The Chicago Cluster Project revolves around old cameras, the devices that helped us capture the world before it was digitized. Unlike electronic and digital devices, the mechanical equipment has the ability to operate decades after it’s no longer in use. The magic of the black box has the power to lure contemporary artists to change their perception of time, light, and image making. Rod Slemmons’ cameras are portals, apertures to the past, with the ability, in the hands of artists and educators, to see into the future. As a whole, the collection serves as a window to analog photography approaches and processes, and provides an opportunity to slow down the flow of time, before the shutter stops everything.
The Chicago Cluster Project name is derived from an obscure moment in American camera manufacturing history, when a considerable number of widely accessible simple plastic cameras were made in Chicago. The Depression Era manufacturing constraints led to wide production and reproduction approaches and innovative design solutions like the dual red window.
The key to the Slemmons’ collection lies in accessibility that fosters education and creativity. The Chicago Cluster Project attempts to make the historical cameras accessible by engagement of eight contemporary Chicago photographers and educators. These artists represent, to some extent, the history of photography education in Chicago, as many of them studied in the city and teach here now. They come from various photographic practices, diverse backgrounds, and different teaching approaches to expose us to something new through the lens they choose from the collection. The affiliation of the participating artists to educational institutions in the city offers additional frameworks to implement the project as an educational and creative tool.
Jan Tichy is a contemporary artist and educator, Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Departments of Photography and Art & Technology Studies. Over the course of his career Tichy has been invited to interact, interpret and activate collections of institutions like Museum of Contemporary Photography, Wadsworth Atheneum, Museum of Applied Arts and Santa Barbara Museum of Art among others. Epiphany Center for Arts together with Kiff Slemmons commissioned Tichy to activate the Slemmons collection and make it accessible to local artists and educators in the spirit of Rod Slemmons practice.visit jan's website
L Koo was brought into the project by Tichy to gather and organize information about the cameras, and to create the digital space for the project. She is currently teaching youth photography classes at SAIC and the Evanston Art Center.visit koo's website
Kiff Slemmons, after over 50 years of life and work with Rod, has served as reference to the intentions of the project. As an artist she supported the introduction of the collection as an installation by the artist Jan Tichy and the involvement of artists in an ongoing process of development for educational and creative opportunities. Her efforts throughout have been to serve the vitality of ideas springing from a camera collection and in turn, as reflection of a life in photography.more abaout kiff herevisit Kiff's page on gallery loupe's site
Natasha Egan is currently the Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) and is serving as an advisor for The Chicago Cluster Project. Egan was introduced to Rod Slemmons in 1994 at the University of Washington as his student and he quickly became her mentor. Beginning in 2002, Egan and Slemmons became colleagues working closely together for over a decade at the MoCP while Slemmons served as the museum's executive director.Visit natasha's page on the mocp site