all photos:Chris Chen When you hear Kira Wisniewski and William Bert talk about how they came to curate one of the most talked about art shows this weekend, they make it sound, well, (almost) easy.

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byt call and response 1

"We were at the Gibson, and we were going to a rock posters art show @ Civilian Art Projects ("Paper Jam", curated Anthony Dihle", check out our interview with him here-ed) and we just said to ourselves "Wouldn't it be cool if did something like this, though obviously, not exactly like this". Bert had a concept and Wisniewski had some experience working on an art show in Miami, but neither of them had any formal art background, both of them being writers. But said concept was strong (get 16 writers to submit any form of written creative work, and then get 16 artists to respond to each of the works) and they set about making their idea come to life. The fact that they succeeded just goes to show that anything is possible, as long as you actually get off your "what if" pondering chair and try to do it.

byt call and response 2
byt call and response 2

We were at the Gibson, and we were going to a rock posters art show @ Civilian Art Projects ("Paper Jam", curated Anthony Dihle", check out our interview with him here-ed) and we just said to ourselves "Wouldn't it be cool if did something like this, though obviously, not exactly like this". Bert had a concept and Wisniewski had some experience working on an art show in Miami, but neither of them had any formal art background, both of them being writers. But said concept was strong (get 16 writers to submit any form of written creative work, and then get 16 artists to respond to each of the works) and they set about making their idea come to life. The fact that they succeeded just goes to show that anything is possible, as long as you actually get off your "what if" pondering chair and try to do it.

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byt call and response 3
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"We were at the Gibson, and we were going to a rock posters art show @ Civilian Art Projects ("Paper Jam", curated Anthony Dihle", check out our interview with him here-ed) and we just said to ourselves "Wouldn't it be cool if did something like this, though obviously, not exactly like this". Bert had a concept and Wisniewski had some experience working on an art show in Miami, but neither of them had any formal art background, both of them being writers. But said concept was strong (get 16 writers to submit any form of written creative work, and then get 16 artists to respond to each of the works) and they set about making their idea come to life. The fact that they succeeded just goes to show that anything is possible, as long as you actually get off your "what if" pondering chair and try to do it.

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"We basically, sat down, wrote our proposal and started walking around galleries one weekend. Most of them were the kind of places that never would have even looked at us" But then... "Jackie (Ionita, of Hamiltonian) was just standing outside her gallery and we came up and struck up a conversation""And I thought they had a really strong and brave thing going on in their proposal"-Ionita says-"Not having almost any control over the works that would be produced, I mean, who wouldn't want to see how that turned out. It seemed very experimental".Hamiltonian Gallery, which operates as a fellowship/mentorship vehicle for emerging and mid-career artists proved perfect for the project because while Kira and William knew a lot of writers (they're both part of the 826dc.org Capitol Writers Center) they only knew some artists.

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"This was a perfect fit for us"-Ionita Says-"Because it allowed us to get our fellows involved and offer them another show within their program, helping further their growth and exposure. I sent an email out and 7 of them were instantly in"Space and time in place with only 4+ months to complete a project involving 32 people, the process started. Writers were given 2 months (September and October) to come up with 3 pieces of writing not longer than 500 words each and then in early November, the artists were selected (in random order) to read the pieces and select their favorite, resulting in a blind pairing between the artist and the writer. Almost no communication between the pairings was allowed and a week out of the meeting, aside from the size and art media perimeters Hamiltonian needed to start planning the hanging process, no one had seen any of the work.

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Is this exciting or nerve wrecking?"Mostly exciting. Of course, there are some surprises"-Wisniewski says-"like, for example, we have way more video installations than we expected we would have (and more TVs we need to find and show them on-chimes in Bert) but that was part of the appeal of the process-setting basic perimeters and then letting go, and trusting them".

"In some ways, it was a lot harder than we expected it to be, and in some ways a lot easier"-Bert says -"the only difficulty came with trusting people's time management skills. Trusting their abilities was never an issue."

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The artists and writers, many of whom are local (like the pairing of Matt Klam (the author of the short story collection Sam The Cat and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient) and artist Anthony Dihle (yes, the same Dihle whose "Paper Jam" show was responsible, in a round-about way, for their initial show curating motivation) but a number of which are national, never met in the process. "The show opening is going to be the first time they lay eyes on each other"-Wisniewski said. Dihle, coming full circle on this, also designed the show's logo.

How did they pick the tuna and the cat?

"The name itself was William's idea, which we thought was perfect, with the musical references and all,  and we just asked Anthony to come up with some concepts"-Wisniewski says-"The second the tuna and the cat came in I thought it was perfect, but I knew Bill would hate it."

"Which I sort of did, initially"-Bert concurs

"But that was the only one we saw that was actually organic, and had a sense of humor, and all the other ones all of a sudden seemed too geometric and, we went with this"-Wisniewski said

"Now I love it"-Bert chimes in.

The week after our conversation was spent in wall painting, dismounting, mounting, and more."I only have one rule: no hanging the day before the show"-Ionita says-"It is the only way I can stay sane before a show opens"

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With the vinyl stencils for the show being placed on the entry wall yesterday night, it seems like all is in order. All that is left to you is to stop by on Saturday and see what came of it all.

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Want more:

Call+Response opens this Saturday at 7pm at Hamiltonian Gallery, (1353 U Street NW) and is the first spotlight show of BYT's Year in Art 2010 initiative. Flying dog will be providing the beer for the opening, in case you were wondering. All art on show will be for sale. DO STOP IN.

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YiA 2010: How “Call & Response” @ Hamiltonian Came to Be