In keeping with the yearlong, citywide Studio Chicago series, DePaul University Art Museum is presently playing host to the Stockyard Institute’s constantly in flux, five month-long Nomadic Studio exhibition.
With an ambitious calendar of events peppered with auxiliary programming including workshops, panel discussions and open studios, July’s iteration of the exhibition focuses on the audio arts. Alongside the participatory sound sculpture Musical Chairs by Faiz Razi, there’s a broadcasting low power pirate radio station and the recreation of Brian McNally’s Rumpus Room, a basement home recording studio complete with tiki bar, wood paneling and quarter-inch jack inputs.
Miraculously, works in the show feels dynamic and invites participation even while several transparently reveal their process. And underscoring the nomadic itself is the very often visceral mobility, illustrated by a mobile silk screening station and a canoe cum community garden (among other things), that charges the works with an elastic, transitory energy that is completely contagious.
Instead of falling into the trap of constructing a baroque curatorial conceit, the cyclical monthly themes pulse with organically developed objects and programming. Conceptual and theoretical analysis isn’t absent from the exhibition, it’s just seamlessly woven throughout it, presenting an accessible road map for how to translate the ideal into the real.
Founder and Director of the Stockyard Institute, Jim Duignan frequently refers to the Institution and his art practice, as “radical pedagogy.” He and his co-collaborators, Beth Wiedner and Faiz Razi among them, approach teaching, curating, moderating a lecture, building a curriculum or staffing a zine library with the same vigor and commitment to excellence that a traditional artist would apply to crafting their work. And indeed, they consider these multiple disciplines, and the plethora of fruit they bear, to be an art practice in and of itself.
In a pithy, well-measured essay from NewCity’s Arts Editor Jason Foumberg, Duignan is rightly labeled a “connector” á la Malcolm Gladwell, a term used to define those individuals who have a natural gift for matching resources with talent. But to hear a deeply modest Duignan recount the history of the Stockyard Institute himself, the intergenerational, multi-disciplinary organization has merely placed a premium on being the masters of their own education.
This has sometimes meant constructing the very tools and developing the very methods by which to learn. And it has also meant finding teachers in some of the students they have worked with, and trusting the queries and curiosities of those selfsame students to guide lesson plans, projects and ultimately, to define what success itself means.
While the Stockyard Institute is no stranger to the type of spectacle that is the Nomadic Studio, having brought you the Pedagogical Factory at the Hyde Park Art Center in 2007, their willingness to embrace the truly experimental and genuinely radical has found a welcome home in the DePaul University Art Museum, an institution brave enough, patient enough and nimble enough to gracefully react, respond and cater to a project of this scope.
-Thea Liberty Nichols
(All images courtesy of the Stockyard Institute)