Category Archives: Writing

Out on a Limb: Advocating for a Bold Local Art Scene


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An assembled crowd attends a film screening during the Apartment Talks in Lawrenceville © Carnegie Museum of Art.

Let me start by saying this: Carnegie Museum of Art, where I am curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, could go further to be more welcoming, more accessible, and frankly, more fun for Pittsburgh’s artists. Working toward this goal has been a priority, among many, for me—and my colleagues, including Amanda Donnan (guest editor at Pittsburgh Articulate, where this essay originally appeared)—since I got here in May 2009.

As part of this effort, the five curators then in the contemporary art department (Daniel Baumann, me, Amanda, Tina Kukielski, and Lauren Wetmore) initiated the Apartment Talks series at a space in Lawrenceville. We ran this alternative space, a component of the 2013 Carnegie International, for almost two years on top of 12-13 hour days at the museum, and loved doing it. Pittsburgh artists made up the majority of the presenters, and their names and images of their work were published in the International catalog. This is not nothing. That catalog is in the hands of curators, collectors, critics, and artists all around the world. For two years that small apartment in Lawrenceville became what I would like to see all over Pittsburgh: a place for Pittsburgh artists, writers, filmmakers, educators, collectors, curators, and others to connect and exhibit with artists from all over the world. This coming together should not be the exception, but rather the rule. Continue reading

This Picture: Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan Shoes


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Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan shoes, c. 1970, Estate of Guy Boudin, represented by Michael Hoppen Gallery, London. Used by permission.

I remember seeing this ad as an art student—it kind of had everything: a post-Carnaby Street, pre-hippie moment with mixed and matched colorful shoes and tights, presenting an edgy story and a sense of unattainable style.

It’s impossible to explain how unbelievably cool Charles Jourdan shoes were back then, and how coveted. None of us could afford them, but I was eventually able to buy a pair of red slip-on moonboots at a 70%-off sale at Macy’s. I wore them to death. Continue reading

This Picture: Barack Obama by Dawoud Bey


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Barack Obama, 2007 © Dawoud Bey, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Dawoud Bey’s photograph of the man who would soon be president was taken on a Sunday afternoon in early 2007, at Barack and Michele Obama’s Hyde Park home. The portrait is at once stately and informal. Obama’s hands are folded gracefully in his lap. He wears an elegant suit and white shirt, but no tie. He stares intensely into the camera.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had commissioned Bey the year before to take a portrait of a notable Chicagoan. He had known the Obamas for several years, and saw them periodically at social gatherings. Impressed with Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, Bey sensed a “growing air of expectancy” about him. Continue reading

Cyberpunk Apocalypse & the Alternative Academic Space


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The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is a one-of-a-kind close-quarters residency and MFA alternative for writers in Pittsburgh, a household centered around literature where 36 writers from across the US and Canada have lived and worked over the last five years. When it began it was the only zine residency in the US and continues to be the only writer’s residency that puts comic artists, zinesters, novelists, journalists, poets, translators, and any kind of writer on the same competitive level. Writers come to the Cyberpunk Apocalypse with very different skill sets and overlapping interests, which makes each creator a resource for their fellow residents and creates room for rapid growth and collaboration. Each resident has personal goals connected to every new project they take on, while the goal of Cyberpunk is twofold: to support the residents in their pursuits and to advance literature through exploring and building alternative non-academic routes for writers.

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Photo: Sonel Breslay

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Join Cyberpunk Apocalypse on Sept. 20 at Artists Image Resource for the next 2013 Carnegie International event!
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So much about the literary world today is defined by the conveniences of academia. The genre of “literary fiction” as separate from “popular fiction” feels born of professors struggling to justify their position as master when so few of them have books that sell. The common literary practice of group critique known as “the workshop” can seem more valuable as a way to occupy 15 writers’ time in a tidy time slot than as a way to advance the craft or skill of writers. Even classifying writers as poets, fiction writers, or creative nonfiction writers is more about separating classes and degree tracts than it is about the work or the people producing it.

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Photo: Tameka Cage Conley

The way these aspects of the higher education system affect writing will only become obvious with a modern equivalent as comparison. And while there are as many paths to becoming a writer as there are writers in the world, there are few organizations that provide support, cross-promotion, and validation to self-proclaimed writers, and there are fewer still that have been around long enough to build a camp of writing. The Cyberpunk Apocalypse exists in part as an example of one possibility and a call for other individuals to imagine an environment and path in which great writers, and by extension quality thought, can be produced.

Learn more at thecyberpunkapocalypse.tumblr.com and danielmccloskey.com