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April Artist-in-Residence Tim Roseborough

Singing Garden (2010) 3D Animation, Custom Programming, Microphone, Video Projection, Apple Computer. Below, CYMN Installation (2012) Touch Screen Monitors, Apple Mac Pro, Stainless Steel Stands, Custom Interactive Software, Sound

Singing Garden (2010) 3D Animation, Custom Programming, Microphone, Video Projection, Apple Computer. Below, CYMN Installation (2012) Touch Screen Monitors, Apple Mac Pro, Stainless Steel Stands, Custom Interactive Software, Sound

(Editor’s Note: The Bay Times is proud to launch a new column highlighting artists, exhibitions and more from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The FAMS, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco. Its Director, Colin Bailey, is a specialist in 18th and 19th century French Art. Bailey lives in the city with longtime partner Alan Wintermute, an Old Master paintings expert at Christie’s.)

This month, FAMS artist-in-residence Tim Roseborough will present his visual quiz event Contenda at the de Young Museum. Roseborough recently discussed it, as well as some of his other thought-provoking projects, including pieces that explore the LGBT black experience and that challenge traditional views on gender.

Bay Times: We have this wonderful quote in mind from you: “As an artist, my perennial endeavor is to expand my audience. The more senses I can touch, in a pluralistic sense, the more souls I can reach.” Please explain how, through your present work, you attempt to touch the senses of your audience. What kind of connection do you hope to establish with your audiences? The word “souls” stands out for us in the aforementioned quote.

Tim Roseborough: Contemporary art competes with an ever expanding set of cultural products, including television, cinema, video games, computers, mobile technology, and social media, among others. Art simply has a different history and a divergent set of priorities and values.

Unfortunately, contemporary art has traditionally been appreciated by a rarefied coterie of enthusiasts, institutional workers and collectors.

I see art as extremely important for its alternative approach to culture. The opportunity to be thoughtful about, critical of, and experimental with our culture – which an engagement with art can provide – should be the domain of persons at all levels of society, not just the academic or financial elite. Art deserves a larger space in our society. 

At the same time, I can find enjoyment and depth in what art aficionados might term lowbrow, pop and middlebrow culture. My work attempts to bridge mainstream culture and contemporary art by presenting challenging — and sometimes critical — ideas in a form that might be appealing, familiar and fun to a broad range of people. This strategy is not forced or awkward for me, as I am a sincere disciple of all forms of culture.

It has been famously said that a viewer “completes” an artwork though her or his interaction with it. My work has continually evolved to incorporate interactivity. By this, I mean that the “viewer” becomes “participant” — experiencing a more engaging relationship with the artworks though the senses of sight, hearing and touch. My “Singing Garden” and “CYMN” pieces are examples of this.

I believe in a “soul,” whether in the spiritual, humanistic or scientific sense. This entity holds the potential to be wise, reasonable, sympathetic, knowledgeable, and in touch with emotion. At its best, art feeds and nurtures this soul, by allowing for measured thought, conversation and critical evaluation.

Bay Times: Please tell us about Contenda. How is it an “experimental” contest?

Tim Roseborough: Contenda is based on the quiz bowl format prominent in high schools and universities across the globe. Contestants are provided with a “buzzer” system and a host asks questions about artists, artworks, artistic movements, and other queries pertinent to visual culture.

Contenda is “experimental” because I am exploring ways to re-present the history of art in a novel, challenging and entertaining way.