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September 23, 2016

Artist in Residence Spotlight: Why Renegade?


ash arderThis post is a part of a series of posts from UMS Artists in Residence. Ash Arder, the author of this post, is a Detroit-based artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials. Through both process and output, this work investigates the relationship between people, objects, and place in order to understand use patterns and value attribution at macro and micro scales. Ash’s work is primarily rooted in urban culture.

Nora Chipaumire
Photo: Choreographer Nora Chipaumire in portrait of myself as my father, part of Renegade and playing in Detroit November 17-20. Photo by Elise Fitten.

According to our trusty friend Merriam [Webster], a renegade is someone who “rejects lawful or conventional behavior.”

To be unbounded by laws is to posses a sense of freedom. To be free is to move throughout space and time according to one’s own urges and desires. The boldness of a program called “renegade” is what drew me into exploring the artists and performers in this year’s line up. The audacity of the UMS, an institution I associated with more conventional and conservative programming, to name a program Renegade was intriguing to me. This audacity felt like a direct challenge to my understanding of what UMS is or does, a challenge I am grateful to accept and confront as an Artist in Residence.

My work is inspired by the relationships between people, objects, and place. I am interested in the way people use objects, and in the way that use is shared with the public.

I think of objects as artifacts, with politics and lives of their own. How can existing objects be used to understand societal conditions? How can new objects be created in a way that rejects (or supports) societal conditions?

Place roots my thinking about people and objects. It frames my understanding of people’s relationships with objects. I think of place as the environment where people and objects live and engage with one another. To be clear, I understand objects to be as small as paper clips and as large as buildings. Environments can be controlled, like during performances on a stage or in a specific venue. I am also interested in naturally occurring environments. Those that have no agenda other than to be what and where they are.

In the case of controlled environments, like stages, I am inspired by narratives that push up against the status quo. Narratives that embed radical concepts into seemingly mundane events. In my own artistic practice, I attempt to expose counter narratives through normalizing elements of their existence. I am inspired by works that require intellectual effort on behalf of the audience. Works that are simple in practice but complex in theory and vice versa.

In naturally occurring environments, I am inspired by ritualistic behavior. Quiet observations of people and things in a space reveal countless narratives about their relationship to and value of one another. I use these revelations as motivation for new objects and experiences in my work.

I understand that in my use of the word “living” in relation to inanimate objects, I perhaps straddle the line of conventional and unconventional thinking. It has been my goal to operate in a space of lawlessness in my creative work. To freely express my thoughts.

It is with this goal in mind, that I was attracted to UMS’ Renegade programming. I hope to investigate the properties of each performance to understand how and why certain elements of these controlled environments play a role in the success of the piece as a whole.

Follow this blog for more updates from Ash throughout this season. Learn more about Renegade this season.