Community Builders

Currently on display at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, "Cottage Industry" foregrounds the entrepreneurial and communitarian ethos of six artists/organizations, including Andrea Zittel and Christine Hill. The exhibition positions these practices, many taking the form of real- or pseudo-business and cultural ventures, in an extensive history of relational projects: from Beuys' "social sculpture" to Matta-Clark's "Food" restaurant/cooperative. Several of the participants interpolate conceptual production with community organization, including Lisa Anne Auerbach, whose project, The Tract House, makes available to museum visitors and online users a series of "manifestos, diatribes, stories, [and] rants" written by friends and acquaintances of the artist, as well as visitors to her website. Auerbach thus overlaps two meanings of "tract" (an area of land and a loosely distributed, often socially- or politically-conscious text), as if to suggest her open document pool to be a foundation for a new architecture of social exchange. The City Reliquary will also contribute something from its dusty coffers. First established as a window display in 2000, the City Reliquary has become a much-loved spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, displaying the eccentric accumulations of local collectors, old New York ephemera, and organizing events like the annual Bicycle Fetish Day (which is pretty much what its title suggests). For the exhibition, a mini-City Reliquary will be set up in the gallery in the form of a shadowbox containing special finds from their collection. In addition to exhibiting past works by participants, Contemporary Museum has helped a handful of them realize site-specific projects throughout Baltimore, including the sixth "regional prototype garden" of Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates, an ongoing project to replace "the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape." While the exhibition will conclude on August 24th, Haeg's garden will continue indefinitely -- one of many excellent examples the exhibition offers of art extending into community life. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Fritz Haeg, EDIBLE ESTATES regional prototype garden #6: Baltimore, Maryland

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