Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SRQ Tic Tac Toe


Sarasota (SRQ) is a community of many voices that are not equally heard. Here the modern folks meet today’s most reactionary minority, struggling to push the slightest progressive initiatives forward. This city is living in a pivotal moment in its history, trying to shift secular paradigms to adapt to nowadays fast changing society.

In our research for this project, we came across several people who have helped us understand the situation that perpetuates divisions and miscommunication amongst citizens of Sarasota. These are some of the major ones:

Leon Middleton, the famous artist
Leon Middleton is homeless artist who has been in Sarasota for the past 40 years. He experienced many struggles finding his means to produce his work and have a dignified way of living. However, he has a strong sense of integrity and a hopeful vision for this city.

Carolyn Mason is Sarasota’s County Commissioner, grew up in New Town and has worked in the Government for a really long time. She works hard for many efforts to bring Sarasota together,

Susan Atwell has been the city’s mayor for two cycles. As a former art therapist, Mayor Atwell believes Art has great potential for healing. She is a great supporter of public art, not only to create a sense of place in the city, but to make it more attractive to tourists and visitors.

Jen Nugent in her studio
David Berry is the Director of Education of the Ringling Museum. Mr. Berry is on a mission to attract a younger population to this historic space, as an opportunity to open dialogue about the city’s past that seems to be long forgotten.

Jen Nugent is an insightful fine artist, alumna of Ringling College of Art and Design. She lived all her life in Florida, and has taken a very active role in the Sarasota community. She is involved in the contemporary art group called SaRtQ, and a special program she initiated in collaboration with Ringling Museum, the Ringling Underground Series.

SRQ City's logo
By looking into public art, this documentary talks about the way imported icons manipulate a community’s perception of itself. We start by looking at the most obvious example of the city’s iconography, it’s logo with the silhouette of a naked man, it is the bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David that is sitting at the loggia of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Reflecting upon it, we realize how the issue of imported art in this city has deep roots. In late 1920’s, John Ringling brought not only David, but hundreds of roman-greek replicas from Italy to embellish the St. Armand Circle’s streets and his private collection that later became part of the state museum we have today. Somehow, this movement informed a lot of what would come to town in the future.

Unconditional Surrender being assembled
Unconditional Surrender was brought to town by an organization called Season of Sculpture. Originally, it was here for a temporary exhibition of contemporary art, but then it was purchased and donated to the city. That way, it brought a lively discussions about public art. Some claim it was not worth of its purchase or its placement, being a copy and unoriginal piece of art. Others claim that it transcended a mere piece of art, and it worked as a monument for the population of second world war veterans in town, who had a very emotional response and attachment to this piece.

Complexus is another piece brought by Season of Sculpture, this time, with a specific intent. Try to please the “Artsy” community in town. To our understanding, that’s only the talk amongst the ones who were involved in the purchase of the piece. It’s a perfect example of when art becomes a matter of status quo and ostentation.


Many initiatives have been brought to the city as a way to diversify the art’s scene, diverging from the classical bourgeois attractions and offering something that caters the youth and minorities. We talk to some of the initiators and current coordinators of these activities, and they face many difficulties trying to push the boundaries to make them successful.

In 2010, the Chalk Festival brought the urban artist MTO, who created what was known as the Fast Life mural. The mural brought up several debates amongst people from all over the city and ended up having to be painted over because people could not deal with it otherwise. This was an episode that proved that Sarasota is not ready to deal with its innate complexity through the honest expression of an artist.

The overarching conflict is that of art versus money. Younger artists as well as minority groups struggle to have a share in the city’s decision making process regarding public art due to the lack of money. Art has been objectified to the extent of being viewed only in monetary/marketing terms and becomes a rather meaningless commodity, Art has become business, in our documentary we are exploring the intricate interrelationship and conflict between the two, using multiple case studies, that include public art and recent developments.

There is a disconnection from the past, that causes these symbols to quickly lose their meaning to people, slowly fading into cultural affirmations that have little or no relevance to the city’s identity, excluding a large portion of the community. We want this to be the story of a community that unites voices, celebrating local as a way of building meaning and history together.


The first thing that has to be analyzed to make change a possibility is the willingness of people to take the change upon themselves to happen. One thing is for certain: There is a lack of dialogue between these different groups. Which leads to a strong dissonance of voices in the process of shaping the city’s identity. This project intends to open up the opportunity for conversation, aiming to contribute to the discussion with the juxtaposition of the characters depicted here.

The City needs to refocus its strategy around money making opportunities and focus on its people instead, leaving the trivial question of aesthetics to the side and listening to the needs of the people who are here to have a decent living, and not simply appearing to do so. Another important paradigm shift would be that of focusing on the needs of individual artists, so that younger artists and locals have an incentive to stay and contribute to Sarasota’s future development as a true artistic integrated community.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

MANA origins

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty, or God, it is not, as the sesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy, it is not the expression of man's emotions by external signs, it is not the production of pleasing objects, and above all it is not pleasure, but it is a union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress towards well-being of individuals and of humanity.
– Tolstoy

"Everybody is looking for their way home." 
Rashit Suleymanov

This year we are making a documentary about the role of the artist in the community and the power that art has to bring people home. In this post we are going to talk about MANA's origins.

MANA Studio originated in Spring 2009 while Ted and me were sitting at an ice cream place and discussing the value of freedom of being able to experiment and explore. The first name for the experimental film club we came up with was Sarascroutum. The term MANA sprang a little later.

We have discovered that the tribes of Melanesia and other Australian aboriginal peoples thought of their world in terms of MANA.

To them mana is power or influence, not physical but showing itself in enabling a man to do or to get what he wants. This "mana" may be in anything, men, wood, trees, animals, stone, or any object large or small, and can be invoked by charms for use. Living beings, spirits or men, liberate it and set it free for use through prayer and sacrifice or charms. Certain things have "mana" for particular purposes; a stone for instance, will have "mana" for making yams grow big; a charm, a form of words, has "mana", e.g. to bring rain. Some spirit has associated itself with the stone or bit of bone, or whatever it is, and works through it. So men have "mana" because of some spirit whose power they can use. Eating the flesh of the tribal official would give one “mana”, which makes those tribes cannibal. MANA studio does not practice cannibalism, however we believe in the power of art. Art is MANA to us.

As Carl Jung states in his book Man and His Symbol:

• The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium. This is what I call the complementary (or compensatory) role of dreams in the psychic make-up.

• For the sake of mental stability and even physiological health, the unconscious and the conscious must be integrally connected and thus move on parallel lines. If they are split apart or dissociated, psychological disturbance follows. In this respect, dream symbols are the essential message carriers.

• Sign - always less than the concept it represents

• Symbol - stands for something more than immediate meaning

If we are to see things in their right perspective, we need to understand the past of man as well as his present. That is why an understanding of myths and symbols is of essential importance.

Aboriginal art carries its’ traditions and symbols for approximately 40,000 years. They dream, and through the symbols that they create by dreaming they connect to their unconscious and keep the harmony between the body and the spirit and the world around.

A Yanyuwa man from the Gulf of Carpentaria (Mussolini Harvey) has described the link between body painting and the Dreaming:

In our ceremonies we wear marks on our bodies, they come from the dreaming too, we carry the design that the Dreamings gave to us. When we wear that Dreaming mark we are carrying the country, we are keeping the Dreaming held up, we are keeping the country and the Dreaming alive.

Aboriginal peoples give us clues to how symbols bring people home. Here is a photo of the turtle we took downtown Sarasota.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art Honesty

After a long time away from MANA, we, Malika and I, finally began putting together a project that translates the very reason why we created this studio: making art, with honesty. 

In the world today art suffers from many diverging intentions and results. Many times, art becomes a commodity or even an object of adoration – such as in museums and galleries. Also, there are times artists shock the audiences for the sake of gaining fame and recognition.

To many art professionals their notion is changing from creation into production. Who creates for the sake of creating? Express for the sake of expressing? Communicates for the sake of communication? Things seem to shifting to the extent that such questions make sense to some of us. For some reason expression, communication and creativity are not necessarily considered to be a fundamental human need any longer. In fact, art is viewed by many as something not needed in society.

We realize this is not a new problem, in fact it has always been a struggle for art to exist, and in part that has almost been something that perpetuates art in society, this constant effort to nurture it, it is actually a very natural thing. From ancient times, cave paintings, dance and music have always been part of who we are as species, the way we interact with each other. Art came out of the most common human experience, the one of being part of this race, having a sense of pertinence to our communities and express that value of connection somehow.

Quote from Malika's dad: "We are all looking for a way home". Looking into the art scene in the local community of Sarasota, we find Clothesline Gallery, a place that brings people together through the arts. Exploring the role of the artist socially and historically, we see this is one magical thing art is able to do, create concepts that unite ideas, individuals and dreams.

This feels as essential as needed these days, and making this documentary, just like any MANA project is a reflection of that desire to make people understand and feel part of greater forces, the ones that unite us as humans, and makes us what we are.
In a sense I've made the same film over and over again. asking the same simple question: "who are we?" which transformed into "Who am I?"
– Ken Burns

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Get Your Picture

Studio MANA featuring Devin Hughes presents:

"This was a very unique experience, that has helped me experiment artistically- The MANA crew lead by Ted Weber helped me fulfill my dream of this creation, and I was blessed to have such a collaboration."

- Devin Hughes


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Subterranean Celebration

This Friday, January 28, MANA projected a mash up of experimental films by Jabari Anderson, Devin Hughes and Ted Weber, as a part of the Subterranean Celebration, the biggest on campus event organized by the Zig Zag crew. The event was taking place on Ringling College campus inside and outside of the exhibition hall.  Preparing for the event took out many sleepless nights, coffees , technical glitches and newspapers and in the end it turned out to be just amazing. The mash-up from the celebration is going to be soon online for you to watch.
The MANA space of the exhibition was covered with newspapers and filled with old TV-sets, a found crucified doll with Christmas lights on it's head brought a cheerful spirit, since we have luckily helped it find its owner.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reel Screening Outdoors

Today was our debut in the college. We projected a reel of archive videos made by Dee Hood, Devin Hughes, Malika Suleymanova and Ted Weber. The sound was loud and cristal clear, it attracted people not only from our campus, but also from the local community. It was quite a show, the way the image and sound echoed made all the surroundings reverberate to the night.

Our first meeting will be next Tuesday, December 2nd, at 6:30 p.m., in front of Keating 3 (behind the photo studios). Come to hear from us what this is all about, things we're planing for next semester, and sign up for it, enjoy this opportunity to explore thoughts and senses you didn't even know you had.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Opening Title

This is the new opening title that we designed. Either this version, or a variation with a different sound will be placed at the beginning of MANA projects. This project was a collaborative work by Ted Weber and Russell Beazell.