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: marymattingly.com

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.” — Tate.org

In Loving Memory

Some scattered thoughts about Kristyna & Marek Milde’s installation on the NURTUREart roof:

The installation consists of scavenged chairs, refurbished and sanitized, with commemorative plaques fastened to their backs, plus a map of where they were found, all in various locations in NYC.

This project has it all: love of trash a la Slavoj Zizek, material memory, exaltation of humble objects.

This relational aesthetics-genre piece not only activates relationships and conversations among gallery visitors who lounge on the chairs. It encompasses the whole web of relationships around their provenance: where the chairs were originally purchased, who bought them, the imagined event of their damage or the slow advance of rust or the going out of style, the decision to discard, and finally their placement on a curb in New York where the artists found them.

In a statement, the artists align their practice with a traditional hunter-gatherer way of life. Agnes Varda explores a similar concept in her movie “The Gleaners and I”, about modern scavengers of food and materials. Roger Ebert writes in his review:

In our alley we see men searching through the refuse for treasure. “The Gleaners and I” places them in an ancient tradition. Since 1554, when King Henry IV affirmed the right of gleaning, it has been a practice protected by the French constitution, and today the men and women who sift through the dumpsters and markets of Paris are the descendants of gleaners who were painted by Millet and Van Gogh.”

There’s something wonderful about finding use-value in castoffs. Finding artistic value in their re-use takes it a step further.