The D.I.O. Spirit
Over spring break the Tyler School of Art’s 2012 MFA candidates were showcased in an exhibition of their own design. BANG was a project independently conceived, organized, funded, and executed by the same full time graduate students. Its purpose was to give a comprehensive overview of the school’s MFA program and provide a preview of the individual thesis exhibitions that will be running on a weekly rotation starting March 21st at Temple Galleries.
By default, BANG had the curatorial cohesion of a Brunette Binnienal or an exhibition of painters who happened to be named Tim, or a showcase of artists under 32. Any linkage between John Crowe’s crooning 16mm transfers and Young Do Jeong’s aviary abstract canvas is all from you…
…might be all from you.
I say this because even though all the artists in BANG were coming from a kaleidoscope of different directions and desires, producing a whole spectrum of outcomes, there was still a palpable communal energy that hung heavy in the air. Perhaps it was that all the work was out of place and thus everyone felt lost together. Like the basement party where no one is sure how he or she or it got there but everyone knows they are not leaving anytime soon. Or perhaps it is best put not as a congealing of aesthetics or concepts but rather of spirit—of morale—an esprit de corps.
This energy of community is most actively expressed in the space itself.
At first glance the basement space met all of the usual adjectives of a D.I.Y. project. The walls were cement and unfinished. The lighting was fluorescent and generally clinging to exposed pipes. Extensions chords dangled like schools of Home Depot orange jellyfish. It was raw, unskilled, dirty, industrial, squiggly, compromised, etc. These are all inputs of what is by now a familiar D.I.Y. aesthetic code. But this visual style is just a mechanism that we have become accustomed to through a careful distilling process undertaken by artists and designers. Just look to the interior of any Urban Outfitters store for the high-fructose refined D.I.Y. simulacrum. In its true form rather, Doing it Yourself is a function of the spirit, not of the eye. It is located in the kinetic energy that is required to get something done and not, as we might now perceive, in the appearance of the outcome. In other words, it is an effect not to be seen, but to be felt.
Not only did I feel the energy that went into the creation of BANG I also felt its collectiveness. Do It Yourself became Did It Ourselves.
To be fair and to be honest my assessment is colored with behind-the-scenes knowledge of this show’s execution: Its trials, pitfalls, and triumphs. Several of organizers are editors for this publication. All of this feeds into a perception and a feeling but not necessarily into a credible documentation for you, the reader. In full circle, it is easy to give a report of a developing D.I.Y. aesthetic. It is more difficult to give an account of the D.I.O. spirit.
The best I can do is provide an example where the D.I.O. energy engaged specifically with one of the artworks:
Amy Maria Harbilas’ Rainbow was a surgical question of its environment. It was a physical incision. In that basement full of solid things like cement and bricks here was another solid thing. Except this thing offered space and bans infinite reaching light. So alien that I actually questioned whether it was a photograph or a product of the harsh clamp lights starring over head. The pause that the work provided in the space was so distinguished that I would have a hard time imagining it anywhere else. In a white walled gallery it might simply disappear like a contact lens in a pint of mineral water.
In most exhibitions the walls, floors, doors, desks, mouse turds, and dust bunnies are required to melt in liquid opacity and the art is commanded to float spectral for our appraisal. In this case the art had something of a tennis partner in its environmental energy; at points the space played the role of facilitator, interrogator, protector, concealer, revealer, inhibitor. Some may have felt this sort of interaction others may have witnessed. No matter what sense you used, BANG definitely left an impression and I for one hope that next year’s students (Tyler and elsewhere) capture some esprit de corps.
Power Plant Productions Basement
Exhibition was on view from February 29- March 8