On April 25, 2017 movers, shakers and placemakers from all over Indiana and the world will speak at TEDxIndianapolis, a locally organized conference that aims to celebrate and share Big Ideas. The theme of TEDxIND 2017 is Scale it Up, and will focus on how ideas can expand, replicate, multiply, and drive positive change. The day will be divided into four sessions, as follows:
Session 1: Starting Points
- Cara Courage on Placemaking and Community
- Natalie Schneider on Innovation Going from Zero to One
- Dr. Zaneta Thayer follows on Epigenetics and Cultural Anthropology, and Stress
- James Veitch (prerecorded)
- an interactive performance by Justin Wade of Young Actors Theater
- Carlos Gutierez on how Latin America became an International Epicenter of Cinema.
Session 2: Representation
- Performance by Oreo Jones
- Rodney Foxworth on Why We Need to Combat the Growing Racial Wealth Chasm
- Jamila Raquib on The Secret to Effective Nonviolent Resistance (prerecorded)
- Joyce and John Moore of the Urban Patch on Informal Scalability of Organic Farming in an Urban Context
- Maryori Duarte-Sheffield of the Immigrant Welcome Center
- Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center who asks the key question of "Did I Get Here Legally?
- TED Fellow Keolu Fox on the need for More Diversity in Genetic Research (prerecorded)
Session 3: Young and Old, Public and Private
- performance from Caldwell/Tester
- Kristin Van Busum on Why Allyship is the New Leadership
- Justin Wade on Youth Empowerment Through Art
- Jean Makesh on Disrupting Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
- David Harris of the Mind Trust on Urban Education Reform
- Wanda Legrand on the role of Interpreters Bridging Art and Public Education
Session 4: The Data of Power and the Power of Data
- Jay Hermacinski of MISO on The Power Grid – Innovation Driving an Electrical Revolution
- Santosh Mathan on scaling artificial intelligence to be more adaptable
- Rob Knight on How Microbes Make Us Who We Are (prerecorded)
- Kevin Desouza on Simple Solutions to Scale Intrapreneurship
- William Mougayar on What You Need To Know about the Blockchain Economy
- performance by Derek Johnson
We’re excited to announce that Big Car project Indy City Futbol will be kicking off its fourth season on May 17, 2017. The league functions both as a recreational soccer league and a means of building community across Indianapolis’s urban districts. Co-ed teams are determined by neighborhood, and stamped with tongue-and-cheek crests modeled after traditional European football clubs. Teams compete in 12 games throughout the summer, vying for the league trophy and 365 days of bragging rights.
However, there is a FIFA-unregulated twist: league teams can earn extra points to help their standings through works of positive citizenship such as carpooling, walking, or biking to games, as well as volunteering in their neighborhood as a team. This ensures camaraderie not only on the pitch, but in the city in general.
To that end, Indy City Futbol along with partners Indy Eleven and Holladay Properties is giving back this season by purchasing new soccer goals at Central Greens Field, the league’s home field.
We’ve received really excellent media coverage of our new Artist and Public Life Residency program launched in March of 2017 with the first round of applications that came in during April of 2017. Read and watch more here.
Big Car Collaborative is pleased to announce the latest in a long line of excellent leaders for our nonprofit board with Diana Hartley Mutz. She follows Ursula David, Craig McCormick, and Anne Laker as the previous three Big Car board presidents.
A philanthropist and longtime supporter of the arts, Diana is the youngest of eight children and was born and raised on the east side of Indianapolis. During her youth, Diana yearned to be Marcia Brady. A goat mistook her waist-length blonde locks for a tasty snack. And one of her brothers grew marijuana in the back yard of the family home. A prostitute with a heart of gold lived across the street. And a pornographer with a heart of stone lived down the alley.
As you can probably tell, Diana’s upbringing was not all smooth sailing. However, she discovered a love for playing the flute in high school and knows that this exposure to art transformed her life, allowing her to become who she is today. That’s why she sees Big Car as such an important organization and is incredibly honored to be president of the board for the next two years.
Big Car transforms lives by bringing art to people and people to art, which is exactly what happened to Diana. After graduating from Howe High School, Diana received a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.B.A. from I.U. Kelley School of Business. She is the proud mother of two quasi-adult children, Fletcher and Lucy, and she lives with her doting husband, Howard Schrott.
In her free time, Diana enjoys practicing Pilates (although her back occasionally gives out no matter how much core strength she gains), and walking her dog — a miniature dachshund, Tina Fey, who is constantly struggling to lose those last two pounds.
Students from Tindley Preparatory Academy held homage to black artists at Tube Factory on January 16, 2017 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Teacher Tasha Jones brought a group of 40 8th graders from the all-boys middle school to the artspace for a poetry reading and celebration of culture.
Before the event, each Tindley student was assigned to write about their personal experiences in the form of an “I am” poem, which they shared in front of family and Tindley faculty members at Tube. The poems explored topics like identity, inner peace, and discovering self-worth. The poems varied in tone and structure but showed strong sense of pride – the boys were confident in what they wrote and were happy to share their poetry with the audience.
After the reading, students and community members learned more about the Civil Rights Movement through sharing other poetry and open discussion. Much of the day centered around writer Mari Evans – one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, longtime Indianapolis resident, and subject of Carl Pope’s exhibit in the Tube gallery.
To remember the field trip, the students’ poems from the day were later hung up in their classroom surrounding a picture of Mari, seen below. See more pictures from this event here.
A look back at a very exciting year of art, placemaking, and creative community building by the team at Big Car Collaborative in Indianapolis. Video by staff videographer Kurt Nettleton. Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported our work this year!
On Friday, December 2 at Listen Hear, 21 year old Herron School of Art and Design student Jessica Kartawich displayed her original piece Dear Somebody, an audio piece that revolves around the motif of loss. Kartawich’s art includes a recording of someone telling their story of loss in each corner of the room. When standing in the middle of the room, the sorrow of each story overlaps and intermingles. However, if the listener interacts with the piece and walks to each corner of the room they can hear each story of loss individually. Kartawich recommended doing this first and then sitting in the center of the room and listening to the stories all at once.
Dear Somebody provided an outlet for those who have experienced loss to find solace with and connect to others by accepting rolling submissions of writing or audio from viewers’ personal experiences of grief, reflecting the ever changing emotions which surround the different losses human beings suffer. This documentation of “emotional residue” provides a layer of subtle solidarity to the participatory work.
“I feel like my art lately has been kind of introspective. Whether that’s labels people put on me, how I think of myself and my own identity, or something that has happened in my life that I feel like has had an effect on me, my strongest work comes from a personal place. As far as what I do when I create art, I don’t know how to answer that one. I just try and figure out how I feel about the subject and how I want other people to feel about it and how I can achieve that.” – Jessica Kartawich (Herron Photography Club)
See more from this event here.
In the early 1970’s, I was a curious adolescent unable to initially grasp the depths and dimensions of Mari Evans’ writings. Whenever Ms. Evans made a public appearance, I would attend and find myself caught up in the palpable excitement of being in her presence without expectation of how her words…how her perspective…would affect my thinking. For me, Mari Evans was a local hero not unlike Etheridge Knight, Gwendolyn Brooks, Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Muhammad Ali. They were Black literary, artistic, and socio-political trailblazers at a time during my formative years when Indianapolis was a major hotspot for Black cultural innovation and production. I was a witness to an explosion of Black creativity in Indianapolis in the 1970’s that left me with strong impressions which activated my imagination in ways not detected by my conscious awareness. Some of those impressions came into sharp focus in 2015 when I met Garrett Hongo; an acclaimed poet and close friend of Etheridge Knight, who helped me to understand my connection to the ideas of the Black Arts Movement. But it was not until Shauta Marsh and Jim Walker of Big Car…having asked me to create a text-based installation about Mari Evans’ Book “Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective”… that I fully realized that my primary concerns as a socially engaged artist were deeply informed by my initial experiences of Mari Evans and the Black Arts Movement in Indianapolis.
After reading the first two pages in the preface of “Clarity as Concept”, I received a mind-flash about the roots of my artistic development and cultural heritage…an epiphany that ignited my passion for creating art as a practice to acquire greater discernment and oneness about myself and society…transforming my intuition into the visible and the tangible.
Early into reading, I began to perceive “Clarity as Concept” as transference of Evans’ insights melding with my own. The decision to replicate this transmission of creative vitality was inspired by Evans’ personal journey. She writes, “Who I am is central to how I write and what I write; and I am the continuation of my father’s passage.” The continuation of this ancestral passage is both personal and collective; thus, becoming a matter of prime importance as individuals and communities face mounting dilemmas, fluctuating responsibilities, and narrowing choices at local, national, and global levels.
“Go with me, as we put our collective minds, demystified, to the task of configuring ways to move away from our psychological bondage and out of our political and economic subordination.”
Evans penetrating questions spin an intricate web of interconnected and coherent reflections in which she urges the reader to consider. Her questions inspire readers to negotiate the terrain of personal and collective history with the imagination so that fragments of memory and perceptions converge to weave threads of illumination throughout one’s inner and outer life. With my text installation, “A Reading of Mari Evans’ Book, Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective” I culled from an extensive range of questions and passages in her book to stimulate prolific brainstorming about one’s self and his/her relationship or position in Western society and the unprecedented shifts now occurring in the Anthropocene…the present epoch of human history when individual and collective choices and actions permanently alter the entire system of the Earth’s biosphere.
Mari Evans’ meditations about using language to accurately define and heal the pervasive lack of critical thinking; as well as, the generational curse of colonialism are major themes in “Clarity as Concept”. Evans defines these conditions as Ethos…”the environmental laboratory within which creativity, whether positive or negative roots and is, or is not nurtured.” Mari Evans’ definition of Ethos transforms her inquiry and my text installation into an invitation to engage in an educational and experiential process for gaining clarity. But the choice to enter the text and vigorously explore and digest it requires mindfulness and self honesty. How the readers choose to act in response to the text may reflect much about their views and feelings about the current state of world affairs or the relevance of Ethos in their lives. On page 42, Evans examines the underlying issues important in making choices by stating:
“People do what they want most to do. Even, when what they choose to do is not what they want to do, they are doing what they want most to do. It is a mean paradox; really convoluted. But that is the bottom line. People often forego pleasure for pain; even when they desperately want the pleasure, it is the pain they choose despite the quality of hurt that is implicit. The pain is, in the final analysis, what they want. And there is nothing masochistic in this choice of pain over pleasure that accompanies the rejection of pleasure. The choice is voluntary and carries with it the pleasure which is inherent in the exercise of free will. Thus, the choice of pain delivers pleasure since the choice itself was willed not imposed.”
Now more than ever…we are being confronted to wake up to the devastating results of our seemingly inconsequential choices of convention. Those choices manifest as a ubiquitous wall of complacency around the Western hierarchical social structure; as well as a deployment of its authority in the form modernism. We are left to face unbridled narcissism, pathological ambition(s) for privilege, widespread solipsism syndrome replete with full spectrum dominance and perpetual war.
“Innovation, breakthrough, experimental art forms- what more natural forum for the Black artist?”
The text installation “A Reading of Mari Evans’ Book “Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective” consists of an ever expanding regenerative information field of questions and ideas; an incomplete and experimental narrative which encourages self-determination in the Ethos through the use of the human imagination. This artwork is a reformation of Evans’ passages as a physical interactive space; whereby reading becomes collaboration and as a result, the audience contributes to the evolution of the text into uncharted territory. The synergetic legacy of Black cultural production since the Harlem Renaissance; at its core, is a continuously shifting colloquium seeking to manifest new or unrecognized art forms as a declaration of one’s sovereignty and an act of self-love as a foundation for loving others and the Earth. Black musicians worked in countless jam sessions and performances to invent riffs, rhythms, and harmonic theories to forge new styles and directions in every genre of today’s popular music. Lyrical riffs in Black modernist literature were also unpacked in a joint approach as creativity reached a fevered pitch in the work of Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison; who created seminal works that helped define the canon of postmodern literature. In fact, Black musicians also made indelible contributions to the canon of postmodernism with breakthroughs in interdisciplinary practices with installation art, performance, dance, poetry, and music in the formation of Disco, Hip Hop, House music, Afrofuturism, and Afro Punk. The intersection where Black Modernism, the Black Arts Movement, and a post modernity of peace meet…is where Mari Evans’, her audience, and I make the intangible…tangible and visible. And it is at this intersection that something previously unperceivable is glimpsed…a constant uninterrupted filament of evolving complimentary harmonious collaboration from the past as memory takes shape in the now…extending itself just beyond the farthest reaches of the human imagination into the future. Mari Evans takes us “there” to the priceless treasure of our creative inheritance which is an extraordinary revelation that springs from clarity.
“…you championed me
from a place of unseen being
and through that moment
I become revealed
to a place of honor
among the living.”
About Carl Pope: Carl Pope’s artistic practice is committed to the idea of art as a catalyst for individual and collective transformation(s). His multi-media installations were exhibited at prestigious venues including: The Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; receiving generous support from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Lilly Endowment, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. The installations gained national and international exposure with “New Photography 6” at the Museum of Modern Art and “Black Male” at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Since 1990, Pope’s methodology with public art evolved into ongoing collaborative efforts with artists and communities…producing large-scale public art inventions that stimulate public dialogue and/or community revitalization. Excursions into his internal landscape produced the video/text installation “Palimpsest” commissioned by the Wadsworth Atheneum; with funds from The Warhol and Lannan Foundations, was included in the Whitney Biennial 2000. The essay of letterpress posters: “The Bad Air Smelled of Roses” and his recent billboard campaigns continue his ongoing exploration into public and inner space.
“Carl Pope’s work is at once a form of geography, re-imagining and imaging the forgotten histories, people and places in America, and a new psychology, creating a state of mind capable of sustaining the shocks of the present. It’s soul food for the mind, in sharp contrast to the quick hit of consumer pleasure that dominates the art market, and it’s all the more important for that.”–Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communications, NYU
(b. 1975, lives and work in Detroit)
The coyotes roaming Detroit fascinate artist Scott Hocking, it is an animal that is adaptable and gregarious, yet also solitary and rejects human domestication. Hocking encounters them on his sojourns through the parts of the city where post-industrial urban landscape is in the process of being reclaimed by nature. He creates photographs, sculpture, and assemblages in these places of transition; likewise, he is a coyote-like roamer in pursuit of evidence and archeological specimens created by the modern human species. The coyote is a frequent character in the folklore of the Western World going back to Mesoamerican cosmology—a picaresque figure that has the ability to assume both human and animal form. It is easy to conjure such a fantastical character around Hocking, because he is more of a scavenger than flâneur, and his work is more mythology than documentary.
The pairing of man versus nature is a trope used throughout the history of literature and film; and the metaphor is often used as a device to grapple with existential constructs like the sublime. When I began to think about interviewing Scott Hocking, defining elements of his practice—his artistic character, the landscape, the mythologies, the dramatic visuals—resonated as having a distinctive cinematic quality with the overtures of grand storytelling. In addition, the work he creates is never static in the present, even if it is a printed photograph. There is a suggested narrative of a before and an after, whether that be a remnant of an event or the anticipation of one. Therefore, in preparation of the following interview, I asked him to watch three movies that had elements relatable or tangential to his process, aesthetics, and work: The Night of the Hunter (1955), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and The Five Obstructions (2003). In brief summation, The Night of the Hunter is a black and white noir film directed by Charles Laughton, and stars Robert Mitchum as a fanatical preacher/ serial killer that chases two children for weeks along a rural landscape. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a science fiction film by Steven Spielberg in which the protagonist’s hysteria is beset upon him due to an encounter with a UFO, resulting in him leaving earth with the aliens. The Five Obstructions is a documentary by Lars Van Trier in which he challenges his mentor, Danish filmmaker Juergen Leth, to remake his film The Perfect Human (1967) five times under increasingly difficult creative restrictions and challenges.
After both of us watched these films, we met to discuss. This interview took place on July 4, 2016, in Scott Hocking’s studio during a particularly hot summer in Detroit.
Scott Hocking: My first reaction to the list of films was it is fantastic you selected The Night of the Hunter; it’s one of my all time favorites.
Laura Mott: I think it is essential viewing for artists and filmmakers. The Night of the Hunter is a film in which the narrative is greatly amplified through the director’s use of space and light. I thought we could begin our discussion surrounding the drama of night, because I know it is an important time for your process and explorations of Detroit. My dominant memory of The Night of The Hunter was Robert Mitchum’s silhouette slowly moving across the stark, empty landscape of night: an image that spoke to the equivalency often made between desolation and danger. The lighting of the film in particular made me think about your photographs. I thought you might want to talk about the night as a resource.
SH: When I photograph at night, it’s an extension of me being a kid. Like those kids in [The Night of the Hunter] who escape in the middle of the night, I would sneak out in the night. Some of my early memories when I was living in Redford [Michigan] were walking down the railroad tracks at night. Even to this day the railroad tracks are this hidden pathway that crisscrosses the country, the globe really. When you walk the railroad tracks you are removed from the rest of life. You see nature in a different way, you see things hidden in the background.
It occurred to me I needed to document these experiences, the same way it occurred to me to document the ways I work in abandoned buildings. Making artwork with the materials I find from these places, doesn’t translate the feeling of being there, the photographs have become a little bit closer. Sometimes I’m alone for hours in a desolate section of the city, places I don’t think many people see. I enjoy the time I spend just getting one shot, the quietude.
Davison Fog Mound, from Detroit Nights, 2007-2016
SH: (continued): I realized the projects I’m doing in Detroit, whether it be a photo series of Detroit at night, aging signs or graffiti, or making installations in places long ruined or desolated, I realized there is a time limit. I won’t be able to do them any longer, the city is changing—even the night photos. For a long time the night photography had a lot to do with the randomness of the street lights, the ambient light situations of Detroit were so unpredictable and you’d find an area that was incredibly desolate, but it would have one working lamp lighting nothing. Or there would be neighborhoods that would be bustling but all the streetlights would be broken. But that has all changed. The city has experienced a huge amount of infrastructure improvements, where all the public lighting has been upgraded to LEDs. They are on every street, even the abandoned ones.
LM: There is another aspect of The Night of the Hunter I wanted to discuss—the fanaticism. The killer’s fanatic beliefs are a driving force for much of the story. This tradition of storytelling can be the impetus and the drive for so many real life actions, good and evil. In your own work you take up such topics, like your project The End of The World (2012), which is a stacked collection of over 200 books about the apocalypse and destruction mythologies. And also there is your recent epic installation, The Celestial Ship of the North (2015), in which you painstakingly inverted an old barn into an ark. I have this idea that you find productive creative value in the fanatic heart and mind.
The End of the World, 2012
SH: [Robert Mitchum’s character] could woo the fanatical masses. The people believed he was channeling the word of God. Something he said reminded me of a book I picked up years ago that lead to the theme you are mentioning called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
LM: Wow, good title.
SH: What a great title right? The book was about events throughout history that led to mass hysteria. The End of The World project is about how many times throughout history humans have thought they could figure out how the world would end, and the different forms of these predictions from mythology, to religion, to spirituality, to scientific or pseudoscientific ideas of the sun burning out or a comet hitting the earth. All of these things are examples of humans trying to understand what the hell we are doing on earth and whether this is real or not. The meaning of life, where do we come from, where do we go, what happened before our life, what happens after we die—all of these fundamental questions and attempts at answers.
Right now, logic, reason and scientific methods lead us to believe certain things about where we come from, where we are going; but, I still feel like even that is guessing. I am fascinated by the way humans try to understand what cannot be understood, with stories, with equations. And I am fascinated by archetypes, the way people respond to imagery that has existed forever and that we all interpret in our own way, through our own filters. So if I make something that resembles an ark, that word resonates with people for different reasons. People would come up to me while I was building the ark and shout up to me things like, “Oh you’re like Noah up there,” but they were also kind of testing to see what my response would be. Other people had the reaction, “Jesus, Scott sure is really doing a lot of biblical themed artworks lately, what’s going on there?”
Celestial Ship of the North (Emergency Ark), aka the Barnboat, 2015
LM: My thinking is the way your photographs capture the feeling of being in those desolate places, the large-scale installations convey the overwhelming task of tackling human existence. The excess of material, the scale, and the space—the decisions you make as an artist respects the size of the question. Your ark, like Noah’s ark, is something to behold.
SH: In Detroit, the amount of information in the massive, old industrial buildings is incredibly overwhelming – the layers of paint, the layers of history, the layers of material, and the way nature had infiltrated – has made it even more complex. All of your senses are awake. All of your senses become aware because of the unknown. The ark is effective in the sense that driving around the areas in rural Midwestern America, it’s not unusual to come across farms or barns, but the ark makes you do a double take. If you go into an abandoned building and you find a pyramid or an egg built out of material found in there, your reaction might be, “Who did that? Where did they come from?” The what-the-fuck-moment for me is important, but it also comes from my internal desire to find those in my life, to feel like I’ve discovered something unknown.
LM: In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the main character builds a sculptural landscape in his living room because of subliminal communication with aliens, and it struck me as conceivable—since you work in abandoned spaces—that you would create something like that in a place that might previously been someone’s living room.
SH: Close Encounters, I did kind of think to myself, “Oh she’s sending me this because she thinks I’m that crazy guy!” (laughs) I do sometimes get ideas through dreams. If I have a moment of clarity and it leads to an idea, even if I don’t understand why, I’ve learned to trust it. Projects in Detroit like The Egg in Michigan Central Train Station, the Ziggurat in Fisher Body 21, and the Garden of the Gods in the Packard Plant – in every case I had a feeling I had to do something now. And in every case I could not have done those projects afterwards, the circumstances changed, the buildings were altered, the materials gone.
LM: There are certain sculptural elements to your work that nod to an innate human desire for symmetry and the ideal object—the egg, the pyramid, the ark, the crop circle—that have a long history drawing back to ancient forms of communication.
SH: I think when I build a ruin within a ruin, or a monument within a monument or a ruin within a monument, what I’m interested in is trying to point out that the ancient idea of a monument or a ruin is no different from the contemporary. Why do we think that these things from the ancient past symbolize the people, but when we look at our contemporary ruins, we can’t think how it will be perceived in the future? Why do we separate ourselves? How are we any different? I don’t think we are; I think there are cycles. We speak different languages, we have different tools, we have different knowledge, but I think the cycles that humans go through are the same all living things go through. It’s a repetitive circumstance, and to that point I think we repeat the same mistakes as older civilizations. Humanity has a very short-term memory.
Lot Circles, 2014
LM: The idea of how future archeologists will see us is a fascinating aspect of your work. However, to take us back to the present, there are also people from our current moment in time who unexpectedly encounter your works left in public or abandoned spaces. It is a very different discovery for someone who does not encounter them within the art context.
SH: My favorite stories involve people who have nothing to do with the art world, especially the people who are regarded as criminals, like scrappers. My best scrapper story involves the pyramid built in the Fisher Body. The pyramid was built with these wood blocks, which have no scrap value, in fact, they are soaked with creosote, which is a carcinogen, and eventually the EPA cleaned out the whole building—destroying the pyramid. While I was working there was a whole crew of scrappers who had gas-powered saws. They were professionals. They would drive their trucks into the building, hide them, go up onto the different floors, climb up ladders, and saw down these giant, metal galvanized pipes. So they are in the building cutting them down, and suddenly it goes silent. I asked one of the scrappers, “What is happening, why did you guys all stop working?” They are on their walkie talkies, and he said, “The city of Detroit is currently outside re-fencing the building.” I Iook outside and there is a 16-foot fence being rolled up around the building. I said, “I’m going to get out of here,” but they said they were cool and going to stay. So I snuck out the side door, went home. The next day I came back and the fence was gone. The scrappers waited for the city to fence off the whole building, waited for the city to leave, and then they took the fence too.
So I come in one day and all of the pipes are gone, including the pipes that ran right over the top of the pyramid. These pipes were probably 8 inches in diameter, maybe 10 feet long, maybe 300 pounds each. The pyramid was untouched. So these guys, who didn’t give a shit about what they were destroying in these buildings, decided to somehow cut down the pipes over my pyramid without it touching it. I had made enough of a connection with them. I don’t even know how they did it. These are the moments that really make it interesting for me.
Ziggurat, East, Summer II, from Ziggurat and Fisher Body 21, 2007-2009
LM: I selected The Five Obstructions, because it speaks so well to the process of artistic creation. My impression is that Lars von Trier makes the film as a way to get his mentor Juergen Leth out of his depression by essentially challenging his friend to get behind the camera and go to different parts of the world. It captures how artists work through the struggle of creative production and find moments that are spectacular.
SH: So, I’m going to go back first to Juergen Leth’s original film “The Perfect Human”. When you watch the whole thing, some of the important parts are these mundane routines and patterns that the human does, including joy and despair. He is with this woman, in a fetal position in bed—instead of sex, he is crying and she’s consoling him. It shows them eating together, but then it shows him alone, eating and murmuring, “Why is joy always so fleeting?” Eventually, he says, “Why did she leave me?” and he repeats this cycle of moving into despair, only to wrap it up by saying, “This is really a good meal.” Then it ends with the beginning of a new cycle.
In my projects, I move through cycles. I move through periods of confidence and moments of doubt. I’ve realized that it’s all about understanding and navigating obstacles—that’s all it is—you are always navigating. I’m no masochist, I’m not Lars von Trier, but I do decide to build ridiculously labor intensive, time-consuming sculptures in abandoned buildings that might take a year. The barn project was so labor intensive that I got tendonitis in both arms. Then eventually I lost feeling in both arms. I couldn’t sleep. I had to sleep sitting up in a chair. But, I know it’s a cycle, I know I’ll get through it. The end object is not the most important thing; it is the process and the meditation of working.
LM: I’m interested in your own process when you venture to new cities and situations, like how did you approach a city like Indianapolis for the exhibition at the Tube Factory? What specific histories, materials, or discoveries of the city led to the creation of this installation?
SH: I came out to Indianapolis a couple of times to scout and talk about ideas. The last visit was in January, and Shauta Marsh (the curator at The Tube Factory) had lined up a few specific sites, with the help of Kipp Normand, an artist and walking encyclopedia of Indianapolis history. Kipp spent his childhood in Detroit, and we have a similar interest in old junk. They showed me a massive former RCA plant first, and it immediately grabbed me.
I began researching the RCA building’s history. I learned that the buildings I was working in (the only ones left standing) were the oldest parts of the plant, and the division where record albums were pressed. Apparently, a lot of Elvis records were pressed there, and they could often be heard playing throughout the factory. Another interesting story was that of the “anechoic room”: A sound proof room that was lined floor to ceiling with wedges of foam that kind of pyramid-ed out from the walls / ceiling / floor. There was a floating audio system in the center, suspended by wires, and a floating platform that one would walk out on to perform audio tests. The whole scene felt very sci-fi, and led me to believe that the giant Styrofoam wedges onsite were the right materials to use. In general, from the surroundings of the RCA plant and other industrials neighborhoods, to the Tube Factory compound complete with Bean Creek (a virtual wild kingdom of Indiana wildlife), my explorations of Indianapolis have all fed into the installation.
The RCA history was interesting enough, but the building was last used as a recycling plant, and was filled with now abandoned, un-recycled waste: plastic, paper, foam—thousands of objects. There were huge piles of military grade plastic cases, with ominous stencils: “laser firing simulator system,” “interrogation kit,” “casualty evacuation kit,” “tank weapon gunnery simulation system”. There were pallets of clothes and books (including dozens of old hymnals); plastic pill and dish soap bottles; giant fragments of signage from McDonald’s, Steel City, Family Dollar, Wendy’s; and a monster stack of Styrofoam slabs and wedges, melted and distorted from some failed arson attempts. Once I arrived for installation, I spent about a week documenting and gathering materials onsite, and then another week installing at the Tube Factory.
I was even able to salvage portions of the RCA / Victor logo, painted on an old sheetrock wall, one of the few objects connected to the building’s original history. The resulting installation used the main gallery as a kind of future ceremonial site. I kept thinking about that burnt Styrofoam mountain as some kind of dystopian temple or future glacier, the melted areas almost look and feel like glass. I have been reading a lot of Ballard, and we had talked about Huxley, and the Zamyatin‘s precursor to them all, “WE,” and I think it all combined in my head and melded into another mythological future archaeology (like usual). “WE” specifically talks about the glass wall that separates nature from the humans – and they just see the green color through the glass, the Green Wall. The RCA building had this exact scenario: green plastic skylights illuminating all of the manmade heaps of plastic, foam, and military waste – all kind of tranquilly stagnant -potentially sitting there forever.
Former RCA plant, Indianapolis, 2016
LM: When I asked Shauta why she was interested in bringing you to Indianapolis, she brought up that your work makes us realize we are surrounded by ephemera, which can be an inconvenient idea to most people. And your photography practice, she likened it to Roland Barthes’ notion that photography is a way to resurrect a person or a place from the dead. I thought this could be an interesting place to end and to ask you to think about the longevity and timeline of your works, particularly those with unpredictable futures.
SH: Someone just asked me about photography the other day, because in a lecture I talked about the ephemeral, the fleeting quality of the sculptures built on site—everything gets destroyed by man or by nature eventually—and the only thing that really lives on are the images. And, I related my belief that it’s more important to embrace the process than it is to embrace the end result, the object. The barn boat, which is technically a permanent project, was built out of a barn which was decaying, and it’s just reformatted in a different shape but it’s still decaying, it’s still subject to the same elements and it will disappear.
This topic comes up a lot in the work where I create situations where I’m playing with obscure objects of worship. I’m curious how future people will perceive us. Will they revere the things we leave behind? Will they see us as the horrible savages of the past who did the dumbest things? It’s kind of comical to think they might revere and find the things we leave behind as talismanic, especially if there are things that would lead to our own destruction. Our trash, all the things we create now that don’t get destroyed over thousands of years, plastics, things like that, I’m really curious to know how those things will be perceived, what they will be used for.
LM: The world might be very similar to the way it is now, lots of faults, lots of cycles, and good ideas and bad ideas.
SH: That’s the thing, it all comes back to this idea that the way I’m thinking now is not exceptional; this is the way people were thinking 500 years ago, this is the way people were thinking 1000 years ago. They were looking around and saying, “The world is gonna end if we don’t stop doing what we are doing.”
This is not new thinking, you know the phrase—the more things change, the more things stay the same. But there is a French way to say that, and it’s a lot cooler.
Scott Hocking has exhibited internationally, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Cranbrook Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the University of Michigan, the Smart Museum of Art, the School of the Art Institute Chicago, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum, the Mattress Factory Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Kunst-Werke Institute, the Van Abbemuseum, and Kunsthalle Wien. He was recently awarded a Kresge Artist Fellowship, and is represented by Susanne Hilberry Gallery.
Laura Mott joined Cranbrook Art Museum as the Curator of Contemporary Art and Design in November 2013 following an active career as a curator, writer, and lecturer in both the United States and Europe. Previously, she has held various curatorial positions at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Gothenburg Konsthall, IASPIS in Stockholm, Mission 17 in San Francisco, and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where she worked on the 2002 Biennial exhibition and publication. She received her MA in Curatorial Studies at Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and BFA and BA in Fine Arts and Art History from the University of Texas. Mott was a faculty lecturer at the Valand Academy of Art at University of Gothenburg from 2009-2013.
Made possible by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts