Archive for 2008

Visualization of US discretionary spending

Death and Taxes:2009 is a representational poster of the federal discretionary budget; the amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes. The data is from the President’s budget request for 2009. It will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress by October 1st to begin the fiscal year.

The poster provides a uniquely revealing look at our national priorities, that fluctuate yearly, according to the wishes of the President, the power of Congress, and the will of the people. If you pay taxes, then you have paid for a small part of everything in the poster.

Open it in fullscreen and you’ll have the rest of the day eaten up.


Funny- maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but somehow I can’t find the word art.

Dear Artists, we’re sorry.

To all those whom have submitted this round, we are very sorry that we haven’t fulfilled our promise to make our decision by the end of October.  We will be working on it this week and will get back to you soon.  Thank you for your patience.  We’ve had some life events pop up that have postponed our decision.


Eleanor and Oliver

Pocket Project

More news on the art multiples on a quarterly basis (though not via subscription):

Though currently without a website, Pocket Projects is a curatorial initiative organized by Jason de Haan and Scott Rogers (both in Calgary, Canada). Pocket Projects commissions small editions of artist multiples on a quarterly basis. Justin Patterson‘s Hell’s Bells is the first project in this ongoing series.


Photo courtesy of Pocket Project

On Halloween night (Friday, October 31st) please join us for the inaugural launch of Hell’s Bells a limited edition artist multiple project by Calgary artist Justin Patterson.

The launch will begin at 8pm in the Other Gallery at the Banff Centre (just upstairs from the Walter Phillips Gallery). Some refreshments will be available during the launch. Hell’s Bells multiples will be available for purchase during and after the launch at a price of $4.00 each. With your purchase you will receive one Hell’s Bell and the colour publication which accompanies the project. Proceeds from the sale go directly to the artists.

**Full disclosure: Rodgers is a TPG submittee whose proposal we still have in the maybe pile.

UPDATE: Due to unforeseen circumstances we are POSTPONING the Hell’s Bells launch, which was previously scheduled to happen on Halloween night (today!)  All apologies for the mix up, but we will still be doing the launch it’s just going to be a little while longer. :) Sorry to anyone who had planned on attending the festivities in Banff.

Snack time

While I couldn’t do too much sitting when I hurt my back, I could do some standing activities. So I made fig-plum jam and have ever since been enjoying this tasty treat: blue cheese and warmed fig-plum jam on crackers. I know this isn’t really in the spirit of this blog, but I love this so much, I thought I would share.


The recipe for the jam is after the jump. Continue Reading »

Art of the sun

I recently have gotten back in touch with one of my old sculpture professors at UVA who I think is sortof great and who has now taken on a new name: Boriska (his real name is Bill). Now I know that is an aside, but a good one.

So he sends me stuff now and then about his/UVA’s goings on and this one seems neat:


“Baking Bread Burning Bush”

Friday, Halloween, Oct. 31, 2008, 12:00 Noon. Andre Rublev Courtyard of Ruffin Hall, UVA Studio Art, north slope of Carr’s Hill near Beta Bridge

“SSSUN” “Baking Bread Burning Bush” is a performance event where 100+ Mirrors held by 100+ participants will direct the energy of the SUN to Bake Bread and Create Fire. This event is free and open to the public who are invited to participate by bringing a mirror. (The use of 100 mirrors free to first 100 participants)

11:30 AM doors open
12:00 solar oven ignited, bread baked
12:30 PM 100 + mirrors ignite Fire
1:00 PM Bread is eaten and Celebration extends outward throughout the World

Full Sun is required for this event. Cloud cover postpones this event to the next sunny business day: Monday, Nov. 3, Tuesday, Nov. 4 etc.

This event is given to the world by “SSSUN” (Solar Sculptors + Scientists United Now)
Anchored in the UVA Sculpture Department.

back issues!

We realized that after two years, it is about time to make it easier on people to look through all the issues we’ve done so far. So we made a back issues page! Check it out.


post-Expo recap (a little late)

I hurt my back so have been having trouble sitting, which makes computer work challenging. But I am starting to get back (pun not intended) to regular-ness and am playing a bit of catchup.

So here are photos of our really nice day in Dolores Park on September 27th for The Expo for Independent Arts and Media.

We shared a table with the lovely ladies Jessie and Bird from Trash Mashup. “Trash Mash-Up is a community art project. Using disposable materials, collected before they enter the waste stream, participants construct “Maskostumes” which are original pageant masks and costumes inspired by traditions from around the world.”

We also got to meet many interesting people, tell a lot of people about our project, and listen to our friend Uni sing her heart out.

The idea is taking off

Here’s another art subscription! When we first envisioned The Present Group, we thought that if we were sucessful, then other people would emulate us and there would be a ripple effect causing a whole wave of different art subscriptions- all with different interests and groups represented. Though I’m not sure we’re ready to call ourselves a complete sucess, or that we can take credit for an idea that surely is in the air, the idea of the art subscription does seem to be a catchy one.

Here’s the most recent one we’ve found:


Little Bird Limited

Their wording is a little familiar, I have to say, but all in all we’re excited to see the art world expanding to reach more people at a lower cost. Welcome Little bird!

UPDATE: Just got an email from Little Bird:

We noticed the present group on our analytics site and when we clicked the link we noticed your blog post.
We were mortified to read about the similarities. We actually pay a freelance local writer to write out our press and content for the Littlebird Limited. So we had no idea. We read all about your subscription and re read what we had written and there is no doubt that the person who wrote for us ,for sure borrowed your text. We apologize for this, truly. We are currently working to change our text . That was not our intention to start our press like this. Although the text is the same the idea is not as grand as yours and we hope maybe to get to that level and we hope you take no offense.

Friday, Sept. 19th is PARK(ing) Day


Rebar has teamed up with The Trust for Public Land to create National PARK(ing) day. Make your own park, however temporary. Find parks near you!

Emotions have a color

Orlagh O’Brien did a project that asked participants about five emotions: joy, anger, fear, sadness, and love. He asked them to represent where in the body they felt those emotions, how the body feels those emotions, the direction of those emotions, the things that create those emotions, and the color of those emotions.

His easy to use website dipicts the compilation of the answers to those questions.  Neat project and interesting results.

TPG7 + (almost) 2 year Show Photos

TPG7 + (almost) 2 Year Retrospective Show Release

Making of TPG7: Jacquard Loom footage

Annotated Links

Collecting Textile Art – information on the broad range of textiles in the market, along with tips about displaying and collecting

When is Fiber Art, Art? An essay in Fiber Arts Magazine (a good source of info for all things related to (surprise!) fiber arts) by Janet Koplos

Jacquard LoomThe Jacquard Loom is a mechanical loom, invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, that has holes punched in pasteboard, each row of which corresponds to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched on each card and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order.


Because it was the first machine to use punch cards to control a sequence of operations, it is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware. The ability to change the pattern of the loom’s weave by simply changing cards was an important conceptual precursor to the development of computer programming.

Fiber Artists and Shows:

Thread at Johansson Projects: a review of the show, a list of artists involved “Thread, a survey of sewn, stitched and woven works whose common thread is the media, not the medium. By re-exploring the functional avenues of textiles and materials, these eight artists begin to converse in a neo-craft dialect which diverges greatly from its domestic and industrial traditions. Pins are re-invented as figurative joinery, refuse amassed to render owls, interactive fabric measures changes in electro-magnetic frequencies, making the outcome from these dexterous hands undeniably rare.”

Two artists from the “Thread” show work with the Jacquard loom: “Lia Cook, collected by the Cleveland Museum, de Young, The Met, and NYMOMA and her former student, Christy Matson, who currently lectures at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, both utilize Jacquard weaving looms though their kinship divides from there: Matson’s interactive woven audio cloth relays the constant human flux of the very space Cook’s pointillist portraiture hopes to hold in a single woven moment.”

Anni Albers piece

Anni Albers – was a German-American textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century. In 1971, her and her husband founded the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, a not-for-profit organization they hoped would further “the revelation and evocation of vision through art.” Here is a gallery of Albers’ work much of which is strikingly similar to Text/ile. Here is a great interview with Anni that gives some insight into her work and theories.

Seiko Kinoshita – contemporary textile artist from Japan working out of England.

Deepa Panchamia – contemporary sculptural textile artist out of England

Emilio Lobato – Painter inspired by woven textiles. Honoring the weavers of his Spanish ancestry, Lobatos’ new work revisits the ‘Blanket’ series and builds upon its tapestry-like foundation. With inclusions of text and cross symbols, the weft segments are painted the artists trademark colors: earthen reds, blacks and ochres.

Maggie’s Links:

is an AMAZING site that really inspires me on many different levels.

this is a great group that combines knitting and graffiti.

This is the web site for Cat Mazza who is using stitching and knitting for revolution and activism.

A new project collaborative–way cool feminist site!


The Jacquard Center in Henderson, North Carolina – Text/ile was produced while Maggie was an artist in residency here.


Fiber Arts as Activism:


Stitch for Senate is an initiative of knit hobbyists making helmet liners for every United States Senator. Building on the tradition of wartime knitting, a practice dating back to the American Revolution, Stitch for Senate revives this cultural trend by engaging with public officials about the war in Iraq. Hobbyists knit in solidarity to persuade elected officials to support the troops by bringing them home. All the senators will receive their own helmet liner the week of the 2008 election, after being displayed in the seating chart of the US Senate at gallery venue. Once they are received, senators can opt to send helmets to a soldier.


Nature As A Text: Complexity theory and the Modernist eye in Maggie Leininger’s “Text/ile” By Andrew Venell

“It’s a kind of microscopic herd mentality…Cells figure out which passages [in DNA] to pay attention to by observing signals from the cells around them: only with that local interaction can complex neighborhoods of cell types come into being.”
–Steven Johnson, Emergence

“It is safe, I suppose, to assume that today most if not all of us have had the experience of looking down from an airplane onto this earth. What we see is a free flow of forms intersected here and there by straight lines, rectangles, circles and evenly drawn curves; that is, by shapes of great regularity…[H]ere before us we can recognize the essence of designing, a visually comprehensible, simplified organization of forms that is distinct from nature’s secretive and complex working.”
–Anni Albers, “Designing As Visual Organization”

A white plastic box inscribed with a colorful legend, anonymously medical or scientific in origin, opens to reveal a woven textile, folded upon itself, black and white threads that merge into a shifting pattern of gray rectangles. Unrolled and displayed vertically, the swatch immediately brings to mind the reductive shapes and optical experimentation of Modernist abstraction. If pressed for a literal reference, I might say that the textile looks like nothing so much as the generically industrial, grainy landscapes of aerial photography: a cluster of buildings, parking lots, a straight road.

However, the framing–the ambiguously medical plastic, the charts on the sticker, with terms like “probes” and “polymorphism”–hints at a different meaning in the flat gray shapes. Because in fact Maggie Leininger’s “Text/ile” does have a literal reference, and it is in the basic informational structure of the human body. For this project, scientific diagrams of chromosomes–8 of the 23 found in human cells–have been reduced to grayscale patterns composed of black and white thread and woven on a Jacquard Loom into textiles remarkable in how they bring to mind not data but the abstract patterns of Modernist design.

Maggie Leininger works systematically on these multiple layers of representation and reference, finding within the building blocks of life hints of other forms, of city blocks and aerial topographies. Here the forms of Modernism, once so carefully divorced from literal reference, are found to contain the elemental information that guides the functioning of human cells. In her previous works the connection between microscopic and macroscopic forms was even more overt. In “Specimen” (2004) aluminum cylinders–resembling specimen jars or assay plates–are stitched with colorful patterns that could be cells seen under the microscope, could be colonies of bacteria on a petri dish, or could equally be mineral deposits in an estuary viewed from an airplane window.

Specimen by Maggie Leininger
Specimen by Maggie Leininger (2004)

In science the curious repetition of forms across multiple scales is a familiar idea. The term “self-similarity” describes a form that can be broken down into infinitely smaller parts, each a tiny likeness of the first. Self-similarity is behind the recursively complex structures of fractal geometry, perhaps familiar from its brief popularity in the early years of digital art. In nature self-similarity is more approximate, but is clearly present in forms like Romanesco broccoli or the way a tree trunk branches off into branches into branches…. Self-similarity has a central place in Complexity theory, which attempts to describe the way in which infinitely complex systems can arise from the interaction of a few simple rules or processes. This, too, is an idea obliquely referenced in Leininger’s work, concerned as she is with the simple structures that combine to form organisms and superorganisms. Complexity displays across many scales, from micro to macro: from the way that cells form an organism to the way that a few settlements form neighborhoods, which in turn weave themselves into a city. Complexity theory and the principle of Emergence seek to describe the ways in which these complex structures come into being without organized planning, without top-down interference from a central authority. Leininger has a stated interest in the systems behind urban structures, in neighborhoods bounded by the “invisible lines known only by the inhabitants,” and so it makes sense that she would find hints of the automatic, organic assembling of cells in a city seen from a great height.

And so the curious slash in the title, “Text/ile”, deliberately breaking out the word “text”, underscores perhaps how meaning is a similar system, how it is woven by the combination of words, how words themselves can be broken down into phonemes, into letters, themselves the building blocks of communication. Like cells or a city, language is a complex system built from the interactions of simple rules. The three poems meant to accompany the piece hint at a personal narrative not necessarily present in a representation of human chromosomes, with concepts like ‘artifact’, ‘birth’, ‘death’, ‘memory’ acting as ciphers to suggest whatever simple concept, whatever hidden connotations, they hold for each of us. Yet DNA is, in a sense, an artifact, a legacy woven through generations of organisms, and the Human Genome Project treats DNA almost as a language, as a code that can be cracked.

Ultimately with “Text/ile” these references are shadowed by the overwhelming allusion to Modernist design in the woven swatches, and here perhaps is where the most interesting connective thread peeks out from the weave. There is an obvious aesthetic precedent in the work of Anni Albers, textile artist and member of the Bauhaus, a German craft and design school highly influential in popularizing Modernist design philosophy in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Albers, equally fascinated by language, wrote extensively on design, and, along with Bauhaus colleagues like Walter Gropius and her husband, Josef Albers, helped to publicize a modern aesthetic that focused on radically reduced shapes, an emphasis on rationality and the harmony of form and function. Modernism as a movement affirmed mankind’s relentless march into the future, aided by the constant progress and improvements allowed by science and technology.
The vision afforded to the Modernist subject is rational, clinical and–aided by advancements in optics like the camera, the microscope–Modernist vision is unparalleled in its powers of observation, its ability to see the world across a range of scales, from deep into the cell to deep into the cosmos. The viewer of “Text/ile”, armed with the technological heir to this Modernist eye, takes what writer and complexity theorist Steven Johnson calls “the long zoom”: a perspective that shifts fluidly from the macro to the micro. In fact, it is a sort of “god’s eye view” that forms the connective thread between all of Leininger’s works, the way in which whatever is represented is represented as from above, whether it is through the lens of a microscope or a spy satellite. In the forms that comprise her work the viewer is given the benefit of a distance that makes vague the distinctions between the very small and the very large in order to emphasize their visual similarity at all scales. Modernism grants the eye the power to reduce the world into its constituent parts, to arrange even our bodies into a text that can be read and understood. Where once pictorial tapestries might have advertised the power and riches of the nobles, Leininger’s textile works seem to affirm the optical power of modernity, our ability through science to apprehend the world from the microscopic elements of the human body to the daily actions and interactions that form the structure and life of a city.

Ancient Writing by Anni Albers
Ancient Writing by Anni Albers (1936)

Nature, certainly no less complex than in Anni Alber’s time, but perhaps a great deal less “secretive”, has in Leininger’s work arrayed itself like a text for human viewing. And humans are furnished with a power of vision once reserved for gods. Seen from above, the distinctions between the design of cities and the organic forms of nature are much less pronounced than when Albers wrote “Designing as Visual Organization”, woven as they are from simple patterns and rules, iterated outward into works of infinite complexity.

Andrew Venell is a designer, hypertext author and multimedia artist whose works explore issues of urbanism, surveillance, commerce and mass communication.

Interview with Maggie Leininger

Maggie Leninger was interviewed via Skype on August 26th, 2008 by Oliver Wise and Eleanor Hanson Wise of The Present Group.

Listen: (~32:00) 

icon for podpress  Interview with Maggie Leininger [36:07m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Thank you.

We had a big night on Friday. It was really wonderful to have a space to show all the works that we, the artists, and the subscribers have collaboratively created throughout the past two years. It was great to meet some of our subscribers for the first time, greet our friends and supporters of old, and share with people we just met our project and the works. Two of our artists were able to make an appearence, which was great, along with three of our critics (one future curator/critic).

We felt very proud to be able to share these works and honored at the turnout. It was also so heartwarming to know that the show was made possible by contributions from so many people. And so..

Thanks to:

Old Oakland PSAI Associates for the space, Illinois Arts Council for partial funding of Maggie’s project, Vino! and Ally and Justin Trigg for their generous donations of wine, Southern Exposure and the Alternative Exposure Grant for much needed funds, Tim and Lydia for the projector, Steve, Paul, Elissa, Christine, Ally, and Andy and Lauren for the loans of mp3 players and headphones, Lauren and Andy for day of tasks, Verse and 510 for welcoming us so kindly to the little strip, all of our subscribers, artists, critics, friends, and all those who made the trip.

We are so honored and grateful for your help, support, and enthusiasm.


Our first space!

Sure it’s only for one day, but you gotta start somewhere.



We’re starting in Old Oakland. Where?

465 9th street (9th & Broadway), Oakland. September 5th, 2008, 5-10PM. We’ll be showing TPG7 as well as an (almost) two year Present Group Retrospective. Here’s some more info.

posted: August 29, 2008

The Call is out

get your artistic selves a workin

Call For Proposals: Artist Multiples, Limited editions, Projects resulting in multiple parts

What we are looking for:
Proposals for projects that are reproducible in intent. Each piece can be a limited edition, an artist multiple, or either a part of or a document of a larger work. Our current edition numbers are under 100. We choose based on the piece’s Visual, Conceptual, and/or Experiential interest. The project will be made exclusively through The Present Group. We understand that similar themes and images may be used throughout your other work, however you agree not to create the exact project in the same form again.
Continue Reading »

Someone loves us!

We’re very honored to find out that we (along with 17 other great projects) have been awarded a $3000 Southern Exposure Alternative Exposure Grant!

So our big show (Sept. 5th) is a celebration of that fact too..

Unfortunately the website doesn’t link to all the projects, so I’ll do a bit of that legwork: (any without websites are links to the SoEx site with their description)

Black Boots Ink
Hamburger Eyes
Home is Something I Carry With Me
Hot and Cold
Invisible Venue
News of Common Possibility

Plastic Antinomy Magazine

Practice & Practice
Project Bunch
Receiver Gallery
Right Window

Rowan Morrison Gallery and Artist’s Bookstore
Teaching from Old Textbooks
The Garage
The Present Group
The Spare Room Project

Triple Base Gallery

Underground Art Crew

ONE-NIGHT SHOW! TPG7 Release Party, Showcase + (almost) 2 year Retrospective

What: One Night Art Show for The Present Group Issue #7 [Maggie Leininger: Text/ile] and The Present Group (almost) 2 year Retrospective

Where: 465 9th Street (9th and Broadway), Old Oakland

When: September 5th, 2008, 5-10PM

We’re excited to announce that we’ll be celebrating the release our 7th Issue: Text/ile by Maggie Leininger with a one night show on”First Friday” September 5th, 2008 in Old Oakland. Leininger uses the woven form as a metaphor for the idea of multiplicity/multiples/repeats, creating hand woven textiles that examine the most basic structure of a human: the human genome. The show will investigate the imagery of the chromosome itself, and how it is translated through the Jacquard loom to make fragments, segments of information. This is the only time the entire edition of 51 individual tapestries will be shown together. Starting at 9pm, local subscribers will be able to package and take home their piece.

Friday’s opening will also feature a retrospective of past Present Group editions. Over the last two years we’ve created fine art books, a collage and print series as well as a video project and a land art/performance. The public is invited to this free event at 465 9th street in Old Oakland from 5-10PM to explore the works in person. If you’re interested but can’t make it, our website features interactive versions of every past edition along with artists interviews, profressional critiques and annotated links sections devoted to each piece.

Maggie Leininger is an artist based out of Oak Park, IL who is interested in exploring visual relationships between microscopic structures and social systems bydeconstructing/reconstructing patterns through weaving.

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Lego Hello World
I wish all my printers were made of legos.

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

Coming Face To Face With The President
Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Celebrity Book Club: A List to End All Lists
Because, well, it’s sortof awesome.

Are "Artists' Statements" Really Necessary?
The pros and cons about that nemesis for most artists.

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

Work of art: Online store for buyers, sellers
Not the TV show!  Kelly Lynn Jones from Little Paper Planes is interviewed on her project, gives us a cheat sheet to local affordable art resources.

How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months