SAIC's Andres Hernandez discusses his recent work and residency with Arts + Public Life.

July 10, 2014

By Mitch Marr

Chicago artist-designer-educator Andres L. Hernandez spent the early part of his residency focused on Absence is Fullness: A (E)utopian Assembly, an experimental forum focused on themes of absence and emptiness. The culminating months of his residency include an interactive installation at the Logan Center and Forum as Form, an exhibition at the Arts Incubator. Hernandez is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Education as well as an artist-in-residence with Arts + Public Life and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture. 

How does your upcoming Forum as Form differ from your monthly series Absence is Fullness?

AH: I envision Absence is Fullness as a way to experiment with the shape and content of what we might experience through a traditional public forum. Instead of debating current issues, or gathering in protest, or “soapboxing,” I am interested in creating opportunities for public interaction, dialogue, and reflection on absence primarily through the form of Happenings, a concept pioneered by artist and educator Allan Kaprow. My interests in Forum as Form are slightly different, as I aim to prototype multiple “forum” models as interactive, physical and social sculptures over the course of the exhibition. By taking this approach, I am positioning the forum concept as a spectrum of communal activities, interconnected through ideals of free speech and assembly. As such, through Absence is Fullness and Forum as Form, I hope to explore the efficacy of public forums as models for (e)utopian community building, radical creativity, and social action.

Your recent work explores the possibility inherent in absence and emptiness. So what currently gives you a sense of possibility? Where do you see great possibility?

AH: Some years ago, while on a trip to Detroit with youth from a Chicago Park District program, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the venerable activist Grace Lee Boggs … She said that the open physical landscape of Detroit as it exists today provides an opportunity to rethink how we want to live as urban citizens, and that the solution is not necessarily in rebuilding the city as it once was, but building to support sustainable community models. When I take the “El” to the Incubator and pass by large parcels of vacant land, or when I walk through the neighborhood to document its transitional spaces, I think about the lessons embedded in that conversation in Detroit. If we take time to reflect, not on what is absent, but on what opportunities are provided through absence, we position ourselves to be radically creative in re-imagining our communities for the greater good.

You're also a professor. Does a residency like this affect your life as an educator?

AH: The residency has definitely impacted my life as an educator. I’ve come to view the relationship between my studio and pedagogical practices as a reciprocal one, with a genuine and accepted cross-pollination of ideas and methods. As a faculty member in a department that supports the development of educators as critical citizens and researchers, creators, and community activists, I consider my time in residence as a model of this development.