Natalia González Requena and Philip Hessler: For One Reasonable Line Workshop

Natalia González Requena and Philip Hessler conducted a workshop entitled For One Reasonable Line for the Draw it Out! program at MICA. Read their interview here.

EDP: Can you describe your workshop concept.

NGR and PH: The workshop title (For One Reasonable Line) was taken from a sentence in Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, Library of Babel: “For one reasonable line or one straightforward statement there are leagues of insensate cacophonies, of verbal farragoes and incoherencies.”

Like this unusual use of linear concept, we set up our workshop to look beyond a traditional understanding of drawing. We intended for participants to try out alternative ways of working - other than those with which they are familiar - to reach toward the minor mode of drawing with an evocative approach to line that could also be performative.

At the same time, we included traditional materials (charcoal, paper, ink) with the intention to collide these with constructions materials like pipes, wood, magnets, and wheels. Participants were encouraged to document their process via a selection of devices made available to them: DSLR cameras and video cameras, sound recorder, and their smartphones).

We gave two presentations of artworks that could be classified as examples, or influences, for allographic drawing.

EDP: How did the concept evolve or change during or after it?

NGR and PH: The performance took place at the beginning and was very open in its directives so that change would emerge necessarily: the time and place of that first performance were stated, but nothing else.

This improvisational experiment was to set the tone of working for the rest of the day: an approach more open to participant responses to our proposition and also, to understand the trajectory of an action as a drawing in own right (an notion that was reinforced with examples of works in two small lectures given in the workshop). We intended this as a possibility to alter a setting like those seen within a normal foundations drawing course, where performance art is often absent and in which one would have frequent group redirection, for example.

EDP: What surprises occurred during the workshop? How did different participants shift your original ideas around?

NGR and PH: Participants had a high level of engagement in the performance at the outset, so the workshop began with the atmosphere of a Brechtian theater, more or less like we had intended.

For the most part though, participants held steadfast to traditional materials (charcoal and black markers), and this was a shift out of alignment with our original idea.

A few participants did not fit into this trend and explored alternative means offered at the workshop, one with sound, another with video, two artists with performance-based exploration, and one with installation of paper and refuse found in the building.

EDP: How did your workshop align with your own goals as a drawing artist?

NGR and PH: The workshop goals were mainly pedagogical, but we intended for the experiments to run afield of our aesthetic. We realized that even in a setting such as MICA and in other major institutions, the inclusion of other that ways of working with drawing is still to be upheld.

It might take more than one day in a workshop for the process of deskilling and reskilling to take root. The process takes time, I think, because this sort of activity involves an unlearning, or a partial suspension, of an entire education in art (grades K through 12 and beyond) and also a grasp of the conceptual implications regarding a change in aesthetics, specifically concerning the meaning of drawing.

With only the time and place as parameters in our first activity (the performance), we had little notion of what was going to come out of it. What happened was an exchange of actions rather than words, so in that way it was very different from normal exchanges with people. We also spontaneously began to include the construction materials that were there, moving things around, placing things in order, and even trying out different sounds, at one point.

I could say that the goal of the workshop was realized in that initial 30-minute performance, even though it became more of a challenge to get traction in the process of deskilling to the extent and thoughtfulness that we had envisioned our participants would take on. Again, from my own experience, I know that unlearning takes time.

EXP: How did the tangents different participants take synthesized in the end? Or did they even have to be?

NGR and PH: There was some coherence of the participants with the larger performance vision at stake in our workshop, and like tangents operate in math, they did not have to return.

The end of the workshop was followed by installation of the work. For this, there were two main residues from the workshop that were feasible for exhibition: the drawing tools (the construction materials introduced in the workshop) and video documentation run through two projectors.

Since an open inquiry led to an open end, it could be said that there was some symmetry to the day.