SEPTEMBER 13–OCTOBER 16, 2015
Deep in the gated glens of Morningside, Felice Grodin built a temporary outpost of installations, conversations, and interactions. Fourteen local artists, authors, filmmakers, architects, and industrial designers came together to explore the relationships among place, commerce, and home.
A substantial bench made of real estate signs from the collective LMNOQ digs its heels into the green lawn of the Fountainhead Residency across from Bhakti Baxter’s precarious Primitive Shelter Structure, like a condo owner drinking coffee on her miniscule balcony while the sidewalk sleepers roll up their homes.
Inside, Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova’s two-by-four construction manspreads across the couch, while Frances Trombly’s drapes along the loveseat, the collaborative duo’s work so easily identifiable that it replicates the artists’ bodies and claims their space.
Ernesto Oroza’s Tabloid 32 serves as wallpaper as well as reading material. Playing with the many meanings of efficiency, he describes the flow of value from illegal studios in Hialeah back home to Havana. Architectural theory, policing of difference, networks of attachment to place and displacement, all the complexities of Orozo are there, but mixed into an engaging and accessibly readable fiction.
Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, by contrast, disappeared into Working Title. At first glance, it seems the work consists of paintings framing the bathroom mirror. But Carlisle had redesigned and resurfaced the entire bathroom, as a gift to future artists of the residency. The “paintings” are working studies for the redesign; foregrounding the invisible, female-identified gift economy of the domes- tic over the art object.
Barron Sherer transformed vintage Florida real estate footage into domestic wallpaper by installing a constant loop in the ubiquitous top-of-the-refrigerator TV. George Sanchez-Calderon shrunk the Turkish ruins of Gobekli Teppe into flattened fridge magnets and encircled the ISIS-threatened archeological treasure of Urfa in the kitchen clock. Time ticks away. The monuments crumble.
This precarity infuses much of the dialogue around the installation. Market forces, gentrification, bombs, and exile all imperil our sense of home. So where do we draw the line? What makes a place worth saving, what makes it home? Is it possible to develop a more permanent, sustainable “otherwise”?
Elizabeth Povinelli describes an analytical process of place/people making in her archive project Karrabing. In longtime collaboration with aboriginal friends and family, Povinelli engaged in an experi- mental practice of making an intentional otherwise: living biologically in a particular space, so that geology becomes biology. She calls this process “geontology,” an activity that produces bodily substances that build a landscape and develop and recompose the materiality of obligation. Shit becomes soil becomes food becomes us. People become obligated to a place. They cannot forget it because it made them. But how does this process work when we are precarious on the land?
It was in this framework that I wanted to think about the process of making this group show. Grodin corralled fourteen disparate people into one space, repainted the walls, charted together multiple show lists, organized two lecture and discussion series, and hosted a damn generous bar in the garage. An investment of over a year of labor, the sacrifice of other paid job opportunities, and yet, none of the collaborators in the show can afford to live in a neighborhood like Morningside. As an experiment in real property, this show was spectacularly unsuccessful.
We are priced out, gentrified out, and, even if we can scrape together the cost of a house, sea level rise will float us out of this geological space. But if we think the materiality of obligation to others, in addition to place, if we think a geontological commitment, we are getting to my Miami. There are people who I have worked with, people whose work I recognize as part of this place. They may be here; they may be exiled from here. But the geontological process of working together, contributing sweat in this place, has formed a community of obligation. An otherwise home.