Summer 2021 News

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Family,

I find writing a newsletter to be a strange exercise under normal circumstances, and it feels doubly bizarre these days. I worry that if I comment on recent events that it will seem as if I’m trying to be profound, and if I don’t that I am contributing to the cultural amnesia that is the US’s hallmark. The third option seems to be vague, anodyne-sounding hopes that people are “doing as well as possible during all this”, which feels like trivialization of ongoing crises.

I’ve been fortunate during the last 15 months. I’ve had personal and professional upheavals and anxiety, but my closest circle has been relatively lightly touched by tragedy from COVID-19. I don’t take this for granted, and I know this is not the case for many of you.

As a white person living in Minneapolis, it’s also difficult to find adequate words to address the epidemic of police violence here. In our metro area, there has been at least one extrajudicial killing of a Black man by law enforcement each year since I moved back here from Germany in 2014, each time triggering protests, community meetings and re-evaluations of police procedure. The brutality of George Floyd’s murder last year by Officer Derek Chauvin (warning: graphic imagery) has created a tipping point where the abolition of police—something that never would have seemed feasible in my youth, or even 5 years ago—is now part of mainstream discussion. I try to contribute to moving that discussion forward where and how I can, but perpetually come up short. Here’s one local organization that’s doing the hard work.

So I am left trying to engage with the world as best I can from my position, which is always changing in relationship to context. Often the best way still seems to be through art—to create room for the constant ambiguity and uncertainty that is, for me, endemic to being human. Part of my good luck has been to have the time during this last year to bring a few projects to completion, and I’m writing to share those with you.

a seafoam green background with a black ink drawing of the lower right corner of a mailbox with the words "three seasons" on itFirst is an illustrated essay in booklet form. Entitled “Three Seasons”, it is a subjective look at porches and how they might help or hinder neighborhood relations. This work has its origins in my return to Minneapolis, when the unfriendly façades of the enclosed porches of the vernacular architecture seemed to be reflecting the social challenges of reintegrating into a fairly closed culture. Many thanks to Andy Sturdevant of Birchwood Palace Industries for helping bring this little guy into physical form.

two magazines lie on a orange velvet background ,surrounded by a pair of black, strappy super high-heel platform shoesSecond is another print-based project, Issue 2 of The GRIND from The Feminist Strip Club. The FSC, a collaborative project begun during my residency in 2019 at the Weisman Art Museum, is a group of current and former erotic dancers who examine the present conditions of and utopian visions for stripping.

Like so many others, our activities and plans were turned upside down by the pandemic. Uncertain access to unemployment insurance, health concerns, job insecurity from strip clubs closing and re-opening and closing again were existential crises for members. But by the second half of 2020, members wanted to pick back up and share what they’d been through. Now, a year after it was originally planned, Issue 2 is available for purchase. Naturally the pandemic influenced the content of this issue, including expanding previously drafted articles about traveling for work and writing completely new ones about switching to online sources of income. But we also found some time and space for more visionary content like self-care tips for dancers and imagining future transfeminist technologies. And though we couldn’t have the big photoshoot we’d planned, we still found some ways to include dancer photos, art and images.

orange, pink, brown and off-white dots are arranged in a diamond pattern with curved, colored lines connecting them in various configurationsI’ve also been working on a series of drawings that diagram various relationships between artist, participant, artwork and audience as I experienced them in the project Das Fundbuero. I’m hoping to complete it as a printed multiple (apparently this is my new medium) by the end of 2021.

I do sincerely hope each of you are well, and I’d love to hear from you, too. I still hold out hope that we can learn new, better ways of being from our experiences in the pandemic, so if you’re looking for someone to share your resistance against “going back to normal”, I’m here for that.

Best Wishes,
Monica

Happy 2018!

Happy New Year!

I’m excited to be starting off 2018 as part of the exhibition Land Body Industry, running January 16 through February 10 at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The opening reception is January 20 from 5-9pm. I’ll be showing a new installation drawn from Das Fundbuero’s archive that looks at the roles of work and consumption in people’s lives.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve made a page for my neon sign “collectively we support your autonomy”. The install photos are also pretty cool.Thank you so much to everyone who helped support this project! I’m really honored by your contributions. Big shout outs to Ne-Art Custom Neon and Marlaine Cox for the fabrication work.

January 23rd will be the last of a series of 5 new open house events I designed for the City of Minneapolis’s 2040 comprehensive plan development process.If you live of work in Minneapolis, come and have a say in future city land use (e.g. zoning and housing) through direct conversation with the people writing the policy.

Maybe it’s the psychopharmaceuticals, but today at least, I am feeling optimistic about 2018. What about you?

The neon sign “collectively we support your autonomy” is supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, or to make it all legal:  Monica Sheets is a fiscal year 2017 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Fall 2015 News

I’ve been meaning to send an update on what I’ve been doing since returning to the US. After taking some time to get settled, most of 2015 has been occupied with preparing for an exhibition that will finally be opening next month.

Post-WWII globe with Leipzig marked by a pinThe show, titled Das Fundbuero – 1000 Little Things, opens Wednesday, November 18th in the Paul Watkins Gallery on the campus of Winona State University in Winona, Minn. The opening begins with a public lecture from 4-5pm followed by a reception in the gallery.

I have really enjoyed developing the installation, as it’s given me the opportunity to process the experiences and information I collected in Weimar and Leipzig during six years of projects dealing with East German history. Watkins Hall is a mid-sixties modernist building with a terrazzo floor and glass doors that makes a great space for the installation, which combines objects and interviews collected while working on Das Fundbuero with contemporary objects from the US and newly built sculptural components.

I have been thinking a lot about the role of nostalgia and the desire for a simple historical narrative, as well as questions about documentation and presentation of participatory artwork after the fact. The installation lets me work with these ideas more directly than was possible sometimes in the participatory projects in Leipzig. I’m looking forward to seeing the complete installation, since my studio is only big enough to work on segments of it at a time. Even better, as I continue to work, I continue to have more ideas for how to interpret and present Das Fundbuero  – who knew making objects would continue to be part of my artistic process.

Minnesota Legacy Amendment Logo Minnesota State Arts Board LogoThe show is supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, or to make it all legal:  Monica Sheets is a fiscal year 2015 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Thank you Minnesota taxpayers!

In September, I began an 18-month residency with Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, Minn. The arts center is about 6 miles from my apartment in Minneapolis, but it’s location in Manomin Park at the confluence of Rice Creek and the Mississippi River makes it feel much farther away. One of my goals during the residency is to adapt and expand the sort of participative work I was doing in Germany. I am particularly interested in how Fridley lacks a clear civic “center”, though there are lots of beautiful parks and shopping centers with idiosyncratic tenants like an honorary Romanian Consulate and a great Bosnian supermarket. I am interested in how this de-centeredness affects people’s sense of community and identification with the city. The residency culminates in an exhibition at the arts center in early 2017.

I’ll be posting images of 1000 Little Things on facebook and my website after the opening. If you’re in the area, I hope you can visit the exhibition in Winona or come see me at Banfill-Locke.

5th Anniversary of my MFA

In acknowledgement of the fifth anniversary of receiving my MFA, I’ve decided to post my thesis – typos and all.
While some of my feelings have changed since I wrote it, mostly I find that am still coming up against the same questions in my work as I did then. I am not sure if this points to a lack of progress or that I have stumbled onto some central theme for my work.

In the end, the project that was the basis for my thesis was quite pivotal for how Das Fundbuero developed in Leipzig. That, along with the distance in time from the whole master’s experience lets me view the work somewhat more objectively and reevaluate its relative success and failures. I feel much better about this project than I did in 2009, and I’ve realized that “building community” in the traditional sense – a certain harmony between project participants – is not one of my goals; I am more interested in how we deal with those people whom we do not like or do not agree with – how do we continue to work productively in spite of such conflict? As usual, I don’t have a clear or concise answer for this yet, but I’m working at it from a few angles and hope to address it in written form sometimes soon.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the thesis.

M_Sheets_Thesis

Das Fundbuero in the Press

I have beentaz_2013_26_09_fundbuero_sm wanting to start posting actual news and updates for some time, so this seems like a good thing to start with.

In today’s taz in Germany, there is an interview with me about Das Fundbuero and the Leipziger Zentrale. Some national press coverage of the project is certainly a nice parting gift for me, and it will hopefully give the project a little boost as Peggy Freund continues to lead it after my departure.

The article is available online here. Click on the image for a PDF of the print version.