By Greggory Moore
It didn’t take long for Marco Schindelmann to become immersed in the Long Beach arts scene. In 2005, one year after stumbling across the first iteration of SoundWalk, Schindelmann was a participant in the annual event, filling the Grand Salon of the Cooper Arms with a five-hour sound installation that took over a dozen people to bring to life its thematic play on false senses of security and the aleatory. SoundWalk curators FLOOD were so impressed that by 2006 Schindelmann was a full-fledged member of the team.
In the seven years since, Schindelmann has not only been a major engine in keeping FLOOD running both as a curatorial group and as a performance-art ensemble, he has become an increasingly prominent presence in the Southern California arts scene, from his NEA-sponsored work with Hope University to his being the first male vocalist to record Arnold Schoenberg’s groundbreaking Pierrot Lunaire to his unusual (to say the least) artistic contributions to the worlds of sound and performance art (see accompanying photos).
Last month, after a three-year stint on the board that included his chairmanship of the Advisory Committee for Public Art, Schindelmann was appointed president of the Arts Council for Long Beach. And he wasted no time before shaking things up.
“At my first board meeting as president, and speaking as an artist, I stated that in many ways I perceived the Arts Council as akin to a merrily dysfunctional but benevolent institutional hydra that, as it tugged against itself in all directions, remained inert, generating more in the way of implosive dynamics but less in the way of charged dynamism,” he relates with his typical combination of erudition, bluntness, and lightheartedness. “The Arts Council is entering a period of radical and thoughtful change that, through a strategic planning initiative, is gaining momentum. In my opinion, the three challenges that this plan, with the force of its increasing momentum, will topple are: inhibition, ignorance, and insecurity. We are provided with an opportunity to reinvent the Arts Council and usher in a period of uninhibited transformation. Everything about the Arts Council is likely to change, including what we do and how we do it.”
One instrument of this change will be the Advisory Committee for Public Art, which Schindelmann envisions being expanded into an arts cabinet, so as “to ensure that the Arts Council is not ignorant about art, its processes, and artists.”
Schindelmann’s presidency has hit the ground running, with the Council having already reached out to Long Beach at large so as to better chart its future course.
“We have been conducting interviews throughout the community with valued stakeholders,” he reports. “The results have been startling to many on the Board. These little jolts of recognition provide us with further opportunities for growth and learning about what the arts mean today in our communities and how we can position the arts as central to Long Beach’s future. We have to do so without letting insecurity prevent us from being honest with ourselves and true to communities.”
Schindelmann’s upbringing set him up to be an adult with an explicit appreciation for art as not something precious and vacuum-sealed, but as a potentially transformative environmental factor.
“I grew up in an extremely aesthetics-oriented household,” he says. “It wasn’t just about sound: it was about perceiving life in general through an aesthetic filter. […] My mother said right away, ‘Listen to the ocean, listen to traffic. There’s beauty in traffic. The sounds are similar.’ […] The next step [for me] was to approach sound and noise art in a manner that was aesthetic, ultimately. It is the aestheticization of something which is not usually perceived as being aesthetic in its intent and execution. It’s the way a poet approaches life in general, finding poetry and metaphor in everything that comprises reality. [Because] what is art except reality passed through an aesthetic filter?”
Hired on as an adjunct professor at Redlands University in 2000, currently Schindelmann enjoys the title of “artist professor,” as well as serving as director of the University Opera. Among the original courses he has taught is “The Art of Persuasion Through Self-Deception,” which he informally describes as his “course on bullshit.”
“Integral to this course will be the study of the ‘Art of BS,'” Schindelmann says in the syllabus. “Effective BSing requires expansive knowledge, the ability to free associate as well as to kayak down the white waters of the stream of consciousness and back up shit creek all the while convincing others and oneself that one is actually holding a paddle.”
However, Schindelmann is no bullshitter, with the course “seek[ing] to develop skills in creative thinking through the cultivation of knowledge and the juxtaposition and fusion of disparate information.” It’s all about thinking outside the box, he says, which includes recognizing when others are feeding you a line.
If you know Schindelmann, you know he’s not feeding us a line when speaks of the changes coming to the Arts Council. And he speaks hopefully of his perhaps being the right person to help bring together the components necessary to bring it about.
“I think collaboration is one of my talents,” he says. “I’ve done well in academia because I’ve somehow stayed apolitical and operated on a human level with people and bringing people together. I think an important part of collaborative art is not trying to lord over the other artists, but let everybody present their idea and then figure out a way of layering it or incorporating it so that everybody feels equal. […] I think what I’m good at conceptually is splattering the canvas and then connecting the dots. I figure out what everybody’s passion is, then find some sort of concept to connect everything […] tapping into the passion of others and then letting it spill into an environment.”
Combine Schindelmann’s penchant for collaboration with his place at the aesthetic vanguard, it is a sure bet that the Arts Council is about to become a more significant presence both aesthetically and within the community.
“The mission of the Arts Council is to foster creativity and culture, enlivening communities and enabling a thriving economy,” he says. “It’s important that we understand and recognize creativity and are not afflicted by aesthetic prejudice or simple ignorance. […] I think ultimately the future of art is within the collaborative realm. But it takes very evolved individuals to be able to do that, because there is a certain element of narcissism in the creation of art, and so the collaborative realm on some level might be anathema—especially to this romantic notion of the artist as outsider, as self-consumed, self-indulgent. I hope we’re moving into a new phase in which art is more collective. I do have that sense in Long Beach.”