As an artist, the word community sums up the purpose and value of making things. The creative process is a way of exploring, and we share the products of that exploration as a way of connecting experiences with the people we spend time with. Art and music happen best in community when artists think and work together to create things that invite other people to participate in the exploration.
I was asked to create music for Wes Bruce's room and in the pooled process, not only found myself asking new questions, but also using new sounds and methods to search for answers. I came out with a piece that is dissimilar to anything I've made before and, after installing with all of the other artists and getting feedback from attendees that evening, left charged to ease up on my creative control more often to find new depth in working with and for other people.
CONSPIRE, in line with the other events Sanctuary 143 has dreamt up, was a beautiful example of a collaborative process building a shared experience (not to mention an amazing party). The event was unique and impressive, and an obvious product of the work of many dedicated people. It was rich and detailed, and because I overheard so many people describing the event with phrases like, "best event I've been to in San Diego" or, "puts art in San Diego on a new level," I thought it best to collect an account of the evening from a few people who made it out.
Photos by Carly Ealey
It was to be a night of conspiring and enacting community, the signs and lights and printed maps and signs proclaimed -- what seemed to me risky bets for a gathering's theme. You can squish a bunch of people into a building, in this case a converted hotel with stories in the walls and in the fire extinguisher in an upstairs hallway; you can even ask some artists and musicians to conspire; but can you mandate community? It seemed to be there, though, at least in terms of shared intent and identity and preference, and in terms of audience appreciating the hours of conspiratorial work between the artists and musicians to present mysteries in many senses.
I encountered old friends and made a new one. I bumped into someone I know from the daytime hours and we were delighted to introduce each other to our other-than-work personas. I toasted with a white mug. I whispered in the dark, sat on the stairs, and crouched holding a bike light to see a tiny mariachi band in a box. I fell into the kind of conversations that usually only happen on my porch or someone else's, those of beauty and pain, perfection and perfectionism and the merits of art. And so it was community, an assembly of folks united by place and art, colluding and colliding.
The intimacy you experience when viewing art in the context of a living space rather than in a white-walled gallery is intense. It's much easier to see art as something you can live with every day -- something you should want to live with every day. When the Silent Comedy boys were playing guitar in Mike Maxwell's room, I kept glancing over at one of his pieces, "The Decline of Simple Living," or something along those lines, and honestly feeling like the folky, down-to-earth vibe in both the music and the art was right in tune with what I love most and strive for most in my life.
A couple of weeks ago on a walk downtown, I stumbled upon 401 Olive and was instantly charmed by it's facade, and was equaly entranced by it's interior as I peered in the windows and tried to figure out what this place was. I was determined to somehow set foot in this building and logged away it's location in my brain.
Imagine my surprise and delight when only a week later I discovered that my good friends were going to take part in a collective art show there.
Upon walking into Community I was instantly drawn into the space. The whole vibe was fresh and hip but also sincere.
I waited outside Joel and Wes' room for the right time to go in. Upon entering this space the noise and the cocktails and the faces disappeared and I was alone....with several other people and Wes' thoughts and Joel's music. I felt like I was let in on a secret and I was silently sharing it with strangers and friends. I used my cell phone to light the dark walls which were inundated with text, prose and images. I stumbled upon a wall and found an experience Wes had written about, I knew what he was talking about, I understood and I remembered. Tears streamed down my face. I came across a small orange deer hidden in an electrical box. I picked it up and kissed it. The ambient music around me was a perfect compliment to the density of imagery and meaning on the walls...it made me feel safe and full.
I was overwhelmed by my community that night. A community full of people I do not know, but care about and who have a place and then the community of my friends who are artists and poets and humans with bleeding, pumping hearts, opened up for us to see and hear.
Photo by Alex Oat
We were inspired by the concept behind Community -- that through a historic apartment building with recurring events and intimate gathering areas, residents would form their own community as well as interact with the outside community. We joined one artist and one musician within each unoccupied room to collaborate. Because whether inspiration emerges in the form of color and texture or sound and rhythm, the transfer of ideas is essential to bring about change. We saw the concept of the tin can phone to represent these conversations at CONSPIRE -- this transfer of ideas through sound and simple old school technology (the record, Walkman, the foot stomp). The tin can phone represents our challenge as a community to collectively communicate and create through art, music, design, science, business, and from every perspective that may seem unrelated; as CONSPIRE artist Keikichi Honna says of the tin can phone, "It needs a partner, which has plenty of incidents of miscommunication and misunderstanding, and it needs to keep tension between us for our voices to be heard."
A collection of photographs submitted by various people in attendance can be found on Sanctuary's Flickr account, and a documentary of the evening produced by Jeff Durkin can be seen on the Sanctuary 143 website.
More photos from Carly's Flickr