NAW: Not art writing

Not Art Writing (NAW) is the application of critical writing strategies to things that are “not art.” It is here that we enter the murky waters of what constitutes art or “not art.” And it is here that we are free from the context and history of the art world, in a place where the tools of analysis can operate more expansively.

Bartender, curator, friend

By Sean Weber

For most, drinking a beer at the local pub is nothing more than that. For an art writer eager to find commonalities between the everyday experience and that in the art world, drinking a beer at the pub is quite different. I recently walked to the Irish Pub, located at Water and Erie, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The pub is a standard white box equivalent to many Irish pubs. Inside I found a curator equivalent–the bartender. In this case he was also the artist, constructing drinks for patrons, who pay small commissions in order to receive his works. Sometimes his work is straightforward, opening a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for me, or sometimes his work can take on a more complex facade, such as making a cosmopolitan or a martini. Being both curator and artist, the bartender becomes much like a functioning artist in the contemporary world, juggling multiple titles and roles in his community. He is also susceptible to criticism, but must meet it with a stern determination to succeed. If a patron of the pub is unhappy and expresses criticism to his work, he must take it with a grain of salt and continue his foray into the realm of the service industry. At some point, he could be ask himself: “Is there more to life?” But surely he will have to brush such philosophical queries to the side and continue his work despite the tantalizing mental pitfalls it procures. Coming away from the experience, I feel as though I am eager to consume more from the Artist/Curator who met me at the Irish Pub, and I, the critic, will gladly write more about him.

Analysis of a still life of midday leisure

By Collin Schipper
Arranged on a wire mesh table, presenting a window to an ephemeral, changing image – legs, telling stories about the people who come and go; glimpses of shoes, worn, shiny, once designer but now well traveled, filled with their own stories and visions.In the center of the table, a pillar rises, shading guests from the warm summer sun, filtering light filtering in light in the cool Prussian blues of the wide awning above, the blue hues adding to the awareness of the close proximity of the lake.Four beers, arranged geometrically on an ovoid surface – echoes of Mertz arrangements of random objects, but more so formal cubist elements. The arrangement of cans creates a trapezoid, tilted to skew and force perspective. The composition is turned up on edge, tilting forward, like a still life of Cezanne, creating a feeling of unease.Reflections echo off the center obelisk of the towering parasol, repeating in the shining surfaces of the cans. One vessel differs – an ornate, feminine form, juxtaposed against the hard cylindrical forms.

The plein aire sun cascades down, bathing the scene in fresh, late-summer light. The beverages are alcoholic, and the light is obviously of midday – speaking of abandon and frivolity, and the celebration of Bacchus. Sweat beads, forming thick rivulets and running down the ice cold cans, the air hot and sticky.

In a time of economic crisis, the expenditure at bars is testament to a society that seeks simple joys, regardless of the cost, the need to escape the oppressions of a fast paced, stressful life – a break from the overflow of information. It is also a scene of opportunity and privilege – the manicured red boards, the fine materials just barely visible, and the expensive taste of a fine glass of choice ale in contrast to the inexpensive taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a much cheaper beer, and favorite of many college students. The PBR becomes, when posed against the likes of a Lu Finde Du Monde, a symbol of the inability to afford the finer things, and yet our need to substitute as a society with those things that are for most the real world attainable.

This Essay

By Alec Regan

How can one write about something that doesn’t exist yet? I suppose I could critique the last sentence, which now exists. It’s a question, simply worded, but it seems unclear if it was meant to be rhetorical. As the author I feel as though I should know, but I don’t. It seems that a prominent quality of the essay is uncertainty, although it is becoming less so, as it progresses. And it is progressing, slowly, it has grown from one open-ended question four sentences, each adding more structure to the last. Upon reading the beginning of the essay to friend and colleague Sara Caron, she mentioned that she liked how it “kind of eats itself”, something that I’ve said about my own artwork. She is right, like a oruborus, the essay is probably the most directly self referential piece I’ve ever started writing. I am running out of time, and I feel like I haven’t made much progress. Perhaps this essay will be very short. I’m initially disappointed by its lack of content, but maybe it has more value as an exercise or a sketch; I’ve only just begun to try to answer the question which was the impetus for the majority of this writing. I wanted to do something like screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, whom I admire very much, and writes scripts about writing the script that he’s writing. So, In conclusion, I’d like say something about how the essay is sort of like a tessellation, or the oruborus from earlier, but it is difficult to write about a conclusion that hasn’t been written. How can one write about something that doesn’t exist yet?

Chocolate chip cookie wrapper in my pocket by Jimmy John

By Stephen Strupp
Jimmy John’s chocolate chip cookie wrapper in my pocket is overtly invisible. It appears that there is nothing in my pocket. All that I see are the ripples in the green fabric of my pocket. This raises numerous questions about pockets and their contents – how do you know that something is in your pocket? How many times have you forgotten about a scrap of paper with essential information written on it in your pocket and put your shorts in the washing machine, only to find it blank and pulpy the next time you get dressed? A scrap of paper is usually silent. However, the cellophane wrapper in my pocket reminds me of its presence every time I move with a softly annoying crinkle sound. It’s not rigid or heavy like the cell phone in my other pocket, so if not for the sound, I would forget about it. Its function as freshness preserver is lost now that its contents have been consumed, so it is essentially useless. This raises the question, what is it doing in my pocket and not the garbage? Perhaps this is saying something about clinging. Maybe I didn’t want to let go of the wrapper, because it held pleasant memories of the cookie that was inside it. Maybe it is about embarrassment and self-consciousness. I could have left the wrapper on my desk when I was done with it, and then I wouldn’t have had to deal with the irritating crumpling sound, but I didn’t want the whole world to know that I had just finished a Jimmy John’s chocolate chip cookie. But why wouldn’t I want others to know? Is it guilt? What would that imply that I am assuming about other people and their judgments? Maybe I am the only judgmental one, and I am projecting this tendency on other people.

Erin and Teresa non art writing

E-Lets talk about the color

T: well we have this green

E-kinda bluish though

T: what does this color do for it

E-matches things around it like the trash cans it kind of comes together to represent the area

T: I think that it sets a tone for the environment

E-It doesn’t necessarily do anything for the lamp but serves a greater purpose

T: This is probably an idea or theme that we were looking for. How can this light post stand for greater meaning/ idea? If we could really nail this question we could get somewhere.

E-they’re repeated throughout the Third Ward, they’re equally spaced.  The way they look have a  lot to do with how we make this place aesthetically pleasing

T: It’s interesting the way we relate the uniformity of a light post to the aesthetic quality of a city.

E-It’s weird because they are everywhere and I don’t stop and look at them… ever

T:  The point isn’t to stop and stare at them.  You know they’re there.  It’s the fact that you know they’re there that is em… kind of comforting.  The repetition and unity creates comfort or stability.

E-I don’t think comforting is the right word. I get what you mean I just don’t feel like the word is comfort. Dependence sounds better like you know it will always be there

Senior Ice Cream Man and the Art of Selling in the Street

By: Aimee Keil

I could hear him from blocks away. His foots steps slow and quiet, he could remain unnoticed if it weren’t for the bells connected to his cart that clattered loudly with every movement that was made over the various cracks and bumps covering the street.   It was unbearably hot, not only outside, but also inside my apartment without air-conditioning. I had been hovering around a small oscillating fan that I had found in the basement for the last two hours now, trying to cool down.  Like with Pavlov and his dogs, I heard the bells and my mouth started salivating.  I knew what these bells meant, ice cream, I couldn’t have asked for something better.  I ran outside along with many of the other kids that live on my street, and without thinking, we all swarmed him; one by one giving him our requests.

He was an older man, maybe late fifties of Hispanic decent.  He didn’t speak any English, but it didn’t matter because the language of cold, sweet treats is universal; you point to what you want, and he gives it to you for a dollar or less.  Being generous I let the neighbor kids purchase theirs before me, and while I waited I couldn’t help but stare at this man.  He was, without a doubt, great at what he was doing, and he looked like a hard worker.  His eyes were dark, but gentile, his face tan and worn with age, hints of wrinkles were visible on his cheeks.  The blue t-shirt he was wearing was past being dirty, and the areas under his arms a darker blue than the rest of his shirt from sweat.  He looked tired.  I can only imagine what hard work it must take to walk a grid, in and out, in and out all day trying to make a living, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

I pointed to the single chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream bar and gave him my dollar, he handed it to me graciously with a subtle smile, and replied, “thank you”.  I walked away thinking I would never want that job.

The New Beetle

By Jayme Woelbing

The sighting of a modern evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle is a common occurrence in the congested streets of most American city streets.  The small but elegant economy car retains the loved and icon appearance of the VW that helped define a generation.  Once again this simple car has become an icon and way of life for many American drivers.

The Beetle contrasts the mundane boxy fuel combustion chariots that surround it on the road.  It is almost cute in appearance, but calls back emotion and feeling of a time long lost to history.  Imagining what it must be like to be in the rounded form is somewhat exhilarating.  The form demands attention and catches the eye

The original VW Beetle traces its roots back to Nazi occupied Germany.  Volkswagen literally means “people’s car”.  The Car that would become know as the beetle was commissioned by Adolf Hitler and started its life on the drawing tables of Porsche.  After the war the small beetle was mass-produced by the company which would eventually evolve into the Volkswagen Corporation that we know today.

During the 1960’s the Beetle would take on an image that would turn the small economy car with a back upbringing into a legend.  The counter culture or “hippy movement” was all about a new way of thinking and one expression of freedom.  The Beetle was tremendously popular among the younger generation due to its reasonable cost, and what the car stood for to them.  The Beetle was an escape to the open road, where anything was possible.

The icon little car stopped production in the United States and had retained a large cult following long after the cars demise.  The 1990’s a brilliant designer named J Mays envisioned a revival of the car that made Volkswagen famous.  J Mays, who is renowned for his work in the style of Retrofutrism, successfully brought an old idea new light.  The car share similar but more subdued body lines of the original Beetle.

The Beetle is a form that is recognizable and is one of the most recognizable for Volkswagen.  It is rare that a singular form can help define a generation, but the Beetle truly was and may still be the pace car the defines a entire company.


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