I have just been interviewed as a part of UW-Milwaukee’s series of Graduate Student Features. The following is a re-post of the interview. The original interview can be found here.
Featured Student: December 2009
Brandon Bauer is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Wisconsin. His practice involves the critical use of collage, montage, and appropriation, and the exploration of the contextual meaning of images and objects. Brandon has exhibited work in the Aces(s) electronic media festival in Pau, France, The European Media Arts Festival in Osnabruck, Germany, and at Project 101 in Paris among several other national and international venues. Brandon’s work has been produced in DVD editions, used as illustration for various editorial publications and books, and has been published in poster editions. Brandon also currently co-produces a broadcast video art program through Milwaukee Public Access channel 96.
Brandon co-edited the book Peace Signs: the Anti-War Movement Illustrated, published in two editions and released in 2004. Gustavo Gili of Barcelona, Spain published the Spanish-language edition, and Edition Olms, based in Zurich, Switzerland, published editions in English, French, and German. In 2003 a DVD of Brandon’s early experimental video, Signaldrift: a Day Under the City, was released by the Paris-based video art label Lowave. In 2009, the experimental-noise label FTAM released a DVD of Brandon’s collaborations with noise musician Peter J. Woods, titled Hungry Ghosts.
Brandon received his BFA in painting from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1996, and his MA from the UWM in 2008. Brandon is currently completing his MFA in Intermedia at UWM and is a 2009-2010 Graduate Student Fellowship recipient. Brandon is an adjunct Time Based Media faculty member at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
1) How would you describe your field of study/research to a friend who is not in your graduate program?
I am in the Interdisciplinary Visual Arts program in the Peck School of the Arts at UW-Milwaukee. Choosing the Interdisciplinary focus means that I approach my work in a conceptual manner, and then I decide how best to realize the work materially. My practice involves the critical use of collage, montage, and appropriation, and the exploration of the contextual meaning of images and objects. Art creates a critical space. Images and objects brought into an art context and divorced from the ways they normally function or circulate in the world are considered in a new light within this critical space. Art can bring a new focus to the ordinary, the everyday, or the overlooked, and can force interactions between images or objects that may not be readily apparent in another context. Images and representations can be taken at face value in other forms, but within the sphere of art larger cultural issues about image circulation, narrative structures, or the ideological constructions of representations can all be investigated in intriguing and challenging ways. I see art as a unique and crucial space to examine, address, and comment on larger issues within our culture.
2) What brought you to UWM for your graduate studies?
I was living in Milwaukee, and had been familiar with UM-Milwaukee and the Peck School of the Arts. The Peck School of the Arts has consistently brought great things to the Milwaukee art scene, from the public lecture series, visiting artists, film screenings, and excellent slate of exhibitions though Inova, it seemed like a very strong program.
3) What’s been your best experience so far?
I would have to say, collaborating with A. Bill Miller—then a graduate student and now a lecturer in the UWM Art Department—on our installation “Beer Barons and Brewery Workers” at the historic Blatz building downtown for the Make Your Own History exhibition in the spring of 2008. It was great to meet him, and begin a collaborative relationship with our art. The project was fun and challenging as well, creating a site-specific work in the Blatz building that spoke to the larger history of the brewing industry in Milwaukee. That collaboration has spawned further projects, and Bill and I continue to work together today.
4) If you were able to merge another discipline with yours, what would that be and why?
I would love to work with Architecture and Urban Planning. I feel artists can have a lot to contribute to ideas about public space and urban navigation. I am interested in the theories of the Situationists, and the conceptual architectural projects that Situationist artists like Constant Nieuwenhuys developed, as well as the ideas of contemporary architects like Rem Koolhaas. I love how Koolhaas describes space as a sequence or montage, using film language. With collage and montage being the conceptual starting point at the heart of my practice, I find it exciting to think of these ideas in terms of an immersive space, especially on the kind of scale that architecture can function. Not only that but, with new green building techniques and innovations like zero energy video walls, the notion of architectural montage and sequence can be pushed in interesting, immersive, and sustainable ways.
5) What is your favorite stress-reduction activity?
I would have to say playing with my little baby girl—Eden! Everyday she grows physically and mentally. It is amazing to witness her as she grows and develops. She is a very happy little girl, and she brings a lot of joy to my wife, Wendy, and me!
6) What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
I love this city. It really is my home. I feel Milwaukee is severely underrated. Obviously there are problems here as well, and those should not be ignored, but with that being said, we do have a lot to be proud of here. We have a beautiful lakefront, which we can thank the history of Milwaukee socialism for, as well as the other imprints that history has left on this city. Milwaukee is also very fortunate to have places like Growing Power, and Simple Soyman—who make the best tofu ever. Not to mention places like the Oriental Theater, and all of the wonderful restaurants all over the city. There really is a lot to love, as well as a lot to work towards to make this city even better.
7) Is there anything that you’ve had to “give up” as a graduate student?
The short answer would be a social life… Between full-time graduate study with TA and PA appointments, teaching as an adjunct at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, producing a video art television program through MATA Community Media, continuing to exhibit my work both in Milwaukee and around the country, not to mention my wife Wendy has now started graduate school as well, and as I mentioned, our beautiful little baby girl who is full of life and full of boundless energy… needless to say a social life has really gone to the wayside. I hope that when I am done with my MFA it will not be to late to resurrect some of it.
8) What are your plans for after graduate school?
Looking for a full time teaching position, as well as continuing to work on my artwork and exhibit it.
9) What trait do you find most necessary to succeed in graduate school?
Dedication, hard work, and self-motivation to push yourself further than you thought you could go. Graduate school has been an insane pressure cooker for me, but it has been incredibly productive and challenging. I have to give a lot of credit to my committee, who has consistently pushed me to refine and expand my ideas and not let me settle for simple answers—unless the simple answer came through a lot of hard work and was found to be the best answer! You really do need to push yourself; I cannot stress that enough.
10) Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
I think the biggest piece of advice I would give would be to choose your committee wisely. Take the time to meet as many different faculty as possible in your first year and find out who understands the ideas you are developing, and find those who challenge you in ways that are most helpful to your process. Having a good committee can mean all the difference in this program. There are a lot of great faculty to work with, but not everyone is going to be the right fit for the direction you want to take in your work. The faculty are very dedicated to what they do, and they take what you say seriously, so take what you do and say seriously while you are here. You are ultimately building a relationship with your committee that will carry you through the program so it is important to find the right balance of voices and personalities to work with in that process.