of the conversation.

The exhibition at Het Niewe Institute to go along with the festival, whose theme this year was “The Progress Trap” was pretty great. I especially loved Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen‘s work: 75 Watt.  They designed an object whose primary function was to choreograph its creation.

75 Watt – trailer from Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen on Vimeo.

Another favorite was also a video installation, by Gabriela Golder, entitled “Conversation Piece” which showed the artist’s mother – a militant in the Argentine Communist Party – reading the Communist Manifesto with her two young granddaughters.

CONVERSATION PIECE (the installation) from Gabriela Golder on Vimeo.

And Rotterdam has a pretty interesting mix of architecture. It was fun to be around.

What we learned while making YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES’ “Pacific Limn”: a free e-book for ipads


Since early last spring, we’ve been working with the renowned artist duo YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES and the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco to produce a new, free e-book for ipads that exists simultaneously as an original artist book and exhibition catalogue for those who missed their residency and exhibition at Kadist this spring.

The artist duo wanted to play with the idea of a book and the funny straddling of digital and physical that e-books are. Jeff Canham and Devon Bella worked to photograph a real book complete with a hidden compartment for a handgun that the book reveals on browsing.  Touching the gun brings up an original video by YHCHI that deals with Americanism, the problem of homelessness, and questions of how to or not to interact with people living on the street.

You can download the free book here>>

In the process of making this book, we learned a lot of things about the somewhat arcane world of e-pubs and ibooks.

1. You can’t have a full screen video (on touch) in a fixed format e-pub if you’re horizontally locking the pages and showing two pages at once.

2. You can change the cover size of an ibooks author book, but you have to open up the file and replace the asset. (takes about 20 steps)

3. You can’t have a transparent background for covers – it will turn the transparency black

4. It’s pretty much not worth it to mess around with javascript in epubs, except for really simple things.

5. HTML5/EPUB3 support is still pretty bad in ibooks.

6. You can’t have a external links on the same page as a video in iBooks Author.

7. You can’t have hidden videos or linked-to videos in iBooks Author.  But you can make a poster image for video that matches a background image, so that the viewer can’t really see it.  We matched a poster image to the page background color and put text on top and then styled the text to match the style of the links. Tricky.

8. You can’t hide the TOC or go directly into e-books that are made with iBooks Author.

9. Apple is sort of arbitrary an their approvals and rejections.  If you get tickets that you can’t fix – call them up and argue with them. Maybe a few times.  In the end, it’s a person who is making the decision so you have to get a middleman to write down your arguments that the Approver/Dissapprover will understand.

10. There are no page turning animations in e-books made with iBooks Author.


We, of course, could be wrong on some of these fronts. If anyone knows otherwise, prove us wrong in the comments!

The Present Prize #3 Nominees

The Present Prize#3: Research-Based Studio Practice
Nominees are:

Laurie Halsey Brown

Torreya Cummings

Brian Conley

Fiona Connor

Collin McKelvey and John Davis

Sasha Duerr

Jaimie Healy

Allison Holt

Helena Keeffe

Myrna Knode

Daniel Nevers

Scott Oliver

Megan Prelinger

Phil Ross

Miljohn Ruperto

Paolo Salvagione

Andrew Venell

Anne Walsh

Samira Yamin

Alternative Funding Strategies for Artists Class

On October 15th (a Tuesday) we’re gonna be breaking down what we’ve learned over the past seven years in regards to different funding models for artists and what the advantages and disadvantages are for each.  Come join us! 

Artists and cultural producers are increasingly turning to funding sources outside of the traditional methods.  This workshop and seminar will explore traditional and new models for funding creative practice and discuss their benefits and disadvantages.  We’ll also touch on the importance of developing social capital, along with practical strategies for building your brand and network. Participants should be ready to investigate their own support needs and be willing to contribute their own insight and experiences.

This workshop will take place over one 3-hour session with topics to include:

*Pros and cons of traditional funding sources

*Opt-Out Strategies: fee-for-service, barter, trade, co-ops, and secondary income

*Making Byproducts: production goods, economies of scale, and working with “middle-men”

*Selling your skills or surplus

*Community Supported Practice: Indirect funding, Subscriptions, MicroPayments, Crowdfunding

*Fiscal Sponsorship

*Leveraging social capital

Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
Location:  ProArts, 150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
Cost: $40.00 early registration (ends October 1); $50 regular registration (begins October 2).

Cancellation Policy: Full refund on registration fees up to 48 hours prior to workshop date. Fees nonrefundable after that date.

You can register for the class HERE.

The Present Prize #3 is open for Nominations!

At the beginning of this year, I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how I could fund some of the projects I was working on and wanted to continue with. These were largely research based projects that I considered part of my practice. But since these works were harder to situate strictly as artworks or as social science, they were very hard to fund.  Fortunately, I’m in a position to help give that opportunity to someone else!

Our practice as artists is dependent on what we produce. But there are times when we need only to explore, where the result is so far from the horizon, that we cannot see it. While often these times can be extremely productive, it is hard for most artists to justify a step away from the exhibition schedule, from deadlines, and from the scene in general in order to dedicate the time needed to fully know a subject.

“To really see something differently, it takes a tremendous amount of work, to understand what is in fact what you are looking at. I make a new project every five years and I think a lot of artists don’t work that way. So many of us are on deadline. I did that as well but in these long term projects I try to understand as much as possible and that takes time. If you really want to understand something and really get into the idea, it takes a long time to investigate any idea or methodology.”-Trevor Paglan

It’s time to reward someone for taking the leap to pursue something complex, for doing the research, and taking the time to learn. Let’s acknowledge the time and commitment an individual is putting forth in order to gain and ultimately share knowledge for the betterment of all of us.

“… art practice, in its most elemental form, is an educational act, for the intent is to provoke dialogue and to initiate change…to vision anew what is possible, but in a way that allows others to share the view.” – Graeme Sullivan

All of our web hostees are invited to nominate two artists that are doing exceptional research as their studio practice.

If you would like to participate in this prize as a non-hostee, you can buy in.  For $25 you can nominate two artists, vote in both the public and final private phases, and contribute your entire amount (minus transaction fees) towards giving an artist a little extra time to research. Learn more here>>

A partial history of how artists, cultural producers, and content providers have experimented with funding and support models during the Internet Age.

As a result of the reaction and conversation that happened as a result of Art Micro Patronage, Oliver and I had been talking a lot about how the struggle of the net artist to get paid for their work is not unique.  The internet and the development of technology in general has generated a whole new class of cultural producer, yet very few people have figured out how they can possibly make money off of the work they produce.  From giant newspapers to the casual instagrammer, no one seems to have a solid plan to make it work.

This idea was a good fit for Nora O Murchú as she was putting together a publication for Run computer, Run, part of the GLITCH Festival at Rua Red in Ireland: exhibitions, a symposium, and a publication that focus on the current economic, political and cultural factors that are shaping the Internet.  The festival will discussed and explored how the practice of the digital artist is transitioning, not only with the growth of digital technologies, but are increasingly being informed by offline factors that are affecting how the Internet as a creative platform is being developed.  So Nora asked me to gather some of my thoughts together along these lines and contribute something for the publication.

a snippet of the timeline

In the process of trying to write about and chronicle these changes, I decided that the best thing to do was to create a timeline in order to look at these pieces of information in context during the past ~15-20 years as the internet progressively became integrated into our daily lives.

In this timeline, I’ve tracked lists of how :

  • Net Artists have Tried to Make Money
  • Alternative Funding Models in the Arts
  • Technology Advancements have Facilitated Giving
  • The Media has Experimented with Paywalls
It’s fun to look at, especially if you’re a nerd like me. It’s fun in 3D too (lower left corner).  If I’ve made any glaring omissions, please contribute points to add in the comments.


Indexhibit v2 Tutorial Website

Since Indexhibit Version 2 is still somewhat new, and we offer to install it for our hosting clients, we thought we would build something that would encourage familiarity with the platform, help people understand how it works before (and after) installation, and help us learn its advantages and pitfalls.  Periodically, we update the site with something we’ve been fielding questions about.

Happy website making!

Indexhibit v2 Tutorial Website

#valueofart Paul Chan

“Have you ever read those stories about how people produce bio-electricity? And that some of us produce more bio-electricity than others, enough so there is a strong-enough electromagnetic field that it disrupts electronic devices, like cell phones and computers? I like to think sometimes that art is a thing that produces a kind of charge that makes nothing work. Then we can look at these things that don’t work and decide whether they are in fact worth their weight for us.”

from the 2012 Believer Art issue interview with Paul Chan

A Modest Occupation

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

Right now we’re part of a little show in St.Louis, at The Luminary Center for the Arts, that focuses on the recent boom of art subscriptions and art CSA’s and takes a look at the work that is being produced through this model.  It is curated by Abigail Satinsky from threewalls.  The exhibition is part of The Luminary Center for the Arts’ How to Build a World That Won’t Fall Apart  Exhibition Series, a year-long exploration of the ways that artists and alternative spaces sustain their practice in times of social and economic uncertainty. The series, a product of an institution examining itself in a time of transition, resonates pretty strongly with us right now as they are exploring of the role of alternative spaces within a broader ecosystem and the collective identity that arises through collaboration.

The show features works from Alula Editions (Bay Area, CA) Art Practical Mail Art Subscription (San Francisco, CA), Community Supported Art ChicagoCommunity Supported Art Philadelphia,Community Supported Art MinneapolisThe Drop/NOLA (New Orleans), The Present Group (Oakland, CA), Regional Relationships (Chicago), and The Thing Quarterly (San Francisco, CA), along with a special reading room in the window space by Silver Galleon Press (Chicago).

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

If you aren’t in St. Louis between March 15 – April 12, 2013, you can still catch the show in other locations as it travels around the country:
June 28 – August 3:  Threewalls, Chicago, IL
September 14 – October 26:  Transformer Gallery in Washington, DC
possibly then to New Orleans hosted by The Drop

Abby also worked with projects included in the show along with designer Working Knowledge to create a publication featuring essays and profiles from participating art subscription services.  A physical copy of this publication can be ordered for $3 from Luminary Arts or you can download a pdf version by clicking on the image below.

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts


New Project: The People’s E-book

Last fall, we went to a conference in Seattle and presented on a panel called Moving Forwards by Looking Sideways: Creative Thinking in Museum Digital Strategy.  This was a great opportunity for us because one of the things we’ve been thinking about a lot is ways that we might partner or work with museums to do projects that would benefit larger communities.   One of our co-panelists, Greg from Hol Art Books, brought up the idea of Museums employing and/or creating space for artists and startups in residence allowing the museum to not have the responsibility for “crazy” stuff they might do, but also gain the rewards of the programming, energy, and community building that these small groups might generate.  The artists or startups on the other hand get a little time and money to activate collections and larger audiences that are normally beyond their reach.  There are some examples already in place for this.  We love this idea and have been talking it up a bit, but something we’ve learned is that museums move slowly and in order for something like this to get implemented, it will likely take years, not months.

Live Museum Soundtrack, Machine Project at the Hammer Museum, 2010-11

Meanwhile, little guys like us and Hol Art Books can move pretty fast.  We hung out a lot with Greg while we were at the conference and spoke a lot about e-books – what they are, how they’re programmed, and why artists aren’t making more of them.  We quickly realized that they really are an untapped medium and started thinking of all the e-books that we should start making.  One great thing about them is that there is already a funding mechanism built in.  People are used to paying for books and e-books and inherently understand that transaction.  Yet they are built on html and the structure is open enough that there is room for a good amount of play, as long as you allow for the fact that the different readers, just like different browsers, each have their own set of rules.

Greg has had an idea floating around for an e-book builder that would allow many more people to start to play with creating, publishing, and selling e-books.  It would make creating an e-book as easy as writing a blog post. But he needed a partner to build it, and as this project fits nicely with our mission of creating systems and tools that facilitate the funding and distribution of artist projects, we offered to be that partner.

Tonight, we launch our very first Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of that project, The People’s E-book.  Help us realize this dream. There are some nice rewards that will encourage further learning, collaboration, and publishing of e-books at all levels.  E-books for everyone!


What better way to celebrate 6 years of making art than to get that art into people’s hands at an extremely affordable (like out-of-control affordable) price?  If you have ever wanted to buy something from TPG but haven’t, or might want to start checking off your holiday list, the time is now.  From today until December 24th, our entire inventory is 20 – 80% off.  Some of these editions have very limited quantities available (like only 1 left of Steve Lambert’s I want you to have this,) so get your orders in fast if you want your choice!

Know when to fold em.

It is with a simultaneously heavy/proud/appreciative/relieved heart that we’re announcing the end of our little project, our subscription art service. With your help, over the past six years we’ve channelled over $34,000 into artist payments, critic stipends, and the production of new artwork. We’ve supported the creation of 21 artist projects (over 1400 individual art pieces) that may not have happened otherwise.

Six years ago, we were newlyweds with a dream, no business experience (or training for that matter), no connections, and no cred. Since then, we have learned an enormous amount, met and worked with some really wonderful people, and have no regrets. When we started there weren’t any active art subscriptions that we knew of. Now there are over 20. (In fact, we made a list! If you need an art subscription fix in our void, this is a good place to find the right one for you:

Over the years, The Present Group has changed its focus from solely an art subscription to a place for experimental projects focused on new ways to support artists and by extension cultural producers of all stripes. Over the past couple of years, our two major projects have shown quite a bit of promise. Art Micro Patronage gave people a chance to experience group shows of online artwork and donate to artists simultaneously. The Present Group Hosting has now given away $2324 to artists working in underfunded areas of the creative landscape.

We will continue this trend of being both a place for our own experimental systems and a place that helps to facilitate others’ experiments. We will continue making things, perhaps even create editions once in a while, and hope to begin collaborating more extensively with partners. We now know how to make a lot of things (like view master reels and transparent silk screened vinyl sticker sheets!) and hope to help others make things. We will continue to explore the area between art, activism, philanthropy, and commercial endeavors. If you have a project that may be a good fit for this type of collaboration, please get in touch.

Why are we stopping? We’ve never been able to pay ourselves, we work other jobs to keep it going, and after six years of burning the candle at both ends, the flame has started to flicker. We love this project and it has been hard to make this decision, but it is time to let it go. We’ve met many of you through the fairs, speaking engagements and shows we’ve been able to be a part of. Some of you have been with us since the very beginning or close to it and by that we’re extremely humbled. We would never have been able to accomplish any of this without all the people who placed their trust and faith in us.

At this time of Thanksgiving, we’re especially  thankful for the enormous generosity and community of people we have had the privilege of working with, amongst, and for. Whether you decided to try out art collecting on a whim, worked with us as an artist, writer, or vendor,  or helped spread word to your friends, co-workers, students, or family members, we’re enormously grateful for every one of you.


Oliver and Eleanor

P.S.  We’re celebrating this end and 6 year anniversary with a giant sale!  Check out our back issues for savings of up to 20 – 80% off. 

Annotated Links for TPG 21

Christine’s Links:


Elaine Fox’s Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain (2012)


A cognitive psychologist looks at optimism and pessimism.


This is an enjoyable new mass-market book revealing the neurological centers of approach and avoidance instincts. Fox’s voice is a welcome addition to my understanding of the field of positive psychology. After just the first chapter, I recast my personal setbacks in running with a more positive perspective on my progress. Just as pleasure is fleeting, my ability to stay optimistic can waver over time. Books such as this are like nutrients that remind me to activate the skills of optimism.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick Emery Robinson’s The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter (1990)

This book may be purchased at
In 1985, the Getty commissioned a pair of researchers to conduct a study on the nature of the aesthetic experience, with a focus on finding correlations with flow, or optimal experience. The methods and findings are detailed in this out-of-print, academically-written book. Artists and curators will find some of the results basic, however, the rigor with which the researchers parsed the dimensions of aesthetic experience helped clarify my understanding of how art objects function, what viewers must bring to aesthetic experiences, and how viewers shape their experiences with artworks.




Constructing personal devil and angel archetypes

Actor Henry Winkler Plays “Not My Job,” and “Fabulous” New Yorkers

I was tired and lost on the Van Wyck Expressway when I heard a seven-minute interview with Henry Winkler that snapped me outside of my miserable, inward perspective. Winkler seems irrepressibly happy, with no complaints or regrets. The interview reminded me that you find what you look for in daily life, whether conflicts or beauty, complaints or humor.

I have been thinking a lot about how being in New York is changing me for the better and worse, illustrated by extreme New Yorker archetypes. The first is the stereotypical obnoxious, complaining, defensive New Yorker. (This is mostly caricature, though the city’s density can breed impatience for social niceties.) The other archetype is the one that Winkler seems to exemplify: the live-and-let-live New Yorker, who is constantly finding things “fabulous” and appreciates life in all its manifestations. Winkler would make a great happiness role model.



Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

GGSC’s blog features short, practical articles written by positive psychologists. The advice for improving subjective well-being is straightforward and, crucially, rooted in empirical studies (unlike self-help). Recommended for those with interest in‚ but not much time for‚ applying positive psychology in their lives.



Simon and Tom Bloor


Fraternal artists based in Birmingham and London, UK.

The Bloors make drawings, paintings, wall texts, sculptures, and public projects around play, public space, and modernist forms. Their latest projects, including schoolyard commissions, attempt to inspire informal interactions. I find that their works balance a cheery, earnest tone with formal and typographic sophistication and an open-endedness that invites intellectual engagement.



Michael Jones McKean’s The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms


Ambitious site-specific weather project at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE




McMaster-Carr’s website


I wish every website I use for procurement was as clean, informative, and easy to navigate as this.

The speed and ease of the virtual world can create false expectations, making manipulating the material world seem frustrating and slow. McMaster-Carr’s site provides generous access to material information, dimensions, and technical illustrations, exemplifying how material problem-solving can be facilitated with elegantly-dense interaction design.




Hida Tool

Though I use common materials in my work, I love fine tools. One of the great tragedies of our generation is the rarity of our encounters with objects that will last a lifetime, and further, specialists with wells of knowledge and enthusiasm for particular materials or tools. Hida is one such loci of connoisseurship. Based in Berkeley, this mom-and-pop shop sells Japanese hand tools, specializing in kitchen knives, gardening implements, and woodworking tools. I purchased wood-carving gouges from Hida 15 years ago, and they are holding up promisingly well. Hida’s specialness was recently brought to the fore again, when I decided to buy a Japanese saw, and could find no suitable counterpart in New York City.



TPG’s Links:


Christine’s work is influenced by the field of Positive Psychology.

This is a field concerned with why minds function well rather than the opposite… A brief primer can be found

courtesy of Wikipedia.



Thrive! – The Living Well Show

Online radio webcasting about positive psychology.



Flow, the Secret to Happiness

Christine references the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In this TED talk he discusses the creative ‘flow’ state.

How That Sausage of Happiness Is Made

Stefan Sagmeister is another artist who investigates notions of happiness. This article describes a recent show of his and an upcoming movie project. Both are concerned with what constitutes happiness and how it may be achieved.











The Sparkle Effect by Sarah Hotchkiss

Do you have a happiness role model? Think about this question. Do you actively pursue happiness in a systematic way such that you have identified someone who appears to lead an optimistic lifestyle you aspire towards? Christine Wong Yap has. Ask Christine for her happiness role models and you will receive an instant reply: Henry Winkler and Maira Kalman. You may remember Winkler from his decade-long role as “The Fonz” on Happy Days. Maira Kalman is the prolific illustrator and author of such books as The Principles of Uncertainty and The Pursuit of Happiness. And yes, they both have affiliations with the word ‘happy.’

Happiness, that often-unattainable life goal, is one of Christine’s central artistic concerns. Her artworks address optimism, pessimism, the pleasures of mundane materials, and transparency of the creative process. For the Present Group’s Issue #21, she created an extra-large sticker sheet: a screen print on cut holographic vinyl. The mirrored images are a festoon, a conglomeration of ten blank ribbon banners resembling packaging flourishes or “I ♥ MOM” tattoos. Underneath black and transparent cyan ink, the fractured reflective surface is dynamic and transfixing.  To achieve maximum sparkly effect, either it or you must move. This is highly recommended.

When I was a child, I had a fairly substantial sticker collection. They were modest, solid colored stickers of the farm animal, flower, balloon, and heart variety. I periodically sifted through the full to semi-full sheets, checking my inventory, hoarding the tiny adhesive symbols. I deferred gratification indefinitely. No art project or birthday card was ever good enough for a sticker from my collection. The thought of sharing them or using them never crossed my mind.

Two decades later, faced with Christine’s Present Group piece Ten Banners for Home and Office, I have a very different impulse. I want to peel the banners from their paper backing and stick them everywhere. I want to use them as labels, pronouncements, and notices. I want them on notebooks, newspaper boxes, and a card to my best friend. I realize now any sense of loss I might feel from the initial removal of a sticker from my possession will be more than countered by the cheer it will eventually bring both me and others. Instead of preserving the sticker sheet as a whole, I want to test the sticker’s ability to dazzle me for days on end. My six-year-old self wouldn’t understand, but Christine’s stickers lead me to understand something of myself and her practice simultaneously: distributing good and cheerful things into the world begets real and lasting pleasure. Happiness comes from sharing ideas and resources, forging new connections within a community of one’s own making. If Christine’s stickers are a present, in my hands they yearn to be re-gifted.

If all this sounds a bit sappy, I blame the effects of holographic vinyl on my brain.

Christine’s work fosters this elevated mood—in everything from her Positive Signs series to ribbon texts, from Flag Snowflakes to mixed media installations. She encourages the viewer not only to be happier, but to question the conditions of that happiness. She is drawn to innocent declarative modes: gel pens on graph paper, hand-sewn banners, cheery office supplies, dollar store finds, and general “knickknackery.” Too often, she argues, cheap disposable materials are seen as depressing. Making this connection allows pessimism to be more commonplace than it needs to be and, in turn, undermines the very real pleasure that can be extracted from brightly-colored plastic objects.

Christine Wong Yap, Positive Sign #19 (When to Use Optimism), 2011, glitter pen with foil print on gridded vellum, 8.5 x 11 in

Much of Christine’s approach to art making is based on her extensive research into the realm of positive psychology. Put forth by its main figures Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology is meant to supplement traditional psychology, not replace it. Instead of treating just mental illness, Sligman and Csikszentmihalyi propose, what if we attempt to make ordinary lives more fulfilling? Immersing herself in the literature of the movement (accumulating titles such as The Happiness Hypothesis, Born to Be Good, Flow, and Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain) Christine has latched onto a particular symbolic language of her own. This is most evident in Positive Signs, a series of glitter and fluorescent pen drawings on gridded vellum. In these, she uses the structure of info graphics to explain complex principles of positive psychology to a general audience.

For Positive Signs Christine embodies the role of the cheerleader, the explicator, and the friend, offering up lessons such as this one from Seligman: “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist and the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.” Moving beyond Zen-like statements into the actual visualization of these principles, Christine tests the limits of info graphics to clearly relay data. Do they explicate or further confuse? She admits to being deeply interested in futility of her attempts to pin down happiness, chart its existence, and explain the tactics for increasing its probability. Reading Positive Signs en masse, I find myself invigorated and justified in my own artistic pursuits. The graphs and charts give shape to the intangible subjects with which many people—not just creative types—wrestle, supplying tools for how we can shape and facilitate positive thinking. Positive Signs are guidelines for promoting happiness in our own lives.

 Christine Wong Yap, hopexpectation, 2011, 101 x 18 x 1 in

At one level, Christine’s work functions as a barometer of sorts—you are either gladdened or repelled by the fluorescent hues, flowing banners, starburst patterns, and multitudinous kittens. But beyond this surface treatment, she addresses a number of curious aesthetic assumptions with regard to class, economics, and the function of art objects in general. In Christine’s hands, previously disposable materials become art objects that exist indefinitely, their ability to bestow a dose of happiness prolonged and potentially magnified. There is no shame, Christine believes, in the decorative impulse. High or low, cheap or expensive, the results of that impulse rest on your ability to analyze and promote the conditions for happiness in your own life.

Ten Banners for Home and Office provides you with a choice. Use it as you would any sheet of decorative stickers: plaster it about town. Preserve it as a fine art object, intact and on display. How is it meant to be treated? Ask yourself which will make you happier. Then you have your answer.

As the Fonz would say, “Exactamundo.”



Sarah Hotchkiss is an artist and arts writer living in San Francisco. She contributes regularly to the KQED Arts blog and Art Practical. She received an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts and a B.A. in English Literature from Brown University. In 2011 she was the recipient of an Alternative Exposure grant for the curatorial project Stairwell’s. Her artwork has been shown in the greater New York and San Francisco areas, including Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, ATA Window Gallery, and MacArthur B Arthur. Past residencies include the Vermont Studio Center, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and Esalen Institute.


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Lego Hello World
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LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

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You tell it what you’ve got and it’ll tell you what to glue them together with.

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How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months