A statement written for the burned-out skeleton of a church near St. Louis’ Grand Center. The snark levels in this one are dramatically reduced, making it verge upon genuine, for better or worse.
Lower Case ‘G’.
This edifice, a skeletal form evoking the architectural grandiosity of structures devoted to divine worship, was constructed to call into question ‘mainstream’ religion’s fixation with the ‘manmade’. When walking into this faux-building, instead of seeing the iconographies of piety, one only sees the sky. Blasphemy to some, but indeed what is more sacred than the celestial? The juxtaposition between the indoors and outdoors prompts the visitor to ask “what makes a place of worship ‘holy’?”. A rock forged into a church wall is sacred, but one on the ground is secular? This hollow monument itself slowly returns to Mother Earth, overtaken by the flash oxidation of fire and slow erosion of the sun and rain. Entropy ultimately retaking its position as one of the true gods.
An abandoned (?) African American Cultural Center mural and the empty lot behind it in St. Louis’ University City, Missouri. I’d say it was heavy-handed symbolism if I didn’t find it that way…
In Lieu of… 2011
This piece is designed to serve as a metaphor for the innumerable empty promises laid at the feet of a once-subjugated minority. In building this non-building, a wooden barrier with a large, ostentatious sign reading “African American Cultural Center,” the artist references an uncomfortable truth.Not unlike the post-emancipation pledge of 40 acres and a mule, this work evokes the United States’ propensity to trade actual product or progress for the emptiness of ‘good intentions.’The wall, complete with a quintessentially multicultural mural, satirically espouses a commitment to a Center the community is unable or unwilling to construct. A microcosm of minority race and religious relations, this piece embodies both the best and worst of “mainstream” American priorities.Other “forever-under construction” projects proposed by the artist include a “Native Americans: Here’s Colorado Back” installation and a thrilling piece that “promises” to allow the Iraqi Army to invade and “liberate” Washington D.C., with the guarantee of a meager and underpowered defense from the U.S. military.
These awkwardly spaced benches line the streets of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. They are all just a product of poor urban planning, except for these two, which are now Art.
Made You Look. 2011
In a world of disappearing social interaction, the purpose of this piece is to engage, nay even confront.The two metal pillars stand as monolithic guardians, reminders of the social boundaries that are not meant to be crossed in ‘polite society.’The chairs, facing one another in an endless stare-off, are purposefully arranged to be neither close enough for quiet conversations between lovers or friends, nor far enough away to invite solitary contemplation.As the gap between members of the populace in our own cities widens into chasms, these seats serve as reminders of the difficulty of engagement, yet incongruously prod participants to recognize the inherent necessity of such communication.
I declared this piece at a pedestrian crosswalk near St. Louis’ Forest Park, after noticing that it (like a lot of crosswalks), doesn’t actually do anything other than make a beep when you press it. A potent metaphor? Eh, I guess if you want it to be.
Find it in person here (For as long as it lasts)
Depressed Button. 2011
In a chaotic, uncaring universe, (wo)mankind has always sought for a sense of order and control amid the anarchy, be it through religion, ritual, or the implementation of the ‘rule of law.’ Laws, we are meant to believe, are inherent ‘truths,’ as opposed to attempts to fit the government’s binary narrative of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’
This piece, designed to pose as a pedestrian crosswalk button, is a perfect embodiment of humanity’s attempt to the control their environment, even though the actual effect of that ‘control’ is ultimately an illusion. This button, when pressed, makes an audible beep, denoting that the pedestrian’s request for passage has been ‘heard.’ However, traffic continues to flow uninterrupted. If the light turns red soon after the button is used, we give ourselves credit for controlling our sphere, not unlike a shaman taking responsibility for precipitation after performing a rain dance.`
This traffic light changes on its own rhythmic cycle, a metaphor for the turning of days, seasons or the waxing and waning of the moon. Buttons may be pressed, but in the end, sometimes the universe is timed in your favor, and sometimes one must wait… or brave the dangerous ‘road’ and the government’s raised red hand, glowing for you to stop and do as you’re told.
This one is in St. Louis’ Forest Park, near the art museum.
The Forest From the Tree. 2010
What makes this tree special? Perhaps the question is better posed as what doesn’t make a tree special? This oak displays the traits expected of its genus, but what it also evokes is the question of free will VS. predestination. The branching of its fractal leaves is both identical to millions of its brethren and yet incongruously completely unique, both genetically and in its physical form. Planted more than 50 years ago disguised as a regular sapling, this piece of art tells a story of slow growth, struggle against pollution and the elements, and is ultimately a celebration of life’s triumph over the entropic and chaotic universe. Its form, created in large part as a reaction to the external, was yet completely “programmed” by the information contained when this work existed solely as a seed. Nature VS. nurture? Why not both?
It’s fairly easy at this point to make each crumbling city alleyway into a statement about decay and all that stuff. I figured it’d be more of a challenge to put a positive spin on objects that are in disrepair.
You Are Here. 2010
At first this piece appears to imply disgust and disdain for the neighborhood. However, this art, taking the form of a sign, in disrepair and defaced with glue and grime, is in actuality a celebration of an unpredictable and vibrant world. To catalogue (as mankind is wont to do) the wealth of human experience that exists on this “strip” of commercial properties is to do the area of disservice. This directory promises the idea of an easy answer, a way for a newcomer to gain his/her bearings in order to make an “informed” decision of where to go. By having such a map all-but unreadable, this piece reminds the observer that life is about chance rather than choice.
The best way to “familiarize” oneself to the area, even (or perhaps especially as) a new visitor or transplant, is to wander, eliciting eye-contact from the street’s wide-range of personalities. These characters, hired by the artist to represent the quintessential (or clichéd) varied sub-cultures prevalent to the greater metropolitan area, expand this piece into an interactive wonderland (a microcosm of the city, the country and the world).
If anything, this statement seems almost too legitimate (though of course still ridiculous). I wonder if it’s assumed to be an actual artist’s piece, potentially from a Washington University student. (I mean, those are some weird looking cameras.) It’s located near the school in the U City Loop in St. Louis. The illusion of legitimacy might keep this statement up longer than it might otherwise.
Surveillance Statement. 2010
This piece parodies our current state of surveillance in the ‘first world.’ Taking the idea of ‘Big Brother’ to an overt extreme, these camera’s main strategy is to remind the pedestrian that he or she is being watched by an ‘eye’ that is anything but unseen.
Placed purposefully behind an intimidating black barrier complete with spikes, these cameras peer upon the ‘public’ while nestled in the private. On University property, this equipment begs the question of who is watching whom? The voyeur, stereotypically portrayed as the quintessential ‘male gaze,’ here is more reminiscent of a protective matriarch (Big Mother?), a monolithic beacon promising security it can scarcely provide. Where do these recordings go? Is anything being ‘taped’ at all? It is a mystery whose answer doesn’t matter in the least. Regardless, readers of this statement are encouraged to face these faceless oculars, confront them and demand response. No answer?
It’s fairly obvious (I hope) that these Statements are a jokes first and foremost. Occasionally however a few of them do end up making some sort of genuine point. I think that’s certainly the case with this piece. Located in the city of St. Louis, this abandoned grocery store does actually represent a larger problem in America- the lack of access to healthy food in low-income parts of town.
While I was photographing this piece, a man in a motorized wheelchair rolled by on the sidewalk. Seeing me with a camera, he yelled “Stop taking pictures! We need food!”
All I could muster in response was “I know.”
This piece, with its purposefully over-generic title, is meant to suggest the setting of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly pieces popularized in cinema. Foodland’s distance from the street offers the onlooker a tableau evoking the ‘establishing shot,’ in film, a popular strategy to acclimate the viewer to a new setting and scene. Many poorer urban areas are lacking in the basic necessity of ‘real food,’ as opposed to the over-processed and under-nourishing sustenance offered up from ‘convenience’ stores dotting the cityscape like a fungus. Foodland thus mocks the promise of delivering fresh, healthy groceries, and instead reminds the observer that like a phone number that begins with 555, these things only happen ‘in the movies.’
This statement is located in the pseudo-gentrified “loft district” of downtown St. Louis. If I’m not mistaken, this building was under renovation before the builders ran out of money a couple years ago and abandoned it (again). This piece tested my ability to write, print and mount something in the shortest time possible (about 2 hours, but I think it can be done faster).
Dorsa, a Door that is Not a Jar. 2010
This piece posits a 20th Century in which the ‘roaring’ 1920s were ultimately the last hedonistic gasp of an American society that was fundamentally bankrupt both morally and economically. Were it not for the unimaginable scale and tragedy of World War II and the industrial ‘jump-start’ it offered, would America have climbed from its “great” depression, nestling itself comfortably into the title of ultimate world superpower? Indeed, this edifice poses the ‘what-if’ scenario of the “great” war not happening. The beauty of this art-deco structure hints at the optimistic sentiment of the 20s, ironically juxtaposing it with endless decades of abuse, neglect and abandonment. “Dorsa,” a plural of the word “dorsum,” meaning “back,” evokes the idea that the greatest times are indeed behind us.
This dumpster near my apartment has now been claimed. The piece is not too kind to the residents (in an abstract sort of way), but I’m also damning myself in the process, so it all evens out. I guess.
Once again nothing is staged for the photo, all this stuff magically appeared the morning after trash day.
Though not officially titled “Congrats You Did It!” the writing on the car (celebrating a graduation) in this photo is all too perfect.
Worth It? 2010
At first blush appearing identical to the other detritus bins lining the alleys of the area, this piece plays with questions of identity, uniformity, and cultural priorities. The contents of this receptacle cycle weekly through a rogue’s gallery of modern American waste, its location near a prominent University filled with ‘enlightened’ individuals only serves to make its contents all the more offensive. A testament to overconsumption from those who should be the most aware of its poisonous global consequences; this vessel often contains perfectly usable textbooks, clothing, furniture, electronics, paper goods, as well as an endless array of recyclables and spoiled food. Actors have been hired to intermittently search through this dumpster, collecting objects suitable for reselling or reuse. These performers, highly trained and draped in the costumes of poverty, should serve as bitter reminders to the residents of the area of their state of “Haves” in the “Haves/Have Nots” equation, but ultimately only further damns them with their complacency and inaction.