November 30, 2017

11/20/2017 – Remain Teachable with Seamus Gallagher

Artist: Seamus Gallagher

Location: Rose’s Fine Food


SG – Coffee (black), Silverman’s Special

SRS – Coffee (black), Staff Favorite 2.0

I met Seamus doing studio visits at CCS last month – those who have been following BWTA closely will notice a rash of emerging artists from CCS lately, following a Lunchtime Lecture I delivered. So far, these bright-eyed CCS-ers have been one of the only cohorts to collectively capitalize on my open offer to have breakfast. Say what you will about Millenials – they understand an opportunity for social media-based self-promotion. All y’all complainers take note: you rarely get something you fail to ask for.

Seamus is right on the cusp of graduation (at the mid-term), and plans to ride out the following semester working on an ambitious thesis project. He’s asked for “instructions” from six different teacher-mentor types, which Seamus characterizes as “parents.”

“I got obsessed with this book about project that you do with your parents – like, DIY building a skateboard ramp, or something like that,” said Seamus. When bored, he likes to binge-shop on Amazon, and picked up a kids-and-parents DIY book for roughly $0.50. “I bought it my sophomore year, and I knew there was something about it that was going to be a part of my thesis. And I’m thinking about what role I’m playing within that – am I the parent? Am I the father? After spending a lot of time with it, I decided I was going to make all the projects in the book, and that was the show.”

The idea went through several permutations, moving from executing projects from the 2011 book, to asking what a book would look like if it were made to reflect Seamus’s experience, as he prepares to leave CCS and embark upon his “adult” art career. What would those projects look like?

“Because of that, I’m inserting myself in the role of the child,” he said, “and then I had to figure out who the parents were.” Seamus narrowed his “parents” down to six people he’s met since he’s been at CCS (though not necessarily associated with the school directly) – including artists he assists, teachers, and Detroit artists he’s met around the scene. “All the time, whatever job I’m working on, there is a task to complete. So I was thinking of relating that back to the parenting book, and tried to see if I could get people to devise tasks for me to complete.”

Seamus’s parent-proxies are an interdisciplinary wonder-team, comprised of Ryan Standfest, Graem Whyte, Leslie Rogers, Victoria Shaheen, Alison Wong, and Kylie Lockwood, and the final exhibition generated out of their instructions to him will be on display at Holding House, in a group show along with two other “children” who have reached out to their own six “parents.” The show is set to open on June 10 of next year.

“Some of the instructions were really straightforward, and some were weird,” said Seamus. “Ryan instructed me to make an artwork under an alternate persona – his example was Andy Kaufman. I don’t know what any of it is going to be, but it’s going to be exciting, and I’m going to stress out about it for six months.”

It’s interesting that, at the moment of graduating, Seamus is seeking further instruction – perhaps a normal response to the open-ended anxiety of pursuing art outside the structure of a learning institution.

“I don’t know if any of us [humans] really know what we’re doing,” he said. “We all want some form of instruction. I think some sort of guideline is always helpful.” This desire for structure runs a little contrary to my initial impression of Seamus, as somewhat iconoclastic, but he can trace his desire to create collaboratively to earlier projects in his undergraduate work.

“My freshman year, I made this performative piece, where I would hold hands with somebody else and share this moment, while plaster was setting in between our hands,” he said. “Everyone I did that project with, I’m still friends with.” So perhaps Seamus is using art as a tool to foster human connection, in a more literal way than it is usually understood to do so. Perhaps this outreach to his “parents” is a desire for reassurance that the bonds that feel crucial and formative continue beyond the constraints of the context of formal education that facilitated them. Certain relationships, like marriage, or legal guardianship, or parenthood come with built-in protocols for their structure and maintenance – but what about mentors, role models, and teachers?

It will be fascinating to see what Seamus makes of his instructions – whether they are a mechanism to draw him closer to his “parents” or perhaps a vehicle to liberate him from the need for them. Stay tuned!

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