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Exhibits from the Justseeds Collective have shown throughout the United States.

Justseeds Collective installs social justice and cultural commentary

Incredibly articulate in his speech, I met with Nicolas Lampert, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee lecturer and Justseeds Collective artist to talk about the upcoming Justseeds exhibit at UWM's campus.

After an hour or so of conversation, I left the interview with an urgent addiction that grabs you when you've stumbled upon something so intrinsically connected to personal passion and you've spoken with one who, if it's possible, is more addicted than you.

Created by Artist Josh MacPhee in 1998, Justseeds began as a way for MacPhee to sell his own work and celebrate the works of the People's History poster series. Justseeds remained a venue for solely MacPhee's work and a few likeminded artists until 2007, when he formed the collective and asked artists from throughout the country to join his cause.

Over 20 artists are represented in the Justseeds Collective including Milwaukeeans Colin Matthes and Nicolas Lampert. Matthes' work includes drawings, prints, installations and sculpture. He self-publishes the art zine "Ideas in Pictures" in addition to submitting political prints to the Justseeds Collective. Likewise, Lampert is a lecturer in the Peck School of Arts at UWM and works in photography and print making.

Referring to themselves as "movement artists" and welcoming categorization as politically, culturally and socially significant, the work and distribution methods of the Justseeds Collective are reminiscent of people's revolutions around the world. Calling on individuals for social justice and pressure from the masses, the Justseeds Collective pumps out dozens of political posters and prints weekly.

Justseeds links geographic domains together in a way that is rarely seen. A national collective supports local artists in the production of internationally significant political action. In short, the 20 or so collective members are able to disseminate an international message locally thanks to the support of the national arena.

This week at UWM, 15 artists from the Justseeds Collective will be designing and creating a live installation piece in the Union Gallery. This week's events include a talk with MacPhee on March 2 and the gallery opening March 5. In a general sense, what is the Justseeds Collective?

Nicolas Lampert: "We are a decentralized organization and the benefit to that is that we can focus in the areas that we live but we're united by the type of work. We all do political printmaking of some sort and in my opinion, there isn't nearly enough of that going on."

OMC: How are the 20 participating artists connected artistically?

NL: No matter the artistic differences, it is always socially engaged art; similar to punk bands in a sense, rooted in location but united in music. At this point, we're all friends and it's like an extended family in a sense, we're dedicated to the project; quite often the project has become more important than our own personal work.

OMC: I can imagine with over 20 members, the organization means different things to different individuals. Is there one unifying mission? Why do you belong?

NL: The overall goal as an organization is to bypass traditional galleries and take control over how we make and disseminate our political message. For me, it's a way for artists to be directly involved in political movements. But we are a collective and as such, if you asked someone else, they might say something entirely different.

OMC: Are you and Colin Matthes the only two members from the Milwaukee area?

NL: Yeah. Colin does such incredible work; you may have seen it; he shows all over the city, country and world for that matter. We share a studio space. That guy is drawing like 12 hours a day. He's not happy if he's not drawing.

OMC: What's the rundown of how the installation is going to work?

NL: 15 of the Collective's artists are flying in Friday night. We're going to have a brainstorming session on Saturday and then the plan is to work for like 20 hours a day for the next like three or four days. The installation is going to be a combination of print, sculpture, video, street art and public art.

OMC: Is there a particular focus of the Milwaukee project?

NL: I don't want to give away what we're going to do but I'm pretty confident that it is going to be really, really cool. We have some themes running of division, borders, segregation; whether it's humans and the environment or within communities or nation and state concepts of boundaries.

OMC: Has Justseeds ever done something like this in the past?

NL: Several of the member artists have collaborated on things together, but collectively, last summer done in Philly is the only other real example. It was done in a space called 1026; it was 12 artists putting together a unique installation.

OMC: So many of the Collective's artists work in mediums other than print making. Why has Justseeds decided to focus on print making as a way of expression?

NL: I see printmaking as the easiest way to disseminate our message and respond to a situation or political action fast. If we were doing sculpture, it could take years. This way, we're able to get graphics out fast and create a social consciousness about something. We move an immense amount of stuff as quickly as we need to.


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