Andrea Zittel & Restriction

I don’t usually find myself enthralled during an entire artist lecture, but Andrea Zittel held my complete attention for the hour she spoke in the Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago on Monday night. The hall was packed as President Massey took centre stage to announce the launch of the Fall 2013 SAIC visiting artist lecture series.  Lisa Wainwright was eloquent in her description of Zittel’s practice as filling the gap between art and life and the “splendid oddness” of her work which she described as perplexing and beautiful.

Zittel has a very warm and down-to-earth manner and I appreciated her admission of extreme nervousness before confidently proceeding to outline a variety of projects with just the right amount of detail, imagery and humour. She certainly knew her audience.

A comment I’ve heard from attendees and those lucky enough to win a studio visit was her openness and generosity. She made us feel is it OK to expose our weaknesses and quirks and allow people to see the things that make us unique, for example: our eating habits, obsessions and need for privacy.

One key point stood out for me. Throughout the entire lecture, she referenced the idea of there being a fine line between freedom and restriction. Many of her projects include strict limitations, whether that be in space, time, material or food supply. Zittel’s work illustrates her argument that “Limitations make us more creative.” I’ve already applied this advice to my own studio practice which has recently become a mixed-bag of media as I attempt to make the most of every single facility SAIC has to offer. Dubious, but willing to try, the restrictions I imposed felt freeing and solved many formal and conceptual issues.

I’m now even more eager to spend some time in the desert alongside Zittel and experience the limitations involved in staying in one of her wagon stations for myself.

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