IdeaFestival 2014 #10: Disruptive Thinking, Ideation & Art Creation: Interrupt, Confuse & Transform the Common Sense of Practices – Sam Van Aken

Sam Van Aken

Friday, October 3, 2014, 10.30-11.30am, (Kentucky Center)

Sam Van Aken’s approach to ideation and art making follows a highly disruptive process that interrupts, confuses and transforms the common sense of practices; the established order of things. This process, which Van Aken will explore at IF, is reflected in his two current bodies of art work: A Hole in the Sky where he attempts to alter the actual weather by using a plane to punch holes in clouds and produce the phenomena known as Jacob’s Ladder and The Tree of 40 Fruit, which is a single tree that has the capacity to grow over 40 different varieties of stone fruit. Attempting the miraculous, these two bodies of work draw from many sources, including a quote by Philosopher David Hume that “a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.”

Presented in partnership with artwithoutwalls.

Sam Van Aken’s artwork takes place in dissonant moments, in the gaps and lost meanings that are created when form and significance are broken down and reordered. Through an expansive approach that incorporates new technology and traditional modes of art making, his work crosses and melds such genres as sculpture, sound, video, and performance. Taking place in lived experience, through such forms as radio hoaxes, a Hollywood film carried out into the real, a tree that grows 40 different types of fruit, and a hole created in the winter skies over New York, his work is an intervention in public and social space that transforms cultural configurations, the common sense of practices, and the natural order of things as it delivers one at a place of unknowing where the very possibility of openness and change occur.

Born in Reading Pennsylvania, Sam Van Aken received his undergraduate education in Art and Communication Theory, studying Symbolic Interactionism which explores how meaning is derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation. Immediately following his studies he lived in Poland and worked with dissident artists under the former communist regime through the auspices of the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. Van Aken received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2001 and since this time his work has been exhibited nationally and internationally receiving numerous honors including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Association of International Curator’s of Art Award and a Creative Capital Grant. Sam Van Aken lives and works in Syracuse New York, where he is currently an Associate Professor in the Art Department at Syracuse University.

Key ideas

  • disruption as interruption
  • confusion creates new ideas – Confuse students to help them learn — John Seely Brown, Chief of Confusion
  • ‘Art and poetry take place where language breaks down.’ (Beckett)
  • A Hole in the Sky – Jacob’s Ladder — weather modification
  • The Tree of 40 Fruits – how to graft a variety of fruits
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