I Am Searching for Field Character

Set within a reclaimed industrial building on the grounds of MASS MoCA, Bureau for Open Culture presents I Am Searching for Field Character, a series of public conversations, performances, installations, workshops and a beer garden with a slew of artists, writers, designers and thinkers visiting North Adams, Massachusetts, over the course of the summer.


Julia Bryan-Wilson, Sarah Cowles, Rebecca Gates, Dylan Gauthier, Timothy Nazzaro, Nate Padavick, Sarah Pierce, Red76, Kendra Sullivan, Matthew Stadler, Temporary Services, Cassandra Troyan

MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA
May 26–September 30, 2011

Curated by James Voorhies

Made possible with grants from Massachusetts Cultural Council, Culture Ireland with support from MASS MoCA and the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University

Organized in association with the MASS MoCA exhibition The WorkersI Am Searching for Field Character explores the economic and social character of the cultural laborer—from artists and writers to beekeepers and distillers—who collectively contribute to the lifestyle of a region. It examines this workforce within the context of a post-industrial city that has transformed economically from a site of major manufacturing industry to a locus for culture and experience. And that examination conflates and purposely obscures notions of labor and touristic service industries,  all transpiring inside architecture built originally for the production of goods and materials. Part exhibition, part performance, part studio, part unexpected—I Am Searching for Field Character locates and shapes a portrait of the cultural worker today with an emphasis on their precarious economic existence.

The title I Am Searching for Field Character is taken from a 1973 essay by the German artist Joseph Beuys. In the essay he expresses a desire to expand the limits of art, turn theory into action and encourage widespread participation in the knowledge-producing sphere. He calls for the reconsideration of what art is and a leveling of its hierarchies, ultimately deploying it to generate discourse about present moments and imagined futures.

Flickr photostream

Exhibition Modules

Bureau for Open Culture’s Beer Garden is a site for community, conversation and beer, all served along the banks of the Hoosic River. Bureau for Open Culture’s Work Site invites freelancers and telecommuters to work periodically in the BOC space.

What is already and what will become… is an installation by Sarah Pierce/The Metropolitan Complex that transforms the space of BOC.

All Hands on Deck! by Dylan Gauthier and Kendra Sullivan is a daylong, collaborative exercise in building a functional watercraft out of salvaged and foraged materials. Dawn School is a participatory field trip by Gauthier and Sullivan. It explores changing patterns of labor in manufacturing operations around North Adams, including a tour of Specialty Minerals, Inc. in Adams.

Night Market by Red76 sells goods by local and visiting culture makers. Bartleby’s Pen by Red76 builds upon a history of the tavern as a site for lively discussion.

Elegantly Wasted: A Fashion-forward Ecosystem for the Hoosic River is a month-long residency by Sarah Cowles that proposes renewed engagement between the city of North Adams and the Hoosic River.

Temporary Service’s Art Work: A National Conversation about Art, Labor and Economics is an independently published, 40-page newspaper and conversation series.