1-on-1 with Jacob Lehman
The Pop Up Studio
April 3, 2015
Courthouse Square (Spruce Street side)
What is your current project that will be featured at First Friday? What can people expect?
Intimate finds its theoretical foundation in an 1851 metaphor by the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. Summarizing briefly, the metaphor is: On a cold winter day, two hedgehogs, whom are without shelter, seek the warmth of one another. However, as they begin their approach, their close proximity causes them to prick the other with their sharp quills. As such, they are obliged to disperse. Once more, though, the cold drives them together again, only for the same thing to happen. At last, after many turns huddling and dispersing, the hedgehogs discover that they are best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.
In the same way, the need of society and the individual drives us “human” porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of our nature. The moderate distance which we at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intimacy, is politeness and fine manners, those who transgress this boundary are told to “keep their distance”. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth, or intimacy, is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. We long for strong, intimate relationships, yet we also fear getting hurt so we do all we can to protect ourselves.
Intimate seeks to initiate the community of Scranton to interact with one another over a shared experience and engage intellectually in a cultural dialogue as we consider what intimacy means to us as a collective and as an individual in an ever-changing, technologically advancing landscape.
Within the installation, participants will experience five different types of intimacy: Experiential, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual, and Physical. Each participant will interact individually and anonymously with another person to evoke the sense of intimacy that is being explored. We have staged the installation so that there are four different stations, each staged in a respective U-Haul truck parked in a row along The Courthouse Square, Spruce Street, the evening of the installation. Hinting at one of the installations, for instance, emotional intimacy, often requires at least one person to be vulnerable and express themselves, and another person to carefully listen and empathize. That is one relationship we will try to simulate in order to leave participants with some food for thought. Each version of intimacy operates similarly within the totality of the installation. Although each station will facilitate, and require, interaction with another participant, each moment is uniquely experienced alone, at a safe, anonymous distance. This anonymity and distance seeks to allow authentic, intimate discourse without inducing mutual harm.
We have sort of, intentionally, marketed Intimate with an air of mystery and illusion to invite people to question their preconceived notions of what “Intimacy” is, so that we can shatter these expectations when they experience the event itself.
How has your experience in architecture guided you in your artistic endeavors? What architects inspire you to create?
I approach architecture as an art form. Therefore, my view of art encompasses my view of architecture.
For me, architecture allows the implementation and structure of a methodological approach by which to make artistic decisions, and more importantly, through which to pose questions.
To me, architecture is a process and method for asking questions of ourselves and others. I think architecture, and more generally art, should be designed towards the intention of an experience or more specifically, the conveying or an idea, or the posing of a question. I think living is indeed for learning, and that space and art forms should help us understand ourselves. They should invite us to re-evaluate ourselves and values. They should allow us to learn, and leave us with further questions that we may seek answers to. I do think, that a well posed intellectually sound question, is worth more than any simple answer. Architecture, to me, is just one of the methods I utilize that has that ability; the ability to pose these questions. This aspect of architecture has greatly influenced all of my artistic pursuits.
To the second part of your question, I am inspired more so by ideas than by architects as individuals. I find idolatry often leads to disappointment, as we are all fallible. However, to avoid shirking the question, I’ve often been inspired by the theoretical works of Rem Koolhaas and Paolo Soleri. I think because Koolhaas and I share a similar background, both having worked with film and screenwriting, there is an unspoken quality within his work that I “get”, a quality that inspires me. Bjarke Ingels is another architect whose youthful exuberance I feel is really pushing the boundaries of the profession. Also, the members of Archigram and Superstudio are a continual inspiration to me as well.
How has your engagement with Pop-Up Studio enabled you to enlarge your artistic vision? (It’s a fairly “open” project with a lot of room for creative output)
The Pop Up Studio and myself share a lot of overlap in our basic principles and values on how we approach art. The Pop Up Studio has the ideal of creating imaginative space(s) where people can challenge their conceptions of art in playful and experimental ways. This quality is something which I agree with to a large extent. To me, it is the place of art in our culture to continue to ask questions about our surroundings. It is important for an artist or creative person to never accept the status quo, and to therefore embody a continual resistance to whatever is deemed as being the right way. I think that speaks to larger undertows in life in general: which is that, we are all stuck here trying to figure things out, and we shouldn’t put on the illusion, or pretend, that we have an answer that we don’t. I think art has the ability to really explore that area, which then allows us to explore ourselves as well as the common connectivity we share with one another.
The Pop Up Studio enables these questions to be asked without fear of repercussion. A lot of the ideas and theoretical foundation for Intimate seem like a disaster and train wreck in writing. Who in their right mind is willing to stage an entire exhibition around the idea of interacting together in a U-Haul truck? It seems like a disaster in the making. However, the internal discussions with The Pop Up Studio have always focused on the questions being asked by the idea and these ideas are taken seriously. There is a very distinct ability here to see the larger qualitative aspects of the idea presented, and I think that process has enabled Intimate to ask some really philosophically poignant questions through this installation. Namely, how do we reconsider our personal interactions with one another, and what does it means to really connect with another person?
Why Scranton for the placement of your project?
Scranton embodies many of the concepts and ideals of Intimate. There is no shame in admitting that Scranton is not the cultural renaissance that a larger city, such as New York or Los Angles, is. However, Scranton does offer a community of intimacy. It is an area that is not too large, yet not too small. It is a location where there is a very vocal arts community who is willing to stand and participate in new, and sometimes unusual art installations. The Pop Up Studio has found large success in hosting events here in the past, which has demonstrated that there is a strong and participatory crowd. At the risk of sounding kitschy, Scranton really embodies Intimate. It is small, personal, and has the ability to evoke really deep feelings within people.
What plans do you have for the future – as far as art and possibly career? Will this project allow you to seek other opportunities?
I am presently working full-time as an architectural designer here in Scranton. Outside of that responsibility, Pop Up Studio has provided a large creative output through which to execute some really cool ideas, and pose some poignant questions to the community of Scranton. In addition to those two outlets, I am always working on my personal projects and passions, which include writing, film, and music.
Art, to me, is a process. I don’t foresee a time where I am ever complacent artistically. It is the constant fire that keeps me driven to pursue these questions. Intimate is one of the most public art works that I have participated in, while maintaining primary creative control. I think Intimate is definitely an opportunity to gain experience with the community of Scranton, and to see how they answer some of these questions for themselves that I have, as of yet, found no answers for.
As for the future, I have a few ideas in mind that I would be interested in seeing executed within this area. However, I am playing those close to chest right now.
Join us for Scranton's Free Monthly Self-Guided Art Walk of the Downtown District.
get the monthly map delivered to your inbox