Monsters and Dust

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Chapter 1: Surface Legend


Daniel Pineda and I closed down the Demolition Salevii and Trading Postviii events with a free pile. We had been squatting in the building in Ukrainian Village for almost a month, selling and trading things to downsize for the trip out west. What we couldn't get rid of we left outside on the street by the garage. The two of us left Chicago a few weeks before developers tore down the 120-year old building.ix

After short stops in Oklahoma and Nevada, we pulled into Oakland around the fifth of July. We would stay in a section of town by the docks called the Lower Bottoms, abbreviated Lobot, which in turn was also the name of the gallery where we crashed. As we pulled the car into the warehouse the residents were in the midst of hanging a show with over 1000 artists in it, which set the tone for the refreshing attitude of the East Bay art scene that I would encounter, where egalitarianism and pragmatism often superseded aesthetics.

Ten weeks later I made Surface Legendx in the smaller project room. The composition of the announcement card was based on the famous poster from the 1966 documentary The Endless Summerxi, with compass points in place of the setting sun. A film about a group of surfers who travel around the world following the summer up and down the hemispheres, The Endless Summer had enough to unpack from its title and premise that I didn't even get around to re-watching it until the closing night of the show. Surface Legend was as a space for introspection to prepare for my own endless summer. I used the film's tag line “In Search of the Perfect Wave” as a casual metaphor for how I should move through space. In fact the whole show was a kind of orientation for this long trip, like diagram or map legend that might prepare me to scale my presence towards what I would encounter.

One piece of Surface Legend was a hyper-specific portrait of the project space, a printed photo of a section of Lobot. The title is Lower Bottomsxii &emdash; like the smallest Russian doll, it is named after the warehouse which itself is named after the larger neighborhood. The piece is designed so that it illusionistically disappears into the background when a person stands in a direct line of view facing it. The original print was too magenta, but rather than reprinting it I found some pink lights to balance the world around the picture. Anyone who has spent time in a photo lab trying to balance a perfect print would find the humor of this inversion. This gesture started a chain of similar incidents that punctuated my trip, attempts at turning mistakes into favorable accidents and thinking of art as a kind of tuning fork for different contexts.