Cranbrook Academy of Art (Doug Johnston)



Sep '05 - Apr '07

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    Doug Johnston
    Nov 30, '05 4:01 PM EST

    sorry i didn't post last week, the network was down for testing for 5 days and then i went out of town for a bit. anyway... the following is sort of an update about the trailer project and some reflections on how that relates to my experiences and perceptions at/of cranbrook. its very editorialized and i definetely do not speak for the rest of my studiomates.

    the trailer project has taken some turns, of course, and i won't really get into all the deatils now, or ever probably, but i'll talk a bit about it and what things are looking like here in cranbrook architecture. Cranbrook is a place people come to do their work, their investigations - its an art school and the architecture studio has traditionaly been run like that, like 15 artists studios. A few of the directors has put together group projects that the students worked on, but for the most part its about the individual and their work. Bill, being the way he is, felt like he wanted to test that idea and the way he tests things is through projects. So originally the project was a gallery of our work that would travel around the country, the gallery made by bill and his office and then 'chopped' by us through our work. the project now is not a gallery of our work in the same sense. it will be a finished product of our work collectively, but its not a exhibition of indivual or collaorabive investigations. its kind of turned into a sculptural material gesture and with that comes a lot of resistance, naturally. the project from the beginning had a lot of resistance and as bill knows, was and is very risky in many ways. I appreciate the testing, the project, and the risk taking, but really i came here to do my work. I thought i would be more open and flexible about that in the beginning of the semester but the more i get to know this place and the reason that people come to cranbrook (not specifically speaking about architecture dept.) is to be immersed in this very special environment where everyone is doing their thing and is challenged and motivated by being in that environment, all the while involving yourself intellectually (and sometimes physically) with every one else's work. The trailer project has moved away from that and is now speaking as a collective voice and i dont think its a good representation of what goes on here or why the cranbrook architecture department exists.

    Last night we attended an excellent presentation/lecture by Julie Mehretu about her painting and work which was incredible. She started with presenting her work from graduate school and how all of her paintings and drawings since then stemed from a few single drawings she did there. It made me really think about why i am here. I have specific investigations, projects, areas i want to execute and/or explore and for specific reasons. While that is not always a requirement for being in grad school, i think it helps. I feel the model of an art academy is best suited for this. J. Mehretu's presentation made me think about how important it is for me to really go after my investigations while i'm here.

    Today Ed, Paul, and Mikolaj all had their critiques, all of whom are not involving themselves with the trailer project. It was really exciting to see some work, and to see how their work is happening from certain desires they have - generative ideas. In this environment a group project such as the trailer project that lasts an entire semster has proven to be an incredibly challenging thing on many levels. Everyone wants to design it, everyone wants it be something different, everyone has strong opinions, even the people who aren't working on it. Honeslty, i just cant wait until next semester when i get to go back to just worrying about my own projects. I look back on this first semester so far and i wish i had done more of my own work on the side during the down time of the trailer... i dont really have a good excuse why i didn't do that.

    I have always felt like an artsit doing architecture, or an architect working as an artist rather than specifically one or the other, and i think cranbrook is an excellent environment for that type of practice. This semester hasn't really felt that way in the department and so i think its been misleading for myself, my studiomates, and maybe here in this school blog. Over the two weeks we're going to be doing our final work on the trailer and its going to be really intense. I also want to bring this blog up to speed with the work that as happened on the trailer and my own stuff. Its very important for anyone interested in this school to check out the blogs of my studiomates and the work of students in other departments here at cranbrook (which can be accessed through the departmental pages on the cranbrook website). The blog next semester will be more about my work and how this school facilitates it.
    please stay tuned...


    • 1 Comment

    • liberty bell

      Hang in there Doug. I recognize that sense of eagerness and frustration you are feeling. The benefits of the trailer project are very possibly something you won't recognize for another year or two. Often the way work goes at Cranbrook, in my experience.

      That said, good luck getting busy with your own work. The time will go by so quickly, so anything you can do to prepare for hitting the ground running next semester will be helpful. Even if it's just taking a pause from grinding/welding on the trailer to sketch an idea that has popped into your head - keep that sketchbook close to hand (but not so close it will catch fire from random sparks).

      Nov 30, 05 4:21 pm

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