Generation Works, an artist-run space in Tacoma, Washington, recently staged its last-ever project as part of the Upcoming Exhibitions program at abc art berlin contemporary, an art fair founded in 2008. Harry Burke reflects on their last exhibition, and on the project as a whole.
Generation Works' beginnings as a foreclosed condo in Tacoma, Washington.
Generation Works is responsible, progressive, made of stone, its website says to you, with a touch of imagination, patience, openness. The website header, lifted from the online home of another company with the same name, appears against a background that fades from white to baby blue. In the bottom left is the emblem of its sister organisation, Open Shape, its logo like a better version of its DIS counterpart. DIS were at the fair too, in fact, in a real booth, on the Saturday presenting a talk declaring Mainstream as the truest Avant Garde.
Generation Works is the name of an artist-run space in a condo in downtown Tacoma, Washington. Since 2012 it has played host to exhibitions by three American artists: Alex Mackin Dolan, Bunny Rogers, and Jasper Spicero. It is Jasper who curated the space, which runs through three rooms, and which admitted no visitors for any of its exhibitions. On September 19 of this year, between 5:00pm and 7:00pm CET, the project space staged its last-ever exhibition in an impromptu two-walled gallery construction in the foyer of Art Berlin Contemporary, an art fair. The condo in Tacoma has been foreclosed.
Foreclosure is the process in which the property of a borrower is repossessed by a lender after the borrower is no longer able to make payments on a loan. Following the 2008 financial crash, the U.S. Congress attempted to rescue the economy with a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry. In the same timeframe, foreclosures increased dramatically across the United States, as the housing bubble remained burst and the economy stagnant. In 2010 alone, one in forty-five properties received a foreclosure filing, often in areas with low income and high unemployment. Default trends have levelled in the last twelve months, however there still exist (according to realtytrac.com) 1,283,408 properties in the U.S. that are in some stage of this process. Economic downturn is manifest as the loss of a stable right to housing.
Located at the doorway to a broadly disappointing fair, the Upcoming Exhibitions gallery space (appearing, with its two walls, halfway between a large plinth and a halfpipe, and sponsored by Red Bull) had maybe the most dynamic of the art on offer, a dynamism accentuated by its quickly rotating lineup. Programmed by Shanaynay, an art space located in the top right corner of Paris, Upcoming Exhibitions featured projects by an international cast of fourteen small galleries and project spaces, including Gasconade (Milan), Auto Italia South East (London) and New Theater (Berlin); a geographically-dispersed if not entirely global exposition. Each space was given a two hour slot: the Upcoming Exhibitions program took the form of a hyper-accelerated project space with an imagined two-year, fourteen-show lifespan condensed into four days of an art fair. Whereas a repossessed condo might be returned sparse, bare and clinically unfurnished, by the end of the weekend the gallery-stage was warmly and playfully tarnished, like a well worn shoe, the site dutifully host to cowboy-esque whippings and a bar installation as well as the more prosaic art currency of video screenings and sculpture.
It was at this more prosaic end of the spectrum that Generation Works positioned itself, placing works in mechanical spacing along the two gallery walls. If resulting in an eery and waiting room-like presentation, this was done specifically to manufacture the most perfect install shots, with no visitors in the background save for a pair of small toddlers who wandered innocently onto the set. These images, the two hours of which might have been bordering on performance were it not for the perfunctory nature of their execution, will be diligently sifted through and photoshopped, the most accurate of them uploaded online. They play faithful to the art process in an age of perpetual postproduction, yet somehow seem never to capitulate to it. The exhibition was a three-person group show, with no indication of which works belonged to Bunny, Alex, or Jasper. However, the documentation will be published on Jasper'’s personal website. generationworks.me is closed.
Generation Works is a deeply psychological project. Its three protagonists grew up as artists together; Jasper lived in the condo during his last two years of high school. Its most intimate photo album on its Facebook page is from 2006, when it was still a family home. Its objects are often consumer items, rearranged and then untouched by the artists with whom they have relationships. In one corner is a mop, oblique against the wall, ribbons tied on it like pendants to recognize it by. In the other is an ice sculpture, slowly returning to water under the heavy stage spotlights. Across from this are a pair of ceramic cat socks. The narratives uniting these are sparse but precisely woven. Foreclosure is the imminent and forced repossession of the assets with which you have the most immediate memories. It is in memory of this that these objects become most powerful.
The arrival of Generation Works at an international art fair is timely, particularly for the Shanaynay Upcoming Exhibitions framework being so explicitly engaged with time. Debt is time monetised, manifest in the young artist as residue from education and in the increasing pressure to respond to ever-accelerating economies of attention. It is a bold move for Generation Works to exit stage as soon as a degree of hype and critical attention are paid to them, and not try and recuperate more from it. Sometimes debt's better left unpaid. Meanwhile, as Pae White's commissioned bells echoed through the hall and the works were duly taken away, the rest of the fair carried on as usual. It was fine that no one really noticed.
Top: Bunny Rogers, Lady Amalthea (mourning mop) at Art Berlin Contemporary 2013. Bottom: Jasper Spicero, Melting Person at Art Berlin Contemporary 2013.