Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sara Schnadt’s connecting cartography

'Connectivity', 2007 by Sara Schnadt, photograph by John Sisson

Like many pursuits, art can be a hard thing to create and sustain. Many artists have “day jobs” for practical reasons. But when an artist combines and relates their job skills to their artistic practices the results in both realms can be rewarding personally and inspiring for others.

Sara Schnadt builds and maintains a web-based community site for artists in Chicago. The website, the community is called CAR (Chicago Artists Resource). Actually, as it resides on the worldwide web, the virtual community is global, accessible to you here in Kansas City. Much of the site’s content applies to artists everywhere. For those interested in art, the site provides interesting stories about artists, their art, and their process.

As technically-minded people sometimes explain, sites like this have architecture, form with intentional function(ality). Websites possess links internal to the domain and externally to others. Think of them as maps. Sara does.

When talking about CAR, Sara speaks of it as a community of connected people and information. Her language reminds me of the project management meetings I attended while working at Lockheed and Sprint.

Sara Schnadt presented two talks this week to local artists. On the first night, she discussed CAR and the business of art. How can artists connect with the myriad of resources, public and private, to sustain their art and garner attention to their work? CAR’s sustainment model depends upon the pool of grants available nationally and in the Chicago area. The grant world is but one market for art that artists may choose to enter. Grants require artists to explain their art and, in the case of competitions for art yet-to-be-created, articulate a vision for a project.

What’s daunting about the American art scene is also magnificent and freeing. Unlike other countries, America has multiple markets with which artists can engage; individually funded grants, foundation grants, commissions, direct sale, commercial, galleries, online, publishing, artist communal residencies, academic institution residencies, and government-funded grants. CAR facilitates the artist’s journey through this complex market geography with a connecting map and information useful to continue the journey.

On Wednesday evening, Sara shared her performance installation projects via a talk with photographs and a short film. My explanation here can only be third hand, for I’ve never experienced her work in its material form. Visit her website and explore.

Art, when mediated and explained sometimes loses its imaginative quality. When artists explain their work, the work can sometimes drift to the background. Such is the nature of talking about art, but Sara Schnadt came to Kansas City to speak with fellow artists about business and process. Watching the other artists in the audience on both nights, listening to them talk after Sara’s talks, I came away with questions about my own art of writing, and writing about art. Like Sara, I am drawn to maps. Like her, I’ve had a technical career that challenged me to build a connecting “something” with other people to afford people the opportunity to connect. And I find that writing is a connecting pursuit requiring a solitary process. A painter and a musician shared this same feeling with me.

Her two talks connected with one another and with us. Her website made sense and felt useful when I visited and explored; easy to use as well. Her art made me think about connections, destinations, density, restriction, freedom, movement and space. Flat maps, when connected like flat files (pictures, narrative, links, lists, music, film, tables), given a logical and imaginative relational sense, create something we use constantly here in Internet-land called a database. Every day life challenges us to navigate and make relational sense of destinations, origins, pathways, and most important, people. Relating to people is the unintended beautiful consequence of the individual’s capacity to dream and create without intention. From empty space, we have the potential to make something new, to map the senses, and make us feel.
Visit Artist ESP:

This series, held four times throughout the year, brings experts from across the nation to discuss innovative ideas and opportunities for the diverse community of Kansas City artists. This series highlights experiences, lessons learned, opportunities, and the unique issues and challenges faced by artists of all disciplines in the business side of their work.


Artist statement from

Sara Schnadt is a Chicago-based performance/installation artist. Raised on an international commune in Scotland, an 'alternative' context which considered itself as a social experiment outside of conventional culture, she spent formative years understanding herself as an outsider, an observer. Since moving to the United States in 1986, Sara has become fascinated with the unifying rituals and values that are common threads in contemporary western culture, and has made work that frames and resonates with those common threads.

Previous themes in her work include gift-giving, suspension of disbelief, mortality, information systems, social media and collective knowledge. Her development of these themes is informed by life experiences and the values of her formative years (particularly the importance of ritual, integrating one's life philosophy with the tasks of daily life, and seeing collective experience as transformative).

Formally, Sara makes performance and installations that use task, found objects, interactivity, projection, and movement derived from common gestures. Her work creates environments that shift the audience regularly from spectator to participant as the performer constantly moves between pedestrian and more stylized or evocative activity and the viewer negotiates spacial immersion in the work.

About Sara's current project, "Network"

The internet has had a profound impact on our sense of spacial relationships, collapsing geography and giving us unprecedented access to an expansive network of information and relationships in our daily lives.

With the widespread adoption of mobile devices, we are increasingly gaining this access not just while on a computer, but at any time as we move through ordinary space. In this way we are, more and more, existing in ordinary and virtual space simultaneously.

Visualizing this idea, and that the virtual space we now inhabit throughout our day is infinitely expansive, Network uses large quantities of electric yellow twine (tied in patterns based on both social network structures and Internet network infrastructure) and mirror to suggest a 'virtual' network landscape cutting through an otherwise ordinary

Since November 2009, site-specific versions of Network have been created in Chicago for an unused store front downtown and a gallery space at Hyde Park Art Center. This summer, a version of Network will be created for a house in Oak Park (What It Is project space) where it will inhabit the entire space and extend out into the garden. The artist/inhabitants will also live with the work in their home for a month, negotiating their routines around it. A series of photographs will document their activity. A version will also be created this fall for a converted industrial space at MOCAD Detroit

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