The Center For Ongoing Research and Projects: An Interview with Ryland Wharton

[uds-billboard name=”CORP”]I recently got together with Columbus-based Artist Ryland Wharton to discuss heavy metal records, building a library and his newly launched art space, The Center For Ongoing Research and Projects (COR&P). From the website, “COR&P is, among other things, a gallery space dedicated to facilitating and investigating research-based art practices through exhibitions, events, and publications.”

Melissa Vogley Woods: How did you come to the decision to create The Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (COR&P)? Could you talk briefly on how this connects to your practice, how you came to commit to this concept, and how you see the program forming or changing over time?

Ryland Wharton: COR&P comes out of an interest into what artists do in the studio, and how this relates to the processes of researchers and academics from various disciplines. I’m interested in how artists conduct research, and how the processes of researching and investigating result in an object/performance/event. So I see COR&P as a type of recursive exercise: it is research into the research process. I am quite interested in working with artists who have a research-based practice, but that is a fairly open constraint.

There are a couple of strategies in place for projects at COR&P. We’ll be creating a publication for each exhibition. In addition, there is a library at The Center. Each visiting artist selects 5 books related in some form to their practice to add to the library. We’ll have this library displayed on the website, as well in the gallery during certain times of the year.

MVW: What are the advantages for an artist to create a space and program such as COR&P in Columbus?

RW: Columbus is full of potential. While the arts community here is smaller than in NYC or LA, there is one of the best contemporary art centers in the country in the Wexner Center, several Art graduate programs, and a tier one research University. On top of that, the cost of living is lower. COR&P is a small and intimate endeavor; it is a low-risk space for the artist/researcher to exhibit and work. I couldn’t do this in a larger city. Here there is the space and there is interest. There’s a lot going on in Columbus, but there’s still a desire for more. It isn’t over saturated. The community here is engaged, educated, and eager.

MVW: How do you see COR&P’s archive? …compiled on the website, in the library, publications? …operate not only locally but more broadly, away from the space?

RW: I think the internet and publications are very important in distributing artifacts of COR&P projects and exhibitions–not just because they make our work accessible around the world, but because they become another lens to look at an artist’s process and work. For Shana Lutker‘s exhibition at COR&P, we published a tabloid-sized newspaper that paired text from her research diary with photographs and images she collected while in Paris researching the history of the fistfights of the surrealists. It is a publication for the show, but it is also a work in itself that will travel to other venues.

MVW: How do you see revealing research–a typically hidden “material”? What effect do you think this could have on current conversations around making, process and the idea of an artwork?

RW: I think establishing COR&P as a project space, and one that has the words “ongoing” and “research” in the title allows us to be flexible, and to evolve and learn as we go. Different types of publications and events may be more productive than others, depending on how specific artists work and view their own process. As I said, the curatorial process is research itself, so I learn new things and have new questions with each project. On top of that, each artist not only has a different definition of “research,” they each maintain a different relationship between the research process and their work. For some it is hidden, and only supplementary texts or statements reveal it. For others, that process is foregrounded. The Center explores the area between those poles.

For Shana’s work, the newspaper could illuminate your experience of her project. But it also stood alone. During gallery visiting hours, she led tours of her installation and talked about the research process. The publication and her presence were a mechanism for “revealing” or at least hinting at the context and the history she referenced.

MVW: The connection between The Center and to your own work is strong. Could you touch on your recent work and how you develop your own research?

RW: I’ve always been interested in the human relationship with information–how we consume it, how we process it, how the research process takes shape and leads to knowledge and new questions. I’ve been particularly fascinated with systems of information, including archives and collections, and how those are amassed and dispersed. One of the areas that I’ve been researching for awhile is heavy metal culture and the social networks that underpinned it. I’m curious how those pre-world wide web networks could be retraced in our current society. As part of that research I wrote some software to collect ebay auction images of records that are favorites of my collection of metal albums. These records that are being sold are objects with a history–they bear the marks of their use. I’ve always loved that an object can accumulate wear from use over time, and that can become one with the object when we encounter it.

So there are lots of artifacts coming from the heavy metal research, but most recently, I made a poster entitled Exhume to Consume to Exhume Again from a series of the ebay images for Angie Waller‘s Pretty Conceptual show, which was a sort of exhibition/pop-up shop. And I’ve been continuing to work with output and material from my Soft Information Systems project, which was an attempt to create new narratives and ideas using exclusively books that were contained in the first volume of Stewart Brand’s The Whole Earth Catalog.

Both of these projects originate in my own personal history–I still remember encountering The Whole Earth Catalog as a child on my parents’ shelf and wandering through it, trying to understand what it contained. The metal project came from packing and unpacking my own record collection for a cross-country move. I was struck by replacing the records on the shelf, and my history with them, and the time they spent before I encountered them.

MVW: I am really interested in the Library you will create. Could you elaborate on why you are creating a library? Could you talk a bit about how this operates–why you came to add this element to the COR&P programing?

RW: This is something we’ve just started and I have some big ideas about it. The Library is a way of looking at source material and inspiration for artists, but there are really are no guidelines for selection. As it grows, it will be come a combined artifact/archive that documents the individual choices of the artists and the history of COR&P. And seeing these books next to each other, each chosen by a different artist, creates something else entirely. A new body of information ripe for interpretation and arrangement, which of course gets back to something that I’m interested in my own work.


Images courtesy of Ryland Wharton unless otherwise noted.

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