Built with Indexhibit
Tree, Crate, Camper Shell (On the way to becoming something else) 2013
I was invited to participate in By-product Becomes Product, by the exhibition's organizer, artist, Chritine Lee. She'd been developing an innovative composite sheet material with the USDA Forest Products Lab, made from waste wood particles without the use of glues. The premise of the exhibition was to invite a group of artists to make work incorporating this new material as a way of testing its properties and introducing it to a new audience. I wrote the following statement to accompany my work in the exhibition at Intersection for the Arts.
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Created objects are not static entities, but points along a continuum of material transformation fueled by human desire (or the lack there of). Put another way, artifacts are always part of a process and never an end point. So the things we make are not separate from the natural world of which they are made, even if they often linger far beyond their usefulness in ever-growing heaps of dead technology.
The new composite material developed by Christine Lee and John Hunt is informed by this awareness. It is made of reclaimed industrial waste, biodegradable and recyclable. Unlike many artificial materials the Lee/Hunt composite panel makes a virtue of its ephemerality and non-toxicity. It decidedly will not be around for generations to come, decanting poisons into the environment. But that’s not the whole story. The shift away from building with unsustainable and unhealthy materials is not so straightforward.
As with all new things, the Lee/Hunt panels are born into a world deeply entrenched in older ways of doing things. The panels had to be shipped to San Francisco from Wisconsin by truck. I recently moved to Fort Bragg, a small town about 3 ½ hours north of San Francisco, necessitating my allotment of panels be re-crated and shipped again. And I would have to get the piece I made back to the city. I wanted my project to reflect all this—to incorporate the exigencies of its making (and the making of this exhibition) in its form.
I decided to make a camper shell for my Toyota pick-up. I recycled the crate materials into the structural frame for the shell and clad that in the Lee/Hunt panels. Besides being a nice inversion of the crate and its contents the camper shell is for me, metaphoric of the relationship between the novel material and established infrastructure, which despite its stubbornness must ultimately give way to a new reality.