Friday, July 25, 2008

Justseeds Grow All Over 1026

A week or so ago I quickly blogged about a show by the print collective Justseeds that was being held in Philadelphia's Space 1026. Well, the show just closed, and we wanted to let you know a few things about what you missed (or, hopefully, what you saw), so you can make sure to follow Justseeds to their next event.

What Justseeds did at Space 1026 was unique, not only in terms of the artwork it presented, but also in terms of how it came to be: this was the first installation that the whole collective gathered to work on together. Usually linked only by a website, Justseeds is a self-proclaimed “decentralized community of artists” that believe in “the power of personal expression in concert with collective action to transform society.”

This belief certainly resonated with full-force in the collective act of personal expression that was just up at Space 1026. The overarching theme played with the idea of defeating individual suffering through a collective uprising. In one corner of the room, cardboard boxes and rough pieces of wood suggested the shanty houses of the homeless, with a cardboard cut-out industrial landscape towering above it. The grimy and extremely desolate feel of this area hit close to home in a metropolis such as Philadelphia. The clouds produced by the smokestacks puffed away happily, bringing the viewer’s eyes to flying pillowcases fashioned in such a way as to look like flying houses. These, in turn, lead your eyes to the next little environment in the room. It was hard not to run from one place to another – each detail pushing you forward rather than allowing you to linger. But, lingerers were rewarded for their patience: in the cracks and folds of the installation, small notes were scrawled messily with a Sharpie.

All around the room, banners and signs command the viewer to “Give Love, Buy Nothing,” to “Manifest your Dreams,” or just “Dream Wildly.” Some of the wittier slogans appeared on fake road-signs: a black arrow pointing upwards with another one peeling off from it to bend leftwards declared “POWER / FROM BELOW AND TO THE LEFT.”

Only one section of the room was dedicated “just” to the display of prints, but even that part of the room was contextualized by a playfully declarative pastiche of fabrics, sculptures, cutouts, banners… you name it. In addition, the prints that were displayed here also appeared in fragmentary form everywhere else in the room. Whether because reprinted on a sticker or simply cut and pasted, small echoes and visual reminders composed entire walls. This central wall with the “complete” artwork, then, was not only the display are of art bound by its own frame, but also the networking point that tied the whole show together. The smokestacks you had seen on another wall, for example, reappeared in a print here, but exhaling human spirits instead of jolly clouds. It was a “Where’s Waldo?” of the small, charming and powerful details you had discovered elsewhere in the room.

Perhaps the most conceptually powerful area of the exhibit was one that depicted a green and happy landscape populated by flying, multicolored squirrels and people working and playing together. Everyone and everything was bright and animated with the exception of an approaching soldier, his back to the viewer, approaching in his oppressive black & white starkness, donning a helmet with a TEXACO sticker on it.

Justseeds’ work at Space 1026 was compelling, humorous, playful, and dreadfully serious all at once. The exploration of this space was both exhilarating and exhausting. The declarative nature of their banners and posters could occasionally annoy with their explicit commands and declared ideologies, which often overshadowed the quality of the work as a whole. That said, Justseeds demands from us a collective and immediate change, and their work executes their belief to the letter.

Check out more pictures of the installation here or here.

No comments: