Interview: Abe Lampert

Basic information. (Name, age, school, department [or practice], year, occupation, coffee shop you currently work at, how many years.)

 Abe, 29

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Print-media.

Coffee shop you currently work at and for how many years?

Manager at New Wave Coffee for 3.5 years.

How did you come to work at your coffee shop?  Are you a coffee drinker yourself?  If yes, where does your coffee come from (coffee shop, local roaster, specific country of origin, etc.)?

I got my job by dropping off a resume and having had worked in food service (including various cafes) for many years. I drink coffee daily, but I’m not incredibly particular with concern to its origin. 

How knowledgeable are you about the coffee you brew in your coffee shop?  Of coffee and its trade in general?

Very. As much as my profession requires of me.

Is there a connection (if at all) between your experience with coffee and your artistic practice?

Only insofar as coffee affects my ability to focus on anything in life. 

Do you feel as if there is something that differentiates your coffee/coffee shop from local/national competitors?

Yes and no. My shop is a little more laid back than other Chicago based independent shops, and is certainly different, in obvious ways from say, a Starbucks or Cosi. Ultimately, however, all coffee shops are the same

What do you think is coffee’s role within a social realm?

I have no idea how to answer that. People drink coffee, often together. I will say that even though I work at a coffee shop and spend many hours a day adjusting grinders and attempting to pull high-quality shots of espresso, I think that people who ‘meet for coffee’, or spend nine hours a day hanging out at a coffee shop are out of their minds. People who choose coffee as their point of social interaction need to learn about bars, or better yet public parks. Furthermore, anyone who goes out for coffee on a first date is a fucking lunatic. I watch it happen every day and I can’t imagine a less ideal circumstance to talk to someone for the first time than when you’re both ingesting high amounts of stimulants. And milk. Coffee shop first date = highly nervous and highly flatulent first date. What a bunch of dumb-asses.

Do you think there is a greater dialogue to be had involving coffee production and its consumption?  Coffee culture/consumerism in general?

Sure. But just as much as, literally, any commodity purchased in the United States.

Interview by Eric Lengsouthiphong

 

 

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Interview: Heather Moran

Name: Heather Moran

Age: 24

How long have you been working at Phoenix Coffee and what made you want to work in a coffee shop?

About seven months. I started as a way to earn extra money, but I feel like I’m part of a family with the staff and regulars who come and spend their time. I also really like that it’s locally brewed coffee.

Are you a coffee drinker? What is your experience with coffee? 

Oh yes! I started drinking coffee in high school…usually Starbucks. Then that progressed to actually spending time in nearby cafes when I was in college and needing a place outside of my dorm room to focus. I prefer being able to sit down and spend time enjoying my coffee. 

As opposed to the ‘grab and go?’

Definitely. I feel like there are places where you can quickly go to grab your coffee, which is sometimes necessary if you’re on your way to work or class, but I prefer to take my time.

So you are more interested in the social, community aspects of the local coffee shop? 

Yes.

How many cups of coffee do your regulars typically consume? A cup? More?

Typically more than one, but it really depends on what they’re doing. If someone comes in and is on their laptop for a few hours, they’ll order more than one cup. But it’s typically slow drinking. 

One of the things my class has been exploring this semester is the idea of the ‘constant consumer.’ When considering this idea in regards to coffee, what are your thoughts on consumption habits? 

I’ve seen both extremes. I’ve had friends who need a several cups of coffee in the morning to function normally. I also know people who only have one cup every once in awhile. I think it’s important to have a balance and moderate your consumption.

Interview by Gabrielle Burrage

 

Curatorial Statement – Ariel Fang

“As a community we shape our lives through communication with others.” – Ben Kinmont

The understanding of our interaction with others and that reflexivity to see how it shapes our lives was both the interest and the method of making for Constant Consumer. The naturally loose structure of how the curatorial premise for both Storefront’s Blend: Discourse by the Cup and Constant Consumer developed mirrors and justifies the end conversation I desire to have from the show. ‘How is it that the daily moments of intake, of consumption, in our lives affects our larger understanding of value? Or is it that our larger beliefs in value informs the decision we have in seeing and choosing objects because we have a sense of their preciousness? Or rather is it, the answer to the previous two questions is, “yes”, and that a conversation needs to be had where both signified and signifier are acknowledged as equals?”

When thinking about how this entire show/class/experience panned out I can not help but wonder where the moment of “worthwhileness” was best exemplified. It is important to realize that this show functioned in an institutional structure, that the class was already promised a highly visible prized exhibition space. This is pointed out in terms of acknowledging the situation that we curate in, the conversation that was being spoken even before the first day of class. From a certain perspective, one could say that the act of the student’s consumption of the course was what brought value to the course. For after all, if no one was around to take the class or chose not to take the class, the meaning would be void because the purpose of the class could not be fulfilled. The monetary value, the time spent, the physical structure of a classroom space and its availability all influence and enforce the perception that the time spent in the class room and projects derived from the class room are valuable. 

This perception of value was then reinforced through the conversations we had with one another. A clear example of this was the time spent on the coffee and the concept of coffee. It was not that all these things were not already valuable before our conversation, but rather that by having a conversation (many conversations) it became more important to the whole group. With the combined incentive of caffeinated conversation and the supporting structure of a class we were able to continue the larger project to a more-full exhibition. 

Constant Consumer came about through the effort a many, many conversations. While this is certainly not different in terms of other exhibitions, it was particularly interesting in gauging how individuals involved in this project engaged in dialogue on the project. There was moments where the concepts of the show was made evidently clear by the satisfaction of a full personal conversation, while at other times it was stifled by the endless unreliable chains of constant email updates. The ways that planning this one exhibition permeated the whole of the semester was incredibly interesting, as it greatly expanded beyond a “normal” class project. 

In someways this curatorial blog post only adds to that endless dribble of insular dialogue. While there is certainly value in writing and posting and doing, it seems somewhat lackluster in comparison to other more pressing task at hand. If we moved from the era of “art for art sake” could that not tie into curatorial practice as well? If curating is not asked to “curate for curating sake”, that one could argue, implicitly suggests exhibitions as a way for the space to move outside of itself, then should not the parts make up for the sum? The requirement of the blog post, where viewer engagement can be measured down to the the quantifiable number of clicks on a page, becomes a self-indulgent task. The act of sharing is reduced to this little box on this little screen, and one can not help but think, ‘this probably is going no where’. 

Nonetheless though just like our endless mode of consumption, one seems to push through, to keep-going, to keep taking in terms of curating. I keep pushing through the requirements needed to complete the course and finish the exhibitions. For example, as part of my role as the main contact for the Eating Prosthetics portion of Constant Consumer, I needed to figure out the final resting place of the long 8 foot by 2 foot table that was built for our exhibition installation. This ended up with a new experience renting a truck in the city, pushing back the inherent fear that results from zipcar deadlines and crashing into pedestrians. (Parallel parking a truck of Monroe and Wabash was not the most pleasant experience). I keep, keep-going, this meaning that even though the class is over and there are no immediate consequences apparent with not finishing assignments like this blog-post. (Although, I could potentially be threatened with a no credit for the course). And finally I keep taking. Curating in its core is asking of others to connect, whether this is through an email response or through an understanding of the larger curatorial premise, we want to convey a message to someone else. All this is to say I find that the curatorial process of Constant Consumer was challenging and interesting just like the overall message of the curatorial exhibition. 

When posing the three subtopics underneath the larger umbrella Constant Consumer it seems already there that a split in our understanding of what it means to “constantly consume” was already inherently skewed project to project. Constant Consumer: The Ritual of Everyday Consumption, Constant Consumer: Eating Prosthetics, Constant Consumer: The Ways Our Daily Consumption Consumes Us all attempted in their own way to get somewhere while also being in that insular circle of consumption themselves. Whether any of us really where able to get the heart of the matter is highly debatable. As a whole class a combined group we may be closer to the point of the project, but without a larger discourse around the topic I do not believe that we could critically assess whether the final exhibitions/ final reflections really begin to scratch the condition of the daily consumer. 

Overall this experience has been a gratingly positive one. It would be untrue of myself to say that this was one of the most successful exhibitions that I have put together. However, I’ve learned a lot. Not so much in the technical side of curating necessarily, but on the inter-personal side of curating specific to a course within the institution. I learned about the difficulties in attempting to have a foot in both world and the unstated biases of others and myself. The Constant Consumer through the course Curatorial Practice became as much about the the world and those who partake of it was about the class – appropriate, difficult, and an overall enriching experience. 

Interview: Shawn Chua Ming Ren

Shawn Chua Ming Ren is an artist currently working in New York City. His works focus on interconnectivity and test the boundaries between positive and negative human interaction ranging from casual handshakes to violence.

(Phone Interview, abridged)

What do you think of when someone mentions coffee?

SC: If I were to think of coffee on its own, I am reminded of late nights and early mornings and deadlines…. But I tend to associate coffee with specific places and who I had it with. I have traveled and lived in several cities but I always had a favorite café where I owe several epiphanies and inspirations. 

Do you have any favorites?
SC: Oh there are many, each with special memories but there is a cafe I frequent several blocks from my flat. I go there often to read, write and sometimes just watch people. Its fun to eavesdrop on conversations. Sometimes strangers jump into chats they overhear and an interesting debate begins. The casualness of it all is pretty inspiring, this spillage of private conversations becoming suddenly public.

Just to make clear, do you hold a strong opinion on coffee as a beverage?

SC: Coffee is something I consume on a daily basis but what is more important to me is how it serves as a vehicle of communication. Like, what do people mean when they say ‘Lets meet up for coffee sometime’? We read between the lines, it could be a business meeting, a catching-up between friends, a suggestion of possible romance, and more.” But it is interesting when you see how some people are very particular about how they have their coffee. I have one friend who just can’t stand the disposable cups they give out and is very picky about the blend, the ratio of milk and sugar etc.

That reminds me of the essay in Inei Reisan by Tanizaki who stressed Japanese soup HAD to be enjoyed in black lacquer bowls.

SC: Yea yea I think drinking coffee requires special attention. Its not only the taste but the aroma, the temperature, the cup… a lot can go into it if you really care. Then the cup becomes more a culinary experience. It can become fetishized too, with the amount of attention put into the specificities. When I think of coffee extremities I am reminded of Kopi Luwak coffee. They are beans taken from the shit of a cat-creature and its considered a delicacy. It must be really good but its kind of funny too.

Okay, going back to what you were talking about coffee as a catalyst. You see it as a stimulant, not necessarily because of the caffeine content?

SC: I think caffeine might take part in its power as stimulant but you go to a meeting or hold conferences and there is almost always coffee served. Its almost a fixture, a requirement.

And what do you think of cultural variations in coffee appreciation? For example, I know an Italian friend who was appalled by the Japanese vending machines selling cold coffee in cans.

SC: I think there are differences, especially between countries that have a long tradition of coffee-drinking and those without. You even see it in the menu. American coffee is watered down coffee and Wiener coffee is a special type of cappuccino. In New York, I think its about choosing the cafe. Each cafe has its unique style and attracts a particular audience. You know that you are mingling with a familiar crowd even if you don’t actually talk to any of them. So by choosing your coffee and the place to have it is also a form of social identification.

Interview by Chisako Izuhara

Curatorial and publication process & reflections on project by Emily Elizabeth Thomas

CONSTANT CONSUMER —> EATING PROSTHETICS

 

PART I
CON-STANT CON-SUMER

In collaboration with Deborah Boardman’s Curatorial Practice course my curatorial partner, Ariel Fang, and I dedicated a semester to programming, curating and facilitating the creation of Constant Consumer, a student-curated show in the LeRoy Neiman Center. Constant Consumer is an exhibition concerned with the various ways in which modern consumption affects the lives of the consumer.

 

In our section of the show we showcased the work of the following talented artists:

David Kim, BFA 2013
Elizabeth Merritt Kong, BFA 2013
Bhagya Ajikumar, MFA 2004
Amy Deneselya, BFA 2013
Jennifer Kaplan, BFA 2014
Nancy Sayavong, BFA 2014
Jason Guo, BFA 2014
Nicole Kaufman, BFA 2014
Christine Lai, BFA 2013
SunMi Park, BFA 2014
Stephania Dulowski, BFA 2014
Sky White, BFA 2014
Therese Harrah, BFA 2014

 We received images, statements and dimensions of each proposed work from the individual artists through an open call that was sent out to the SAIC community.

 

 

Constant Consumer Open Call
Posted to Facebook on October 26th

 The Curatorial Practice course, with Deborah Boardman, in conjunction with SUGs Project spaces is looking for cup forms that are created to facilitate daily consumption. The cups can be made from any material – ceramic, wood, fabric, plastic – but needs to suggest utility beyond a single use.

 The selected pieces will be curated into a larger exhibition titled “The Constant Consumer”, focusing on dilemmas and evolution of contemporary production and consumption. The works will be exhibited specifically in the storefront window space in the LeRoy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash, from November 18 through December 9.

 Please send a 2-3 sentence artist statement, a resume or cv, and 1-5 images to afang@saic.edu with the subject heading “The Constant Consumer Open Call” by 10/31 @ 11pm.

 

PART II
EATING PROSTHETICS

 After the installation of Constant Consumer Ariel and I, in collaboration with student graphic designers Sky White and Therese Harrah, began the extensive process of creating a publication showcasing both the curatorial process of Constant Consumer and additional research, starting a conversation that runs parallel to the exhibition.

 The publication Eating Prosthetics: methods of daily consumption became our way of commemorating the exhibition, and beginning a discussion on the historical weight and allegorical meaning of the prosthetics we use for eating, the human eating prosthetic.

 It became our goal to provide a moment of reflection for the consumer in which they are presented with the opportunity to think differently about their own consumption, to think differently about the fork they hold in their hand.

 

Selections from Eating Prosthetics

 

 I

 This book came about through a series of curatorial projects and events, starting with a focus on coffee. At the Storefront’s Blend: Discourse by the Cup local coffee was disguised and served to visitors while viewing coffee related documentaries. Conversation on both the healing attributes of coffee culture, and the faulted morality of foreign coffee production, and the space between these opposing views, led to a larger conversation about the physical act of coffee-drinking and its affect on the consumer, all filtered through the coffee-mug-vessel that facilitates the consumption of the dark brew. Our interest in eating and drinking vessels lead to some interesting interpretations of the significance of the coffee mug- even when an individual is not necessarily drinking coffee the moment of consumption continues in the process of holding, picking up, and even washing the cup.

The seemingly endless cycle of human interpretation of use and value – the constant consumer – was what interested us.

An open call was sent out to the SAIC community asking for student and artist participation in an exhibition centered around objects that implied more than one use, more than one purpose of physical consumption. The Constant Consumer showed works that flatten the hierarchy between utensil and art object, works that commented on the complications of daily consumption, and works that reflect a portion of the artists’ character.   

This interest in how these contingent prosthetics of eating informs the consumer’s conception of value led to a parallel conversation around the historical weight of the utensils themselves. Eating Prosthetics is the result of this interest, explored further from a historical standpoint.

Instead of creating a strictly academic publication on the history of utensils we decided it would be beneficial to exhibit how knowledge of items that facilitate eating can be reinterpreted into design that facilitates understanding. There is a hope that in some way this book would be an object consumed in order to affect viewer’s perception of consumption and in turn possibly change their understanding of their own production.

It is our hope that although we are constant-consumers, we may offer assistance in creating a conscious-constant-consum 

 

II

Ben Kinmont & Antinomian Press
http://antinomianpress.org 

Image

On Social Sculpture
and its significance to ongoing collaborative project:

 In creating social meaning, in defining what it is that we place significance and belief in, we create a Third Sculpture, the “thinking sculpture”. 

We have chosen, as two artists and curators, to craft meaning through experience, to re define what an object means and to give it meaning outside of its utility. We presented artists, designers, illustrators, and sculptors with information on modern consumption and eating vessels, we then urged them to re interpret that basic knowledge, add to it, to transform it, and produce something that could contribute to our exhibition.

We have communally worked to add meaning to method- through all of our conversation on a vast array of modern consumption dilemmas over the course of one semester, through programming and scheduling, through interaction with many artists and creatives, through the study of anthropological and historical fact, we have attempted to redefine the meaning of a coffee mug, of an eating prosthetic.

As a community we shape our lives through communication with others

 

III 

Western Eating Utensil Encyclopedia:

 Knife

The knife is the oldest eating utensil, originally made from sharp stones used as fighting tools and food processing. With the advancement of the Neolithic age, basic stone knives were developed with crude wooden or animal hide handles. In the Bronze age (3000-700 BC) metalworkers were able to forge rough versions of metal knives from copper and bronze.

 With the development of iron and steel in the Western world knives became commonplace among every class of people. It was common practice for everyone to carry their own eating knives during this time. These knives were sharp tipped, useful for both eating and fighting. Eventually, during the 17th century King Louis XIV of France banned the use of sharp tipped knives and the new ground-down point knives became commonplace at the table. 

 

Spoon

A spoon can be used to consume both solid and liquid foods. Due to its multi-use in the process of consumption, our Paleolithic ancestors most often used simple bowl shaped utensils that looked a lot like the modern day spoon. Most often, seashells were connected to wooden sticks in order to properly serve larger amounts of food, as well as easily consume individual portions. With the arrival of the Middle Ages in Europe wooden and metal spoons became commonplace. The Anglo-Saxon word spon, meaning a chip or splinter of wood, points toward widespread use of this material for Northern European spoons.

 

Fork

Although knives and spoons have been in use for tens of thousands of years, forks became commonplace only 1,000 years ago. An Englishman named Thomas Coryate brought the first forks to England after seeing them in Italy during his travels in 1608. The English ridiculed forks as being unnecessary. “Why should a person need a fork when God had given him hands?” they asked. Slowly, however, forks came to be adopted by the wealthy. They were prized possessions made of expensive materials intended to impress guests. By the mid 1600s, eating with forks was considered fashionable among wealthy British. Forks used solely for dining were luxuries; they quickly became markers of social status and sophistication among nobles

 

 Cup

Before our ancestors ever discovered how to work metal, they first discovered the utility of ceramic. This enabled them to make a very rough sketch of the modern day mug. Although these mugs had a handle on the side similar to modern-day coffee mugs, these older versions were made with all kinds of materials ranging from skulls, clay, wood and metal. However, these versions of mugs were difficult when used for hot beverages as they would leak, break or even contaminate the liquid held inside. It was not until around 600 A.D. when porcelain was invented in China that the production of the sealed and coated mugs we know today became possible.

 

Goblet, Chalice

After the discovery of metals the material possibility of drinking vessels became much greater than before. With advancement in metalworking the chalice and the goblet were created. Goblets are featured prominently in multiple artworks dating back thousands of years ago. One of them most common types of goblets is the chalice. Chalices are so old that they have been dated back to the early beginnings of the Roman Catholic Church originally used during Holy Communions to carry Communion Wine. Chalices were a form of goblet made of precious metals such as gold and silver and often accessorized and encrusted with jewels, designed mostly for ceremonial purposes.

 

Plate

The earliest form of the plate were made from been large leaves, gourd halves or seashells which would be used as simple bowls for holding food. Food items would be placed on larger leaves and would be consumed communally by all members of a tribe, family or group.

The “trencher” was the next form that the plate took. The most popular substance used for creating trenchers was bread, a technique that lasted well into the 16th century. Very coarse flour would be used to make the bread, it would then be left to sit and harden for several days before being sliced and used as an eating utensil. During a particular elaborate meal, several trenchers would be carved for each diner. After the meal was finished the trenchers would be discarded to the dogs.

 

PART III
Curatorial Reflection

 

My experience and involvement in the curatorial process over the course of this semester has been multi-dimensional and vast.  Above is my portion of the research conducted, in collaboration with Ariel, for our Eating Prosthetics publication (to be finished by December 16th).  This research and publication will serve as additional artistic agency for redefining the meaning of an eating vessel. We have taken great inspiration from Joseph Grigley’s Exhibition Prosthetics and Ben Kinmont’s various publications on art and social life through Antinomian Press. It was our curatorial goal to bring together works of art across many disciplines to close the gap between eating utensil and art object, to offer assistance in creating a conscious-constant-consumer and to define an eating vessel outside of its position on a place mat, to define it as a vehicle of consumption, and as platform for conversation about modern consumption dilemmas.

Through the experience at the Storefront, the experience of curating and facilitating the installation of Constant Consumer, the collaborative effort of our on going publication project, and countless curator-artist interactions I have gained some real experience as an art facilitator and curator. I have realized the importance of a communal effort in the face of a complicated modern question, the vast impact a group of artists and creative types can make by even beginning to find solutions to these dilemmas, and the significance and allegorical meaning of a single cup of coffee.

 Most importantly I can now add some curatorial tools to my artistic repertoire including- vinyl install, research and production, artistic negotiation and compromise, art handling, communal conceptualizing, exhibition install, event programming, proposal presentation, publication design, and experience in commissioning exhibition-specific work.

Interview with Blake Daniels

Interview with Blake Daniels: SAIC, Spring 2013, Painting graduate

Worked at Logan Square Intelligentsia from March 2013 – July 2013 (~3-4 months)

Excerpts from Interview.

Mixed Enjoyment; it was a trade job. Intelligentsia did a pretty good job in mixing it up in terms of every day tasks and mundanity.

Enjoyed working at Intelligentsia while he was in school, gave him something else to do outside of an intensely art focused degree. But this did not meant that it was helpful for career development.

Working as a barista helped with immediate bills.

Coffee considered as a process, similar to tobacco & art. The process aspect of it was interesting, but not what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Bureaucracy of employee & employer in Intelligentsia and how coffee is produced. The model that Intelligentsia provided was great, but it was not what the Logan Square community wanted. Intelligentsia was shaping coffee culture, but it was relying on the name, the brand, too much.

I would drink 1 cup a day.

I purchase coffee from a local roaster when it’s on sale. I don’t actually drink Intelligentsia coffee now that I do not work there anymore.

Hobby Products

Undertones of culture as seen through coffee as opposed to overtones.

I’m interested in coffee as a system and the coffee shop as a location.

Interview with Lindsey Nicole Jancay

Lindsey Nicole Jancay is a current candidate of Art Administration and Policy program at the SAIC. She used to work at Starbucks. Below is the interview conducted with her through email and Facebook conversation.

Siyuan Jin: What is your experience with coffee in general?

Lindsey Nicole Jancay: My experience with coffee in general is that I’ve grown up in a household that really revolved around coffee drinking. For me it is comforting, introspective, social, and a real treat. 

S: What is your experience with coffee making?

L: Until I started working at Starbucks, I didn’t think much about the making part. I just followed directions and that was it. Though I do always add a little cinnamon to the grounds which is something  my mom does. After working at Starbucks for a few months, I found out that there were small things I could do to make coffee better. Coffee making became experimentation which is great and exciting. 

S: Is there any effect rendered by being an artist/ art professional to your experience while you were working at SB?

L: Somewhat. I think being an artist, I prioritize experimentation and take risk and failure as part of that process. That said, Starbucks is often seen as an artist friendly job, and in that regard it was not. It was more about following processes whether they made sense or not. Everything choreographed and to improvise was not usually well received. 

S: What do you think about coffee as a daily consumption?

L: I don’t mind it. I know it isn’t the healthiest thing and I do try to half caf it as much as possible. But drinking coffee daily means I have some time set aside for myself every day to indulge in something that I truly enjoy. I try to make healthier options and I always drink black coffee. 

S: And the coffee industry?

L: The coffee industry has huge issues. I am the first to admit that. I think the public needs to know more about their organic and fair trade options.