The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

UCIRA Container Project

The Container Project: Explorations in Mobility at UC Santa Barbara

The Container Project began in 2005 when the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts approached Jorgen Staal, president of J. Staal Storage Solutions, to see if he would be interested in entering into an experimental partnership. A number of collaborations grew out of this first request — involving the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, as well as a wide array of artists who share an interest in re-using shipping containers in various ways. In the Fall of 2005, Jorgen Staal agreed to donate several used shipping containers for use at the University and The Container Project was officially begun. The participants (local artists, students from area high schools, students from UCSB, and others) have been exploring potential alternative uses for the containers ever since. The project has seen several manifestations; in each case the result has been a direct response to community interests or needs. The various projects are outlined below.

UC Santa Barbara/UC Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) Open Container class

Responding to the need for alternative affordable housing in Isla Vista, students in UCSB’s Art Department were involved in a year-long exploration of the possibilities for new types of housing in their community. They worked with campus architects, county planners, land-use consultants and internationally recognized architects who specialize in alternative design to think through this problem. The Open Container class gave the students an opportunity to work to transform a shipping container into an affordable dwelling unit.

Labor Exchange exhibition/exhibition space. A second container found a temporary home behind the Santa Barbara Museum of Art as part of Santa Barbara’s month-long celebration of contemporary art, Off Axis. As part of the programming for the exhibition Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, local artists transformed the container into a temporary installation entitled Labor Exchange: How Much for a Buck? Participating artists included Calico Brown, Tiffany Chung, Jennifer Figg, Mike Godwin, Billy Hood, Cleveland Motley, Jennifer Vanderpool and Kim Yasuda. In response to the dynamic issues surrounding the container and its pivotal influence on global trade, labor and the distribution of cheaply manufactured goods, artists were each offered a $100 commission to generate works of art that utilized materials purchased at ‘dollar stores’. A cinema screening space was also created within ‘the box’ which featured the film Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005, David Redmon). The film traces the Mardi Gras beads manufactured by laborers in Chinese factories to the festive streets of New Orleans.

Mobile Arts Lab I: The Tamayo Mobile

In September 2006, the container was remade again under the guidance of master artists Bob DeBris and Carolyn Allen. Sponsored by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the College of Creative Studies’ Arts Institute, an outreach program for local elementary through high school students, the container was transformed into a wandering art gallery and tribute to Rufino Tamayo, whose work was featured in the SBMA exhibition: Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted. The transformation included murals made for the exterior of the container, poems written in response to Tamayo’s art, plywood figures, photographs and films all responding to or commenting on Tamayo. The Tamayo Mobile as it has fondly been dubbed, was the centerpiece of SBMA’s community celebration kicking off the exhibition and has now traveled as a ‘mobile arts lab’ to nine different sites throughout Santa Barbara county (jointly arranged by The Container Project board of directors in conjunction with various community partners): these include the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, McKinley School (Santa Barbara), La Cumbre Jr. High (Santa Barbara), Community Day School/La Colina Jr. High (Santa Barbara), Isla Vista Teen Center (Isla Vista), El Camino Jr. High (Santa Maria), Guadalupe Cultural Arts and Education Center (Guadalupe), Mary Buren Elementary (Guadalupe), and People’s Self Help Housing, Riverside Townhouses (Guadalupe). In each of these locations students have had the opportunity to work in and on the container, creating art work of their own and entering into conversation with the work of their peers.

CONFERENCE:

November 8th, 9th & 10th, 2007: The Traveling Box: Containers as the Global Icon of our Era . On November 8th, 9th and 10th UC Santa Barbara’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and the Center for Work, Labor and Democracy will be hosting The Traveling Box: Containers as the Global Icon of our Era. This international conference will explore the social, economic, and cultural impact of the shipping container and containerization. The Traveling Box conference brings together an interdisciplinary group of practitioners and scholars with expertise in geography, sociology, history, urban planning, architecture, art and business logistics. The 25 plus speakers will discuss the impact of containerization on the urban landscape, national consumption patterns, distribution and port security. In addition to the conference, we will have a number of special events, including keynote addresses by noted author Marc Levinson (The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger), architect Jennifer Siegal of the Office of Mobile Design, and a film screening and Q&A session with filmmaker Allan Sekula (Lottery of the Sea). There will be several modified containers on display – one that has been transformed into habitable space, another that has been turned into a ‘mobile arts lab’. The events will culminate on Saturday the 10th with a tour of the Port of Los Angeles, led by Dave Arian, past president of the ILWU.

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2007 Open Up the Box Competition: Call for Proposals

Over a period of two months in 2005, the UC Institute for Research in the Arts demonstration project Open Container took place as part of a class taught jointly by Professors Kim Yasuda and Dick Hebdige of UC Santa Barbara. With a small budget for supplies and donated materials from local shipping company, J. Staal Storage Solutions, two shipping containers were transformed into a modular dwelling unit. A third container served as exhibition space for the proposed design prototypes. The course was a research and studio exploration of the transportable and residential mobility of container culture, with a focus on reuse and sustainability. UCIRA and J Staal Storage Solutions would like to open up opportunities for others to devise and execute equally dynamic and innovative research and design experiments. Engaging affordability and sustainability as themes for this inaugural competition, participants are asked to use two 20-foot shipping containers as the raw material to create attractive, functional and eco-friendly designs as possible solutions to the affordable housing question. The sponsors seek a building that will be mobile, functional and beautiful. Successful designs need to prove both cost and energy efficient as well as conform to current local zoning and building codes. This competition offers visibility and recognition to the winning proposal and a chance to see the project realized in three dimentions in a key location on the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Mobile Arts Lab II-UC Santa Barbara artists Jane Mulfinger and Billy Hood

The Mobile Arts Lab II, currently under construction, is part of an ongoing project that converts shipping containers into ‘mobile arts labs’, takes those labs to schools and community centers within the city of Santa Barbara to provide arts experiences for underserved youth, and employs professional artists in residence at each site. The project builds on the success of the first mobile arts lab – The Tamayo Mobile – this time undertaking the theme: mobile media/mobile environments. Upon completion the lab will visit at least the following five (5) sites: Franklin Community Center, Harding School, Santa Barbara Teen Center, Casa de la Raza, and the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara, in addition to an ongoing display site at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

The Mobile Arts Lab II is part of an ongoing project that converts shipping containers into ‘mobile arts labs’, takes those labs to schools and community centers within the city of Santa Barbara to provide arts experiences for underserved youth, and employs professional artists in residence at each site. The project builds on the success of the first mobile arts lab – The Tamayo Mobile – this time undertaking the theme: mobile media/mobile environments. Upon completion the lab will visit at least the following five (5) sites: Franklin Community Center, Harding School, Santa Barbara Teen Center, Casa de la Raza, and the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara, in addition to an ongoing display site at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art .

Mobile Arts Lab II: BACKGROUND
The unexpected success of The Tamayo Mobile specifically, and the ‘mobile arts lab’ idea in general, has pointed out a very real need in the Santa Barbara community: the need for access to the arts. The mobile arts labs provide a space for work to be seen (many children have no access to the arts), artwork to be made (many schools have no official arts instruction or even classrooms), and also provide a unique arts experience (most schools have no formally trained artists on staff). As Alma Robinson, executive director of California Lawyers for the Arts points out: Since funding for sequential arts training has virtually disappeared from California public school system since Prop 13 passed in 1978, a generation has grown up without arts in the schools. At one time, the California Arts Council expanded its programs to try and fill this gap: currently the Arts Council has been almost totally de-funded. As a result, there is little- to no funding for community arts projects, arts in schools or for at-risk teen programs, all of which means that our emerging artists, [the young people of Santa Barbara], have fewer opportunities to find their footing and life-sustaining work in fields that may change the course of their lives.
The board of The Container Project has already entered into conversations with local artists Laurel Beckman, Graham Budgett, Billy Hood, Jane Mulfinger, and Cristina Venegas (Latino Cinemedia), each of whom have agreed to participate in the project in some way – from creating content for the container to producing interactive work (mobile media) to travel within the mobile environment, to serving as artist in residence at one or more of the sites. Billy Hood and Jane Mulfinger will be the primary partners in the project along with Graham Budgett, Mark-David Hosale, and August Black.

Funding for this project has been provided by a generous grant from the City of Santa Barbara Community Arts Grant Program, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the UC Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) and the UC Santa Barbara Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and J Staal Storage Solutions. The funding will pay for the following:
- rebuilding of the pull out unit that anchors the exhibition space of the container
- creation of a ’screening room’ within the container
- purchase of disposable digital cameras and disposable digital recorders
- reconceptualization of Jane Mulfinger and Graham Budgett’s REGRETS project for the mobile space of the container and creation/installation of the new work
- payment to artists to create the work
- payment to artists to serve as artist-in-residence at each of the project sites

The goal for future fund -raising activities is to establish an ongoing partnership with the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, UCIRA and various donors to make the mobile arts lab a permanent fixture of the Santa Barbara arts education scene.

Artists in residence are an integral part of the process. The artists will spend approximately 4 days at each location working with teachers and students on projects tying the box directly to the curriculum, with a focus on the California arts standards.

Mobile Arts Lab II: THE ARTISTS
Billy Hood: Billy Hood has been involved with the project since its inception – first as leader on the team of UCSB students who worked on the Open Container affordable housing project, and then as a participating artist for the SBMA show Labor Exchange: How Much for a Buck? For that show, Hood not only undertook one of the $100 commissions but also designed and crafted a pull out unit that anchors the exhibition space of the container – extending the useful space past the four steel walls, and also serving multiple functions – from mobile drawing station, to base for a micro-cinema screening area (see attached images). This unit has stayed in the container throughout its life as The Tamayo Mobile, serving as a retractable exhibition wall and base for display of 3-D images. In addition to working as a master artist on this project, Billy will also revamp the unit, which has taken a beating as the container has moved from space to space and been utilized by several thousand school-aged kids. Hood will graduate with an MFA in Art from UCSB in June and has agreed to stay on with the project for the duration of the grant period.

Jane Mulfinger. After receiving a BA with Honors from Stanford University in 1983, Mulfinger lived in Berlin and London, completing an MFA with distinction from the Royal College of Art in 1989. She is now based in California. Her most recent work with her partner Graham Budgett is an interactive media piece entitled REGRETS. A version of this work, geared specifically to the space of the container and the public it will reach, will form the basis her work on the mobile media/mobile environments project. Further information about REGRETS can be found at <http://regrets.org.uk/>. The next iteration of the project will be on view in Paris, Fr. in June of 2008 http://www.lesiteducube.com/site/index.php?section=festival_1ercontact
A short summary of the work follows: the equipment for the project in its original incarnation consists of four custom-designed backpack input/display units used to carry computers to the public in a conceptually interesting way.  The units are wirelessly connected to a central database using a [GPRS] mobile-phone network.  There is also a kiosk/booth which is a central meeting point, the mother-ship, designed as a half cylinder on wheels that can be rolled straight out of a vehicle and maneuvered to a chosen site by a single attendant. It holds a computer with printer and provides both shelter and privacy for users. When first exhibited/performed, over a 10-day period in Cambridge, England, the mobile units roamed public space within the city to collect and then display anonymous regrets from the public to comprise a sociological database of time- & site-specific sentiment in the community. REGRETS Cambridge was an interactive archive, a public conceptual artwork, and a study of communally shared but typically private recollections. The intention of the piece is to position human regret [especially remorseful regret] as a positive entity – to question the common assertion that we should have no regrets – and to see regret as a useful learning tool.  There is another logic at work here, one that celebrates introspection and thoughtfulness in the individual psyche at the same time that it publicizes it.  The project explores the complex interaction of memory and regret by creating an archive that stands as a metaphor for individual memory but also has the capacity of collective thought – the play of thoughts, the montage of themes,the juxtaposition of yours and mine. At the end of the performative interactive phase of this local work over 3,000 submissions had been collected, indicating a keen interest in finding common ground.
Jane will work with her partner Graham Budgett, as well as with co-artist Billy Hood, to adapt the spirit and technology of REGRETS to the mobile media/mobile environments project, giving students the opportunity to participate in a local virtual arts community, but also the chance to develop their own work around questions that interest them. The nature of these questions is at this time, speculative, as it will be worked out by the artists in conjunction with the students. However, the idea of beginning the project from the starting point of human emotions (regret, love, happiness, etc.) is one that appeals to all involved as a way to productively get at the issues that matter most to our local teen population.

Isla Vista / West Campus Interventions

Projects include two temporary container structures next to the now-condemned Cameron Hall on UC Santa Barbara’s West Campus, and the extreme makeover of the Isla Vista Bakery.

Over a period of two months in 2006, the UCIRA demonstration project Open Container took place as part of a class taught jointly by Professors Kim Yasuda and Dick Hebdige of UC Santa Barbara. With a modest budget for supplies and donated materials from local shipping company J. Staal Storage Solutions, two shipping containers were transformed into a modular research studio unit over the course of the 2006-7 academic year (see attached images). The course served as an interdisciplinary studio research exploration of the transportable and residential mobility of container culture, with a focus on reuse and sustainability.

UCIRA would like to facilitate equally active research and design experiments by others in our community by hosting a design competition. Engaging affordability and sustainability as themes, participants will be asked to use two 20-foot shipping containers as the raw material to create attractive, functional and eco-friendly designs as possible solutions to our central coast affordable housing question. Foremost, designs will need to prove both cost and energy efficiency as well as conform to current local zoning and building codes.

UCIRA is seeking to place two temporary structures on a location on West Campus – either near Cameron Hall or the faculty studios. One of these is the ‘studio unit’ described above and a second modified unit, which will be the resulting design of the competition.  Spaces would be utilized as day studios by UCSB honors students to replace 4 of the 8 recently closed Cameron Hall studios (the Arts classroom space was shut down in 2006 due to mold and asbestos), adjacent to the proposed site.  Units will be installed during the Summer 2008 and will be relocated by the end of 2010.

Placement near Cameron Hall, the former studio space for art students, appears to be an appropriate site. The land surrounding the existing building is relatively flat and accessible by the road and parking lot. Moreover, existing plumbing and electrical remains available and accessible for hook-up to the proposed temporary units.  Proposed design RFQ states that the units must be self-leveling so no grading of the area should be necessary before the units are placed.  Landscaping of decomposed gravel will surround the units to provide a safe walkway. The exterior of Cameron Hall is already rigged with active security lighting that can be adapted for use of the new mobile units.

The containers will be designed so that they function effectively off the grid, but will allow for the possibility of future hook-up to the grid if necessary/desired. Electricity will be self-generating but there will also be the option to ‘plug in’ to the grid if and when available. A detached bathroom with a composting or incinerating toilet will be included in the design as well. In discussions with campus architect, Marc Fisher, we anticipate the possibility of utilizing an existing bathroom/sink facility in Camero Hall.

Isla Vista Extreme: Bakery Makeover

In a continued effort to foster local campus-community partnerships through project-based curricula and demonstration, UCIRA Co-Director and Art Professor, Kim Yasuda targeted Isla Vista Bakery as the site for aesthetic study and renovation by UCSB undergraduates in this current quarter’s spatial studies course. Team-taught with adjunct faculty artist, David Jurist, students are working in coordination with the Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency as part of its “Façade Improvement Program”. The class members will provide physical enhancements to the store fron, coupling student creativity and labor with redevelopment matching funds up to $15,000.

As a continuation of “Open Container” project series, this current course explores potential venue production and intervention through art, taking on the investigations of real spaces outside of the UCSB classroom/campus. This particular storefront renovation project, currently in its conceptual design planning stages, will involve a range of strategies including, frontage/façade and patio enhancements, furniture design + fabrication, graphics, interior design, programmable art exhibition space, menu redesign, landscaping and potential innovative sustainable business practices to make IV Bakery the hippest, hot spot in town.

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