The Life Instinct

I’m participating in the Bronx Museum’s AIM Program, and, as an assignment, we are supposed to come up with a fantasy group show to contextualize our work. Here’s mine, titled The Life Instinct after a section of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s Maintenance Art Manifesto.

I’ve posted about almost all of these projects on this blog before, but here they are again, all together.

The great MLU washing the gallery stairs, I presume. From the Manifesto:

The Death Instinct: separation, individuality, Avant-Garde par excellence, to follow one’s own path to death–do your own thing, dynamic change.

The Life Instinct: unification, the eternal return, the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species, survival systems and operations, equilibrium.

In Loving Memory, by Kristyna & Marek Milde, is an installation made of discarded outdoor chairs found in the garbage on the streets of New York. They were refurbished to a functional state and sanitized. While the chairs serve their purpose as patio furniture on the roof of the NURTUREart, the installation addresses the issue of fast-paced cycles of the consumerism and the impermanence and the interchangeability of things, where actual ownership often represents a short-lived affair before rejection. Each chair has a plaque attached to its back, commemorating their “worn out”, “obsolete”, and generally “uncool” qualities recalling un-monumental aspects of everyday life.

Sweep, Christina Kelly & Jeff Hutchison

The artists cultivated Broomcorn –  a species that once was central to a Brooklyn broom-making industry – on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. During storms, the stalks function like a sieve, catching debris and preventing it from washing into the canal. At the end of the season, the stalks were made into traditional-style brooms.

Kilmer Shrines, Anne Percoco

For this project, I built and maintained shrines to a network of storm drains in Piscataway, NJ. My process was one of paying consistent attention over time, of growth and accumulation through repeated visits. I invited viewers to visit the shrines, either independently or on guided walking tours.

“With Nomadographies Mattingly proposes a world returned to nomadic roots, following a peripatetic population constantly on the move. In as much as the protagonists in Mattingly’s photographs are related to pioneers of the American frontier, they are also products of a Cold War-era bunker mentality.” — via Artlog

See also:

shedboatshed, Simon Starling

“Starling dismantled a shed and turned it into a boat; loaded with the remains of the shed, the boat was paddled down the Rhine to a museum in Basel, dismantled and re-made into a shed.” —

Matthew Jensen: Nowhere In Manhattan

This Sunday is the first of four Elastic City walks by Matthew Jensen, titled Signs of Life. I just made my way to his website, and from there to his project Nowhere In Manhattan.

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For this project, he explores and documents Manhattan’s junkspaces. The word “junkspace” was coined by Rem Koolhaus. When I use it, I mean a location invisible from prescribed routes and thus overlooked, unused, untended, and host to numerous extraordinary possibilities. There, artifacts accumulate and history is most visible. Nature grows up around this waste, makes use of it indiscriminately, and thrives. Jensen uses the term “nowhere” for the same idea. He defines it as a: “place that has been neglected and from this neglect has achieved the status of an organic non-place; a perfect combination of the built and natural. From these places one cannot say, ‘I am in a park’ or ‘I am in the city’ because neither appears to be true.”

This project reminds me a lot of my 2008 Kilmer Shrines project. (We even both have a sad stuffed animal photo!) Our process is basically the same, though the end result differs. But Nowhere In Manhattan packs an extra punch. My junkspaces are all in New Jersey, where you would expect to find such places. His are in Manhattan. The borough where real estate is so expensive that a 9.5 foot wide house squeezed as an afterthought between two others sells for $2.75 million.

So on the Elastic City walk you can tag along with him — experience the meat of his project and learn about your city’s weedy underbelly. Beautiful though the photos are, the surprise and discovery of firsthand experience usually cannot be beat. If not for a deadline, I would definitely be there.

(Are you familiar with Elastic City? From their website: “Artists are commissioned…to create their own walks. These walks tend to focus less on providing factual information and more on heightening our awareness, exploring our senses and making new group rituals in dialogue with public space in the city.” I’m going to be creating a walk for them in September with Residency Unlimited.)