Culture: the god particle of markets

The next Nobel Prize in Economics will be in the realization that all trade from all time was cultural. That the direct or indirect exchanges of all goods and services was to reaffirm cultural desires. It was never about money - money was just a measured reflection of what successful merchants considered culture moving backward from this date. From this realization onwards, the only purpose of economics was acknowledged as but one measurement of culture: the god particle of markets. That GDP existed alone to measure culture. That the pulse and conditions of culture would dictate the market for all trade.

That to understand the culture market was now a faster route than the money market.

Was to understand the additive effects of clashing cultures and was akin to financial forecasting.

Was to find the value created in the environments where cultures collided was manifest.

Edge effects occur in the intersection of two cultures. Its sequitur is that this intersection will contain the most diversity, more so than either culture. In ecology, these exist as valleys, fjords, islands, areas with a mixing of ocean currents or air currents, migration paths for animals. In culture, edge effects occur as major trade routes, ports and cities, emigration and exploration vectors. As people encounter each other in these edge areas they discover new methods and mindsets for what are universal activities. They trade cultures, they exchange their portfolio, they diversify a phenotype.

Understanding this exchange, culture can be seen as the impetus of all interaction. 


On passing the center

It’s why we attract our opposite culture to anchor our identity. It’s the slow path towards stabilization of all we know. We are bound by inertia, the maintenance of the way things are right now. And as we pass the center and approach an unknown culture we feel a hand on our collar again.

We will slowly unite in cultures. It's inevitable. It will be slow and violent. It will feel fast and controllable. 

Even the most pleasurable introductions will be a tumult. Learning a word in another language will feel substantial; it will be immeasurably small, less than a Higg's boson inside an hourglass. Our discomfort outside our known culture will continue to be achingly dissonant to our strongest beliefs. Yet it will contribute to an undetectable reconciling.

It’s because life grows on Earth where the temperature varies from 30 below zero to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. On Mercury it's over 800 degrees during the day and below 300 degrees at night. Mercury is described as uninhabitable by those who can't inhabit such states, as if an unstable exosphere is not alive. One day we could incorporate a flux of elements into our paradigm of life, or not.

How can we understand something so different?

The furthest cultures are unable to be comprehended. It would be like Trump vs Sanders in 2016. They label them as outsiders. This is not a reactionary label, it’s the correct one. Outliers are at the extent of standard deviation - the farthest stretch of comprehension to the "other" - until they within our new frame of deviation.

It’s why we called it a “miracle” when the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants when they were down by 21 points with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. It’s improbable, it’s outside the standard deviation, it doesn't exist comfortably in our concept of the game as we understand it.

The miraculous is often called the mysterious. We are attracted to the different cultures, we are scared or intrigued by their mystery. Biologically, we are prone to notice contrasting noises, colors, sensations; it makes environmental sense to register what is different. And so we are drawn to contrast by instinct. We then respond with mixes of fear and curiosity. So why then do we resist change as we pass center?

It’s the way electrons are charged across the membrane. There is simultaneous attraction and resistance. Will the pull defeat the push? As soon as it does, the task begins in reverse. Again and again, we are attracted by the other culture until repulsed with our traditions. And that’s what every arena was built to discover. We are a wavelength slowly meting out to a straight line.


Time for pleasure

Fireworks over the Puget Sound in 2009.
It was a rather pure way of trading my time for pleasure.


Connect through ideas, abut with nature.

For a long time I've trying to find a way to say (and show) how I feel. 
Thank you Cowiche Canyon for the inspiration!



#ARTFAIL "Tempura on Board"

Hold up. Spellcheck that noise.

No... actually THIS is tempura on board.


How I Survived Art School Aftermath

I was asked to do an "interview" by the UW School of Art and Design - interviewed in this case means filling out a set of prescribed questions. I tried to frame my answers for art undergrads in particular. It's neither a puff piece or a tell all, just some of my thoughts about the professional path after undergrad. I peppered in some images of artwork that I did while I was a student at UW - just something visual to go with the text.

An interactive work where the audience rearranged glazed ceramic bars of soap into suggestive phrases.

What degree did you receive from the SoA + AH + D?

BA in Interdisciplinary Visual Art with an Art History Minor (very proud of that minor)

What year did you graduate?

Spring 2009

Above: a series of portraits going through the loom. Sorry for the blur...
Below: just some scraps from "Intro to Structure" AKA weaving class.

Can you share some examples of what you have done professionally since graduation?

Once I graduated (even before I graduated) I started collaborating with a lot of arts and cultural orgs. I seemed to be drawn more towards large projects with multiple people. Although I really enjoyed making my own work, it never seemed "big enough". I realized that if I wanted to have a larger impact I would need to be part of a larger collaboration, with a bigger audience, a bigger budget, a bigger scope.

Before I graduated, I took a look around at what seemed to be the most lacking areas in the arts and cultural landscape. There were - and are - innumerable areas that deserve our attention, but one area that seemed most striking was that there was a line around the block to exhibit at galleries. Art schools, studios, programs were churning out artists but the economic environment was not churning out opportunities to exhibit their work. In fact several of the galleries and orgs were closing, scaling down or trying to adapt to the harsh recession when I graduated.

I felt that the most logical solution was for me to open my own gallery. I'd had some experience at UW's Jacob Lawrence Gallery, the Verart Gallery at the Vera Project, the Wing Luke Museum and a lot of other spaces that had hired me to do freelance like Suyama Space, Open Satellite, Western Bridge, Lawrimore Project. Note that all of those spaces did experimental exhibitions, large scale installations, social practice projects, performance, et al. Also note that three of those spaces are now closed. So I knew that there had to be another gallery to replace those opportunities for experimental work and I had a good idea on how I would do it.

I moved to the Boston area in 2010 to be the Exhibitions Manager at Montserrat College of Art. It was the perfect job for me. But I also wanted to begin my own project, so I decided that I would moonlight with a gallery of my own. Within a few weeks of being on the east coast, I found a small warehouse at 17 Cox Court, Beverly MA and began renovating the space. With some help, I built out a gallery downstairs - called 17 Cox - and a library and residence upstairs. We began exhibiting local emerging artists, encouraging experimental exhibitions with no preference to commercial work (all commissions were on a sliding scale from 0 - 50%). 17 Cox slowly went on to exhibit hundreds of artists from around the country, collected 1400+ titles for its art library, hosted dozens of resident artists and scholars and received a lot of great local and regional press (including a hilarious NPR story).

We had a lot of success with Montserrat Galleries as well. The curator, Leonie Bradbury, was incredible at her job (I was referred to her by Kris Anderson, former Director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, now the ED at the UMoCA). We had four different exhibition spaces at Montserrat and exhibited world-class work constantly. The most incredible time at Montserrat was hosting my art idols the Guerrilla Girls for a symposium and an exhibition in all four spaces. That was a life changing moment when I got to have a beer with the Guerrilla Girls without their masks!

From 2013 - 2014, I decided to step away from Montserrat to pursue my MBA. I continued directing 17 Cox with the co-director Elizabeth Woodward and in between school work I stepped fully into freelance, doing work with the deCordova, Wheelock College, Kingston Gallery, New Art Center, Boston Arts and Business Council, numerous art associations. My biggest client was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has a staggering amount of art and cultural programming; I worked with the MIT Museum, Media Lab, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in Art, Culture and Technology and many others at MIT. I finished my MBA in the summer of 2014, and I began using my skills to produce and manage large projects around Boston.

I collected mail wrongfully delivered to my address and let the audience open them up.
They found W2s, Christmas cards with photos, a check and bunch of credit card offers.
Are you currently working on something (gallery shows, projects, etc.)

My most recent endeavor is actually a return to the upper left US. I will be returning to Washington (along with Elizabeth Woodward) to manage Mighty Tieton, Tieton Mosaic and service and counsel other orgs in Washington. I began working with Tieton in 2010 shortly before I move to Boston and the experience was so heartwarming and fulfilling that I am enthusiastically working there again. Elizabeth and I will be contracting our services to these and other orgs as Services Invisible - an A-to-Z art services and project management company that I began in 2009 and will relaunch with Elizabeth as a full partner. She and I have other plans and projects for the future - we are only in Tieton until summer of 2017 - but we are holding our tongue on our exact plans.

Can you briefly tell us about your experience in the SoA + AH + D?

The UW School of Art was crucial to my career in many ways, but it absolutely comes down to the caliber and generosity of people that I met there. I think many schools tout their faculty-to-student ratios, department budgets, facilities and equipment, the CVs of the professors, scholarships, etc. These are all critical assets to the student, but they can't create a fire under a student and they can't give meaning or purpose to the student's practice. Sincere, personally involved staff and faculty are what make an art school successful. I've worked in three different schools at this point and the success of the students was most tethered to how involved and supportive the faculty and staff were towards them.

Of course I had a few courses or people that didn't do much for me at UW (this happens at every school) but it's not an excuse to dismiss the school as a whole. And it's certainly a bummer to see students become frustrated trying to please a professor, make work like "so-and-so", and moreover ignoring their own unique vision and process. I saw lots of frustration and self-rejection at art schools, which is sad because there is no learning without making mistakes to contrast your successes. I made a lot of mistakes at UW (I even broke some laws) and those mistakes are what made me aware of other possibilities.

The decision to be an IVA major was very influential. Instead of focusing on a medium, I was free to take whichever course felt important to my education at that time. I think that IVA is best for self-directed students who want to explore concepts rather than processes. And I personally don't recommend any art major (whether studio, design or art history) to someone who isn't self-directed. The most influential courses were the "Van-Gogh" course on Public Art - where we traveled with John Young in a pair of vans - and the independent studies I did with Timea Tihanyi and Kris Anderson.

I was a little older than most undergrads so I made a lot of friends with grad students in various departments at UW. Surrounding myself with people who were seeking advanced degrees challenged me to expect more from myself at an undergrad level. I recommend that every student set up a challenging but supportive network of friends, collaborators, and leaders to stretch their understanding and execution of their work. I also recommend meeting as many people and seeing as many things as possible while in school; it will make your transition out of school and into the working world that much smoother.


3 reflections on #museumselfie day

What is your "self's" relationship with the art museum? I've really given this a lot of thought as we celebrate #museumselfie day. But I need to lay out three things that have stopped me in my tracks and made me rethink how people experience their "selves" within a museum. Chiefly, I'm concerned that many people leave feeling "museumed" but they don't usually leave feeling engaged. Taking a selfie can somehow change the experience into a two way engagement by making memories to anchor the experience. Of course, peppered into the post will be a recent #selfie or two!

Olafur Eliason purposefully puts selfie moments into his works.
Hall Art Foundation, Reading VT


A lot of art museums don't let you photograph yourself within their walls, hoping that you have a good enough memory of being there, yet no document of your presence except the ticket stub and something from the gift shop. How then to make that memory last? How then to share the experience with others, to describe it? The irony here is that art museums mostly appeal to visual people but then deny them the visual method of capturing their memories. The #museumselfie is a great way to allow the experience of being in a museum to become a lasting, referenced memory of being there in that moment. And also a way to share your experience / memory with others (hint: get them to buy a ticket).

You're probably saying, "But Lucas, you can't photograph everything at a museum", and I understand that there are concerns about intellectual property, the financial consequences of sharing visuals that are supposed to be ticketed only experiences, "please buy the catalog", etc. Okay, okay, there's a rationale to "no photos" at certain ticketed experiences, but I think many museums are shooting themselves in the foot when they ban this crucial memory retaining activity. Let me be absolutely crystal clear that countless times as a gallery owner and museum consultant I've had to imagine many circumstances where photography would be an issue; but to this day, I've still never encountered a single exhibit that shouldn't have been photographed by the public. Museums are visual places that pride themselves on sharing their collections and we live in a hyper visual age of camera phones and sharing apps. A museum's relevance depends on visitors developing and sharing their memories. Hence the #museumselfie is successful.

Liz and I spent our time encouraging photos at 17 Cox 
...and in return our exhibits are remembered!
Amy Archambault, Floor van de Velde, Ingrid de Aguiar Sanchez


The #museumselfie is a visual thing, but your "self" within a museum is also about what your thoughts are at that moment, how you record them and how you can share them. You need to record your feelings and bounce your thoughts in order to form a memory, and pictures aren't always enough.

Imagine if you could yell out down across the museum foyer, "Hey Jessica you gotta see this! Come up to the 5th floor! The harmony, the lighting, the wall text, it's amazing!" #saidnooneever #rightbeforetheykickedmeout #museumyelling

The "no photo" rule is usually coupled with an implicit "don't talk too loud" rule. I know, I know, it would be awful if people were yakking on their phone or yelling at each other from across the museum right? Or would it? Would it really be worse than that deathly silence that we experience at most museums? How can I engage if I can't speak in my normal volume? My ordinary excitement is instantly flattened by these extraordinary rules. Let me paraphrase a quote from Jerry Beck, the founder of the Revolving Museum.

"I never saw anyone laugh or cry while I was a guard at the (Boston) MFA. And that, to me, means we're missing something." Read more here.

What Jerry means (and I've talked with him about this) is that this lack of emotional engagement at museums is profoundly ironic - profoundly counterproductive - because most museums' missions are to engage the public and build their relationship to the art. The reality is that a very limited amount of people can connect and engage without talking out loud, without debating furiously, without laughing out loud or even weeping out loud. Show me an exhibit where people feel free to weep and laugh out loud and I'll show you an exhibit that will be remembered, an exhibit where I can remember my "self" and other's "selves" being there.

When I see this picture, I remember who I was with,
what we talked about, why this artifact matters.
Aztec Calendar Stone, National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City


Walking around an art museum I feel a skeptical eye on me at all times. Of course the guards are enforcing the "no touching rule" for almost everything in a museum. Heaven forbid that my "self" comes in contact with what I'm trying to understand. Some of us are visual learners, some of us are verbal learners and some of us need to lay our hands upon the damn thing to understand it. That physical touch is a physiological equivalent of having a picture of ourselves with the visible art. Many art museums are now having a "process" gallery to show how things are made, or even better a workshop to let visitors try to make something for themselves. The hands on experience is an important form of the #museumselfie - it's another form of capturing a moment within the "self". Just like a photo, I can take the experience home, revisit it again, share it with others and convince them to go the museum as well.

The sheer sizes at MassMoCA's are ideal for photos
Marko Remec and Sol Lewitt, MassMoCA
No selfies from DIA Beacon where photos are not allowed... boo

Post Script:

From my time as an art history minor, I had to do research at the museum. Usually (but not always) you're allowed to take notes at the museum on pencil and paper but taking notes on your phone is frowned upon or banned. For me snapping a pic of the wall text was really helpful but usually not allowed. If the museum isn't going to have copies of the wall text like tear off coupons at a supermarket, then just let me take a picture and bring it home with me!


JUST4U! I Made an Easy to Follow Exhibition Timeline

 Here's a draft outline for scheduling an exhibition. Maybe you're the artist, maybe you're the curator, maybe the installer, maybe a gallery sitter, maybe a press contact. Whatever your role is, it's good to know the full picture of how the exhibition happens. I think everyone involved needs to have a great deal of respect for the time sensitive nature for all of the roles. This the process I typically follow and the timeline I typically adopt but feel free to stretch or compress deadlines if that's what works for you! Of course there's also an infinite amount of add on stuff at the end: checking on shipments, condition reports, follow up marketing, etc.

It takes a lot before you get to this point!
Photo cred: Elizabeth Gianino at Montserrat College of Art

Select works / artists
1 year out
Write curators statement
1 year out
Confirm works and artists
9 months out
Receive images of works
9 months out
Confirm dates of exhibition
Confirm reception, midpoint and closing events
9 months out
Write press release
6 months out
Post draft to website
6 months out
Floor layout of gallery
6 months out
Designer / Photographer
Arrange shipping of works
3 months out
Design card, vinyl, other promos
3 months out
Designer / Photographer
New exhibition page goes live
Day after previous exhibition ends
Designer / Photographer
Change Facebook, Twitter banners
Day after previous exhibition ends
Deinstall previous exhibition
4 weeks out
Patch and paint gallery
4 weeks out
Build exhibition fixtures, shelves, pedestals, walls
Gather supplies for exhibition
4 weeks out
Order and pick up vinyl
4 weeks out
Designer / Photographer
Send out press release
Post calendar listings (see spreadsheet)
3 weeks out
Install works and light gallery
3 weeks out
Stop motion installation video (if desired)
3 weeks out
Designer / Photographer
Photograph and edit images
Edit stop motion (if desired), upload to Vimeo
2 weeks out
Designer / Photographer
Send images/info to VIPs, writers, curators, artists, directors, colleagues
2 weeks out
Create labels and wall text
Create opening / closing instructions for sitter
2 weeks out
Previews and VIP visits
1 - 2 weeks out
Curator / Artists
Send out email to list
1 week out
Purchase reception food/drinks
Week of
Continue social media for reception
Week of
Set up reception: Food/drinks, set out mailing list, works list, cards, put out signs,   
Day of
Reception, use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram during
Day of
Photograph and edit reception images
Day of
Designer / Photographer
Gallery sit
Email for mid-point event
5 weeks to close
Mid-point event
4 weeks to close
Schedule deinstall and return shipping
3 weeks to close
Email for closing event
1 weeks to close
Closing event
Deinstallation and return shipping
Week after closing

You can also download and print the doc - here