Liz Lessner the 2024 Nadine Carter Russell Chair

Liz LessnerArtist Liz Lessner has been named the 2023-24 Nadine Carter Russell Chair of the LSU College of Art & Design. Lessner’s work combines traditional fabrication techniques and emerging technologies to create novel sensory experiences. She is the founder of the Sensory Engagement Lab, a community-based research platform that probes how novel combinations of materials and embedded electronics contribute to sensory experience. She is also a co-founder of Yes We Cannibal, an artist-run project space for new art and thought, founded in 2020 in Baton Rouge, LA. The space offers a free home for experimentation in art, music, and other media.

Lessner has two primary goals as the Nadine Carter Russell Chair: 1) To complete a new set of sculptures which reflect an evolution of her work since moving to Louisiana in 2020. These objects are derived from a set of parametrically designed forms and are digitally fabricated via 3-D printing, waterjet and laser cutting; 2) To integrate the curatorial practice and programming focus of her work as co-director of Yes We Cannibal with her pedagogical goals as an instructor at the LSU School of Art.

“As the Nadine Carter Russell Chair, I aim to increase access for the students in the College of Art & Design to Louisiana-based practicing artists like Manon Bellet, as well as national avant-garde icons like Curtis Schreier of the Ant Farm.”

A screening and panel discussion co-presented with the LSU School of Architecture will be held Feb. 15, 2024 in advance of exhibition Curtis Schreier: Swamp Alps, opening Feb 17 at Yes We Cannibal in Baton Rouge. 

Lessner’s research into embedded electronics’ ability to create novel sensory experiences has been supported by grants like the Mark Diamond Research Fund, fellowships like the Eyeo Artists Fellowship, and awards like a Fulbright Research Award. She was a 2019 Fulbright Scholar affiliated with the Department of Expressions and Languages at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro as well as the CrossLab Research Group and the Lab for Innovation and Prototyping at the University of Fortaleza in Ceará, Brazil. Lessner has had solo shows at VisArts in Rockville, MD; Honfleur Gallery in Washington, D.C.; Big Orbit, a Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts Project Space in Buffalo, NY; and The University of Oregon’s Eric Washburne Gallery in Eugene, OR. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including A.I.R. gallery in Brooklyn, NY; The CrossLab for Innovation and Prototyping at the University of Fortaleza in Fortaleza, Brazil; the Guapamacátaro Center for Art and Ecology in Michoacán, Mexico; and Everard Read’s Circa Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.

An art instructor, her teaching synthesizes critical inquiry, design foundations and her experience working in diverse media to deliver a broad range of courses that emphasize creative problem solving, idea generation, and skill development.

Yes We Cannibal is a Baton Rouge, LA based project space for unrestricted and non-hierarchical cultural experimentation in the areas of art, music, food, social research and performance.

Artist’s Statement

“The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths.” So says Bruce Nauman.

In recalling this 1967 neon artwork I remembered only, ‘the true artist reveals mystic truths.’ The omission of ‘helps the world’ prompted me to ponder anew Nauman’s proposition. In our landscape of networked surveillance and algorithmically weaponized data how does the artist help the world? Might hiding be a better strategy than revealing?

The sculptures I am fabricating now offer a response to this prompt. They use algorithms that transduce data from nonverbal forms of communication, like physical gestures and sound, to create a set of abstract glyphs. These glyphs combine to create their own language-like sets, subtract from the plane to create form, and takeover iconic phrases to create inhabitable spaces.

Speak/Make is an algorithm that produces parametrically generated objects whose forms are controlled by speech. The algorithm uses the parameters of a soundbite to arrange shapes derived from the interstitial space of two bodies gesturing. These iterations are rapid prototyped in mild steel. 

Skins are foldable and rearrangeable raw leather planes that have these gestural symbols excised out of them.

Helps the World is a floor sculpture detournement where Nauman’s text becomes indecipherable as it transforms into an algorithmically generated language of gestural symbols. The glyphs, extruded as human-scale 3D forms, are arranged in an ascending spiral on the floor. The sculpture’s totality is obscured from viewers. To understand the work they must physically traverse the spiral.

These sculptures posit indecipherability as strategy. Can hiding prevent a message from being emptied of meaning?

Ant Farm Screening and Panel Discussion Feb. 15, 4 p.m. in 103 Julian T. White Auditorium

Radical media art and architecture group Ant Farm, designed an inflatable city that would erect itself during a rock ‘n’ roll concert, erected a monument to the tailfin at Cadillac Ranch, and produced ”Media Burn,” an elaborate performance that involved driving a modified 1959 Cadillac through a wall of burning televisions. Core member, artist, and architect Curtis Schreier shares some of their iconic early video works followed by a discussion with curator Liz Flyntz and architectural historian Meredith Gaglio, assistant professor of architecture.

This screening includes selections from Media Burn, 1975. This classic of early video art, documents the yearlong project that lead to the performance of the same name. Off-Air Australia, 1976, takes us through Ant Farm’s tour of Australia and includes the  iconic “artist-kangaroo” interview.  And in Inflatables Illustrated, 1971, Curtis demonstrates clever techniques for low-tech inflatable structures in the video companion to Ant Farm’s Inflato cookbook.

old man hanging art

Artist Curtis Schreier preparing for his show at Yes We Cannibal.

About the Nadine Carter Russell Chair

In 1998, Paula G. Manship bestowed a fund for the LSU College of Art & Design to establish the Nadine Carter Russell Chair, named for her niece, a 1967 graduate of the College of Art & Design with a degree in art history. The Nadine Carter Russell Chair enables the LSU College of Art & Design to annually bring a prominent artist, designer, or scholar to campus. The rotating chair provides outstanding opportunities for all disciplines within the college and allows the college to meet a variety of curriculum needs. The duties of the chair primarily focus on teaching and public lectures but vary depending on the recipient’s field of expertise.