In Seattle during WWII, fake trees, fake buildings, and fake neighborhoods were created by Hollywood set designers to camouflage wartime manufacturing from foreign adversaries. Our show at Oxbow takes as its starting point the faithful recreation of a few of the fake trees, removed from their original context.
Our re-creation of these trees at Oxbow is meant to be seen from underneath, rather than above, where the materials we used can be most easily distinguished from the overall form intended. From up close, any real attempt at the illusion of a tree falls apart and what the viewer experiences instead are rough and provisional materials clinging to some recycled timbers– the sole representatives of a forest.
But our representation of a historical moment still maintains its resolution, whatever that might be. It sits in the same general neighborhood as the original and it is clearly cobbled together with the same materials the set designers used– feathers, chicken-wire, green flocking, burlap, and salvaged timbers. That these are somehow an appropriate set of materials for an historical recreation is conveniently ironic as they also seem to evoke the provisional methods available to us for depicting and agreeing upon the nature of historical events in general.
Recognizing the change in context, and in viewpoint, of this historical re-creation is important: how does a person experience something that is designed to be understood in one context and from one perspective, in a different context and from a different perspective? By positioning the viewer below the trees rather than above the trees, inside rather than outside, we hope to reveal something completely different and unintended, despite the fact that the objects themselves remain faithful to their historical roots.
Photographs make clear that from thousands of feet in the air these rough and provisional structures were virtually indistinguishable from real trees. From an aerial perspective alone, generally considered the most objective viewpoint, accuracy can be challenging to verify. When a singular perspective of any context is built into our experience of something– be it history, politics, social media or anything else –space for deception is created. Standing here underneath this object, the strange world that constantly demands interpretation remains, but we are momentarily free of deception, ushered in as participants in the construction of meaning and context rather than held at bay as audience members.
As with many cities in the United States, Portland suffers from age-segregated urban planning, leaving younger generations socially isolated from the elderly and their wealth of experiences. In response to this issue Eric Olson and I presented a special project for the City of Portland called 1-800-Dial-an-Old-Friend: a public hotline that connects wayward youth, aimless millennials, and mid-life crisis-ers to our city’s wisest citizens. We promoted the hotline using sign boards equipped with cell-phone charging stations.
This curatorial project I organized with PICE Gallery led to the exhibition of a group of anonymous works from a large group of artists at the now defunct lucky lodge in Seattle, WA. The only stipulations for participating were that the work be exhibited anonymously and that it be nothing people are publicly recognized for doing.
Anonymity is an opportunity to consider artistic practices – the substance and meaning of praxis and theory – outside of any pretext of commercial viability or reputation.
It is also the only thing we were able to offer artists in exchange for their participation.
Participants were invited to approach anonymity as a theme or subject, as a meditation on celebrity, anonymity, privacy, etc.. But it wasn’t necessary to engage with any of the those ideas.
As far as we know, there are around eight participants that cover a spectrum of artistic involvement. Some of the work comes from commercially established and represented artists with works in collections such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum and the Brooklyn Art Museum, alongside some that don’t consider themselves to be artists and have never been represented, but were willing to participate anyway.
There could be tension here.
Coverage was an installation of my work at a temporary space in Seattle.
If you look at the magic eye poster on the back wall, an illusion of a 3D Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers will appear. The way a Magic Eye works (in case you aren’t familiar) is by repeating a horizontal pattern over and over again in a way that differs slightly with each repetition. Through systematic use of repetition, patterning, and variation, the illusion of depth and dimensionality appear. This way of creating an illusion is strangely illustrative of the way that mass media coverage gives a very distant event a sense of dimensionality. As a story about an event circulates through NYT editorials, Fox News, AM Talk Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera, etc., the details shift and change but the structure of the story stays the same, revealing new and different details and casting the event into relief. Further, the degree of dimensionality that is created through mass media coverage, reveals something about the complexity (or lack-thereof) of the culture that consumes it.
This absurd observation about the construction of magic eyes was the departure point for designing all the other objects in the room. They started as loose explorations of industrially manufactured patterns and oblique narrative structures and in the course of becoming props to fill out this exhibition, have turned into something else entirely.
The Tables Turned is a project by artists Erin Charpentier, Travis Neel, and Samuel Wildman. As serial collaborators, they work in many configurations of artists and organizations in Seattle and Portland.
The Tables Turned is a research monument that recovers the not-too-visible legacy of American Communitarian spatial design.
From the 18th-20th century, a number of dissident idealists experimented at the intersection of lifestyle and life space; testing the balance between authority and participation, community and privacy, and discipline and release. Their architecture and industrial design challenged dominant social structures in attempts to embody new values and institutions, such as equity and celibacy in the Shaker villages or perfectionism and complex marriage in the Oneida community. However flawed and problematic, these experiments offer insight into a collective imaginary and design process and provide evidence of an unlikely narrative in american history.
The Tables Turned recreates physical objects from these experiments as a starting point from which to consider how ideology manifests in the built environment and how the built environment is a site to challenge dominant paradigms.
Among other works, the exhibition will feature a recreation of the lazy susan table, adopted and patented by the Oneida Community in the 19th century. The table will feature programming developed by artists Arianna Jacob and the collaborative Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen. Further announcements will be made in the upcoming weeks.
We Are a Crowd of Others was a collaboration with Gail Grinnell and Eric John Olson where we used our residency at MadArt Studio to weave together an expansive, site-specific installation with a series of public programs which investigated the language and resonance of ordinary acts.
“Park” was installed in a gallery located in the bed of a pick-up truck. It was a temporary, situation specific installation that served as a mobile green space for daily commuters traveling the I-5 corridor.
“Fur Coat and Skeleton Stand” is an experiment in language and circulation. Made in response to the exhibition Good Neighbor, its parts come variously from a relative that passed away, a library, a skeleton, and a quote from a short story written by Charles Yu. The quote reads as follows: “Feeling grief. Someone else’s grief. Like wearing a stranger’s coat, still warm with heat from another body.” The stand, without a skeleton, supports the coat. The coat, without a body, is supported by the stand. The words, without arms, bring the two together. In the back of the coat is a checkout card from a library. Alluding to a dust jacket, it’s also meant to be a proposition: text is to body as needle is to thread. In the context of Good Neighbor, it is also simply a warm winter coat for anyone that needs it.
“Be Vintage” was a temporary, site specific project set on First Hill in Seattle WA. Using solicited advice from octogenarians in the community, we created a marketable health and lifestyle plan targeting Millennials. Our web based platform, thematic podcasts, and an ad campaign served as a bate-and-switch like tool for recruiting volunteers for retirement homes. Sponsored by SDOT and City of Seattle.
“Slot Machine/Sedōka” was made in collaboration with Rob Rhee. The combination of slot machine and Sedōka (style of poem) is equal parts pairing and proposition. Both structures, mechanical and poetic, are built for sedentary transportation. Both structures ventriloquize. The machine pulls its own arm with the arm of another. The Sedōka tells a story: a worker at a slot machine factory is addicted to the machines she assembles.
“Picture” is a composition that, under certain conditions, produces returns. It is made of three unaltered wheel coverings, called ribbons, from an old slot machine. There’s a specific number of each fruit per ribbon that go into circulation when the game is played. The quantity of the symbol, the orange for instance, determines how often it will turn up in a winning combination. The combos that turn up the least are made of the rarest symbols and come with the largest payouts. While these are just kind of the rules of the game, when you look at the symbols from a pictorial perspective value is equated with scarcity. The same could be said of the three ribbons thumb tacked to the wall and other items one might find hanging on the walls of a gallery. Seen through the lens of the Internet age– of trending, of going viral, of videos with over 2.5 billion views, etc.– “Picture” is a meditation on a paradigm shift: the ways that an image produces returns are changing.
Hosted by LxWxH Gallery