samantha krukowski


making marks

Night observations

A snoring dog is comforting. A horse that pees on your head when you pick its hooves is not.


Filed under: thinking

drawing – digital and analog

As someone who started undergraduate school just as personal computers were becoming essential, and graduate school just as the net began to expand exponentially, the majority of my training – visual and spatial more than textual – was completed using analog media.

I’m part of an in-between generation that feels torn, and often anxious, between modes – and also overwhelmed (and aware of being overwhelmed) by how much information is constantly coming my way and indecisive in the face of it. Finding my way and staying on course requires a different diligence than when I wasn’t potentially connected every moment of every day to just about anything or anyone. My students have been born into this barrage and don’t seem bothered by it, though they do seem unconsciously overwhelmed by it because their response to it is reflexive. They don’t seem to feel that it should be shut off, or shut out, ever, and so they are almost instinctually fine with interrupting or being interrupted, equally comfortable with paying attention or with being distracted.

In order for me to get anything meaningful done, I have to shut things out and put things away and find some silence. No texts. No e-mails. No web searches. No people. Is this because I’m generationally challenged? Maybe. But ironically, now when I put everything aside in order to – for example – draw, I can’t necessarily keep technology at bay or maintain the kind of silence that supports creative flow and original production. One reason for this is that analog drawings are not easily detached from digital practice, even if it is only the idea of digital drawings that hovers nearby. And digital drawings often require diversions as part of their completion – searches to understand software, for example, or to find bits and parts of things they might include or riff off of.

So now, even making marks is fraught – should I draw with a pencil or a tablet? What will my output be? How many processes will one drawing engage? Scale is so changeable, materiality is so exchangeable. Today’s goals – to print a digital drawing on thick drawing paper, send the print to the laser cutter for a layer of etching, and then bring it back to my studio for some interventions with paint and colored pencil – has resulted in a spray of digital forms, a lot of artboards, some e-mails about formatting and paper types, no trip to the rapid prototyping center, and no analog moves at all.

Will a glass of wine help?

Filed under: analog, digital, drawing, thinking

first post from ohio

Moving slows down all sorts of things, even stops some – like creative process and writing practice. But only for a while.

This morning is filled with the words of Rosalind Krauss from her essay ‘Grids’ (October, Summer 1979) and the sounds of the wheels of my chair as I roll back and forth between tables to read and draw. It comes out, after a while, the way we each reckon with trying to understand things. I find I’m starring the text by simultaneously writing notes in the margins by hand and making digital marks. What would Roland Barthes (S/Z, 1970) say about drawing on a machine being part of the readerly/writerly phenomenon?

The paradox of the grid – suspended between materiality and spirit, science and transcendence – is worth revisiting, especially in terms of its centrifugal and centripetal implications in painting. Centrifugal (signaling the world outside) and centripetal (signaling the object itself) forces in representation need to be reconsidered given the increasingly common boundary (finite edge) of the computer screen.

A student of mine recently remarked that his difficulty in making continuous and energetic lines was in part the result of working primarily on a tablet, which required that he contain (constrain, restrain) his marks. The grid is now up against hardware edges. Who is going to make an infinity screen first?

Filed under: art, grid, thinking


img1934Taking all of these photographs of deteriorating barns in Iowa led me to a series of recent books on ruins and related ideas/productions. Brian Dillon is doing some great writing and from so many perspectives – going out to find some of his books today.

Filed under: architecture, art, books, thinking, ,


Because of Ai Weiwei (@aiww) I reopened my twitter account (@shkrukowski). I re-watched the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and will be opening my seminar, Outlaws: Architecture and its Others, with clips from that film this semester. I was more fearless once. The past three years have been dominated by surgeries to get rid of cancer and then re-make the breasts it took. The first surgery I needed. The last six I did not, and would not lie down for again. My chest is still numb, I am unmoved by its topography, I photographed it but haven’t shared the image. In my mind there are two large sheets of canvas, quilted into squares, each with a cut and stuffed and sutured mound. Bravery will remove it from that sphere and reveal it. A big snow came yesterday, and as the flakes began to gather mass, out came the neighbors with their shovels – inches yet to come, but they got to it immediately – this is a small town that keeps its lawns neat and its driveways plowed and its white male god worshipped and change at bay. What if everyone just left the snow alone and instead spent that time contributing something to the moon project by Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson ( I have been an educator for 20 years but I am losing faith in the educational systems around me – university = corporation, public school = holding pen – and am ever aware of the widening chasms between those who have the money to buy in, and those who don’t.

Filed under: Ai Weiwei, bravery, breast cancer, education, life, thinking

selling value

Yesterday I was in a restaurant and saw a little sign propped up by the window that read “best soup in town.” Though we are constantly exposed to such signs advertising “the best” of something-or-other, I began to wonder when this kind of language first appeared – has the language of advertising always included “the best”? The sign wasn’t effective in the way it might have originally been intended (I didn’t try their soup), and it didn’t inspire cynicism, either (I didn’t snort), but instead it seemed a quaint and tentative leftover from some other time (though that time must be now, since I can buy the same sign online from a restaurant supply company).

Best Soup in Town

Maybe a customer brought it in and set it up after they had a meal, just for fun – it’s that kind of restaurant, with an atmosphere of accumulating the discarded – regardless, it was unread as it was read – proclaiming your soup as the best soup in Ames, Iowa isn’t saying much, really.

Then, this morning, two articles in the New York Times appeared, both very much about value, great in juxtaposition:

The Art World’s Patron Satan
Ferran Adrià Feeds the Hungry Mind

First, the piece on Stefan Simchowitz, sponsor and promoter of young artists who is upending art world etiquette by buying and selling artists as well as their work. His is not a new model, really – patrons and artists have cohabited in uneasy ways throughout history – except that he is selling the work by selling himself – he’s got billionaires buying artworks they have never seen by artists they have never heard of. He sets up the artists with studios, materials, places to live, clothing – with the understanding that they have to do that one thing, make art. One of the artists he helped out was making large canvases filled with eyeballs. He requested that she cut those canvases up so he could have more paintings to sell – she did – each one sold for $150. Taste? Value? Better? Best? Who knows. Maybe Simchowitz does.

Second, the piece on Ferran Adrià, the former chef of El Bulli who appears to be a phenomenologist at heart – he tends towards questions like “What is wine?” and ponders essentials like what makes a drink different from a sauce – “Maybe it is a drink if I put it in a cup. But what if I make it into a sauce and cook with it?” Adrià’s restaurant was named world best (there’s that “best” thing again) from 2002-2009 and operated only six months per year, serving one meal per day. He earns a little less than 100K for a one-hour lecture on creativity, his catering division brings in 400K a year, VIP dinners earned him about 3.5 million. His restaurant is no longer, but he is working on a foundation now and according to the article he “concedes that what allows him to operate such an ethereal enterprise is the value of his personal brand”, one that is deeply linked to Telefónica, the Madrid telecommunications company.

Next on my reading list: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

Filed under: advertising, art, creativity, thinking


An ongoing list of exhibitions of interest:


State of the Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America, American Folk Art Museum

Jean Dubuffet: Soul of the Underground, MoMA

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015, Whitechapel Gallery

Decidedly Surreal: The Bindings of Mary Louise Reynolds, Art Institute of Chicago

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, Tate Modern


Swoon: Submerged Motherlands, Brooklyn Museum of Art

Filed under: exhibitions


I picked up Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life yesterday…like visiting a friend whose intonations and accents haven’t been heard for a long time. The visit yields distance – yes, I read these words (I have read them, I did read them) – but that was then (when?) and this is now (here, wherever), and things have happened since the last cracking of the pages. A few colleagues have been privileging the distinction between ‘tactics’ and ‘strategies’ of late – I’ve been wondering what that’s about, where they are getting their fodder, if they have gone mining for shiny stuff to show off or if they are invested in the long histories of such ideas. Rhetoric can be a virus, passed along with a handshake, and this one might be called the strategy-tactic virus, with de Certeau as one index case.

But to the density of it: de Certeau defines a strategy as “the calculus of force-relationships which becomes possible when a subject of will and power (a proprietor, an enterprise, a city, a scientific institution) can be isolated from an ‘environment.’ A strategy assumes a place that can be circumscribed as proper (propre) and thus serve as the basis for generating relations with an exterior distinct from it (competitors, adversaries, ‘clienteles,’ ‘targets,’ or ‘objects of research’.” He distinguishes a tactic as “a calculus which cannot count on a ‘proper’ (a spatial or institutional localization), nor thus on a borderline distinguishing the other as a visible totality. The place of a tactic belongs to the other. A tactic insinuates itself into he other’s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its entirety, without being able to keep it at a distance. It has at its disposal no base where it can capitalize on its advantages, prepare its expansions, and secure independence with respect to circumstances. The ‘proper’ is a victory of space over time. On the contrary, because it does not have a place, a tactic depends on time – it is always on the watch for opportunities that must be seized ‘on the wing.’ Whatever it wins, it does not keep. It must constantly manipulate events in order to turn them into ‘opportunities’.”

de Certeau may be a fine companion here (where I am now), in a place where the quotidian is misread as heartfelt (in the heartland) but is actually finely tied to behind-the-back moves, covered utterances and weighted silences all situated in a highly controlled, orchestrated landscape. As I move between my own moves – pressing clay, folding paper, smearing paint, typing words – his writing provides worthy echoes. A strategy is to keep de Certeau nearby, paying attention to his delineation of the acts of production – representation – consumption. Tactics are to enliven a certain kind of responsiveness to his texts – might it look like the “lignes d’erre” of Deligny’s autistic children?

Deligny, Ligne d'erre

Filed under: reading, thinking

after birth

It’s a little like floating on a surfboard, watching for a wave – or spinning around and around, arms outstretched and eyes closed, in the rain. The book is done – no longer under my fingers but in distribution – and in its place is a vibrating emptiness. Birds are flocking already, as images and as objects. And so, with a lot of wire, some pliers, and some plaster cloth, a new world is underway.

Filed under: thinking

May 2018
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