Thursday, April 17, 2014

iDtown #3: The Factory

Girolamo in his studio box
The three of us for whom the factory was the thing began by scrounging. Maybe there's something in a western art training that encourages that? Girolamo pulled all sorts of broken pallets & crates & scraps of wood into his studio, Savinder collected artifacts from the still unemptied rooms of the former living areas of the factory and I snapped up as many as I could find of the plywood jigs that the workers had cut for gluing hardware to the giant glass studio doors.

Ours was iDtown's first residency & so the workers had no idea yet that what was refuse to them was art supplies to us. No sooner would Giro fill his studio with the detritus he needed for his installation than the workers would diligently return his studio to a pristine state. It got to where everything in his studio wore a label identifying it in chinese as "the artist's work." I, on the other hand, while on a bit of R&R in the big city of Shenzhen, got a call from Hang Feng on behalf of the workers: could they take down my installation as they still needed the jigs...artists stealing from workers, workers stealing from artists, made Hang Feng hysterical with laughter.

Savinder Bual had one of the best finds of all: a fragment hanging on an abandoned bedroom wall, portraying, as it turned out, the young woman chemist who steered the former dye factory's process. The collaged flowers were a weird synchronicitous confirmation of Savinder's preoccupations as she came into the residency. As various toys & gizmos arrived from Taobao to be promptly dissected,  Savinder's worktable grew into a wonderland of mechanical objects ready to bloom. Her playful experiments finally lead to a, for her, rare video in color, a celebration of the beauty of the peeling mint-colored factory walls & the spiral mechanism found inside a disassembled measuring tape.

To see the delightful thing that became of the blue green bulbs on the worktable, click here for "unfurling."

Without Savinder's help & encouragement, my own first foray into video would probably never have happened...still working out how to get it embedded here so for now just a still teaser...

Photo credit: Chen Hang Feng

Girolamo Marri loves to work that moment that so many of us would most prefer to avoid, that tense time when some idle interaction stretches out into profound embarrassment: the invited speaker, while remaining at the podium, never actually begins his speech; the TV interviewer, waiting for  the equipment to be "repaired," keeps the interviewee standing absurdly by...

At iDtown, Girolamo prepared a meal that could not be eaten...resulting in an extra factory run for resident artist Li Xiaofei. In yet another illuminating moment about "Made in China" really means (see Chen Hangfeng's Xmas ornament village), the factory turned out to be a workshop, stocked with PVC & microwave ovens & an extended family with the artisanal skill of creating, in plastic, extraordinarily faithful reproductions of real food. For Girolamo, they conjured up the remains of a chinese meal: a metal bowl smeared with sticky red sweet & sour sauce, another full of discarded fish bones, a small porcelain bowl holding the final grains of rice... all labeled "the artist's work" just in case...

Giro further put us all in an state of anxious suspense with his Nine Gentle Ghosts, 9 Moka Espresso pots rigged to eventually spew their contents out with a loud retort (a small anxiety of potential that I experience every morning as our own pot hisses to fullness...) I've since learned that in Rome, during a period of political unrest in the 70's, Moka pots replaced the traditional glass bottles as containers for molotov cocktails. Their handles made them easier to run with & to hurl, & that little factoid confirmed for me that there's a certain anarchic pleasure that Girolamo takes in the world.

For what I got made, stay tuned for the next post... 

For the first post in this series, an intro to the artists, click here.
For the post on the other artists at the residency, click here.

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