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Ford Gallery, University of Eastern Michigan, Ypsilanti, Michigan
This show was co-curated with artist and professor Chris Reilly and includes work by:
Body Count Collective
Kasper Ray O’Brien
Christopher St John
This exhibition begins with the body. It assembles works that use the body as a site of feeling and a site of identity — a place from which we establish ourselves as political, intimate, and undeniably physical creatures. The nine artists presented in this show work across a variety of media including video, performance, sculpture, and painting. Although their approaches and materials vary, each of these artists’ work in some way centers touch: not only as a physical expression but as a mindset, a placing of vulnerability and humanity at the cores of their practices. The works in this show stand in opposition to the critical distance and cold formality of so much contemporary art, exhibiting an interest in immediate, tactile and poetic uses of body and material.
Festival der Regionen, Marchtrenk, Austria
In this performance I set up a declared power dynamic at a mock border and then tested it through my interrogation of participants. All conversation was performed in English, forcing communication in what was for most a second language — giving me the upper hand. The initial line of questioning brought the viewer into the space of a border crossing in some basic ways: by asking about their identities, destinations and relationships to one another, but having established our roles, I began to ask questions about art and power itself — confusing and abstracting the original scene.
Border Crossings was performed during a period of political tension on the issue of asylum seekers in Austria, many of whom have been housed in rural areas like Marchtrenk, where FdR was hosted. Austria, like America and other Western European countries has seen a rise in prominence of far right in the last several years. In August of 2017, several months after this performance, the coalition government of Austria deployed military personnel to the Italian border to prevent the crossing of refugees from Africa — a regionally contentious move designed to display a tough stance on immigration in the hope of fending off the far right Freedom Party in fall elections.
Rapid Pulse Performance Art Festival, Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
“Borderline” lasted for an hour and a half and processed approximately 40 participants who waited in line for 5-45 minutes to cross an imaginary border. On the other side of the border was the next scheduled event. When participants arrived at my desk they were first asked for identification, if presented they were then questioned about their places of residence, and their relationships to Defibrillator, the Rapid Pulse Festival, performance art and performance artists. Those who failed to show proper identification, or answer questions correctly, based on a shifting set of criteria, were rejected and asked to return to the rear of the line. Most participants, after I was satisfied with their credentials, were ushered through. The line was kept in check by two other performers, Amanda Staples and Amelia de Rudder.
This work, while evidently referencing current tensions around US border politics, also functioned to question the institutions of art by correlating their seemingly biased control of “in” and “out” to that of the state’s. Mechanically, this piece pushed the boundaries of audience consent by instrumentalizing familiar bureaucratic tools — forced waiting, interrogation and declared power.
This series references, directly and indirectly, an email correspondence between myself and a family friend who is suffering from a mental illness that makes sincere communication nearly impossible. The use of concrete as a surface for these pieces makes the work both physically and visually heavy, and where canvas might be flexible or stretchable, the concrete is adamantly hard, brittle and impermeable. This purely physical body of work is in a contextual dialogue with the performances “Braced” and “The Problems With You.”
Performance, cement slab, used motor oil, toner, masonry nails, white cloth
Rapid Pulse Performance Art Festival, Defibrillator Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
In this performance I supported a 300lb slab of concrete for as long as I could. When I became too weak to hold it any longer I allowed it to fall, where, on impact, it cracked open spilling a viscous black liquid onto the white cloth below. I then tried to pull the cloth over the broken piece’s surface, but it was too small to cover it entirely.
The slab used in Braced was, in itself, a continuation of my studio practice, and was cast and painted in my studio in Detroit. This performance relates both materially and conceptually to the same themes explored in “The Problems With You” and the “Every Letter…” series, and looks at the complexity of support networks within friend and family groups, questioning our internal ethics around responsibility to self vs responsibility to others, whose problems may be broad and ongoing, but are ultimately not our own.
“The Problems With You”
Durational performance, printed email correspondence, lumber, stucco, bucket, water, cushion, fan
Ox-Bow School of Art, Saugatuck, Michigan
This is the first piece in an ongoing body of work that is also represented in the works “Braced” and the “Every Letter…” series. This piece was an 11-hour durational performance in which I both physically, and emotionally, processed a difficult and long standing relationship with a close family friend dealing with mental illness.
The fabricated ceiling in the room was made up of 15 panels, each panel was coated with stucco and scratched into — leaving a series of irregular grooves. In total, the ceiling weighed nearly 700lbs and was hung just below my standing height. During the performance, I read aloud from a body of email correspondence between myself and my friend. After reading each message, I wet the paper in water, tore it into strips, and pressed it into the grooves of the ceiling. The process of packing the paper into the ceiling created moments of rest in the emotionally wrought narration of this decades-long relationship, and might be seen as an attempt to sequester bad memories or heal old wounds.
The Monkey Chases The Weasel (How Did I Get Here?)
Durational performance, concrete block, gessoed panel, blood, sterilized lancets, iodine, water cooler, air freshener
9338 Campau Gallery, Hamtramck, Michigan
The Monkey Chases The Weasel (How Did I Get Here?) was composed as a long narrow triangle. The performance progressed as follows: I lifted the cinder block from the pedestal and placed it on a low platform on the opposite side of the room. I walked to the pedestal at the end of the gallery, where I pierced my finger with a sterilized needle. I marked a drop of blood on a flat white panel with a grid marked on it. I returned to the block and lifted it back onto the pedestal. I pierced my finger and marked another drop of blood on the grid. This continued for four hours, at which point I took a half-hour lunch break. Lunch was followed by four more hours of the same.
This piece refines and simplifies previous labor performances such as “Full-Time,” and uses repetition and physical labor to examine the loss of personal identity that may come from surviving off of work that you feel detached from.
Durational performance, concrete, unbleached muslin, plastic bags, sewing machine, iron, cement mixer, hand tools, pallets, newsprint
La Esquina Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
During this exhibition my collaborator, Rena Detrixhe, and I performed for the course of a 40-hour work week. Each day we sewed thirty pillow cases, and cast thirty 20lb concrete blocks. The items were marked with the date and a number — 1-150. When an item was completed it was placed onto a palette in the rear of the gallery, and a slip of paper was filled out with its number, the date, and the time completed. During the closing reception, the manufactured objects were sold in packages — one block, one pillowcase, their corresponding record slips, and a receipt signed by the artists. The cost of these packages was $7.85 — calculated as the total cost of materials and our labor at minimum wage, divided by the total number of items produced.
This project looks at the confusing economics of being an artist, and the all too common frustration of having to make you living in a field that is not art, and is far from where you maintain your identity. The sub-context of Full-Time is a critique of the many institutions that take advantage of artists, who are often willing to produce their work for very little compensation, with the hope of progressing their careers in a highly competitive field.
The Heartbeat Listeners
Hamtramck Arts Festival, Detroit, Michigan
The Heartbeat Listeners was an exercise in intimacy. When visitors entered the event space they were invited to have 100 of their heartbeats counted by one of the Listeners. Participants were then, in turn, invited to count 100 of the Listener’s heartbeats. Depending on an individual’s resting heart rate, this took 1-2 minutes, — a prolonged period of quiet intimacy to share with a stranger. Accepting the invitation of this project required being open to a level of vulnerability that is outside the parameters, and possibly the comfort zones, of most people’s daily interactions. The acknowledgement of another’s life through this simple action is a powerful and human experience.
Framing, hog fencing, found and donated materials, custom highchair, Glade air fresheners
Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas
The underlying structure at the center of the gallery is approximately seven meters in diameter, and three meters in height. Against and over top of this structure are carefully arranged items donated by the Salina community, some still functional but extraneous, some entirely useless, and many somewhere in between — objects that had been held onto because of an identified potential, or use, that had never been met, and never would be. At the center of the constructed space is a very large oak highchair. Through the brightly lit window, in the locked back door of the installation, is viewable an empty portion of the gallery. Presented in sterile harsh lighting, the only objects visible are four Glade air fresheners – emanating the manufactured fragrance of a clean American home.
In Our Time
Durational performance, performers, curved masonite wall, limestone, sand, colored lighting gels, furniture, water in glasses, treadmill, diary, sterling silver egg, custom maple work bench, cards
University of Kansas Art and Design Gallery, Lawrence, Kansas
This piece was performed on four occasions. Each performance ran for the duration of 10,000 heartbeats, approximately 2:15 hours, as marked in chalk by the artist on the central curved wall. The sound of the artist’s markings was amplified into the space behind the wall. In that space four discrete actions were being performed. One person ran on a treadmill; the next wrote down thoughts, stories, or memories; the third person sat filing a sterling silver egg at a maple workbench; and finally there is a person playing solitaire – waiting.