One my favorite things about creating a site-specific piece like The Last Smelt Shack
is the process of scavenging materials 'on location'. Inevitably –along with the scavenging– comes many opportunities to engage with people in the community. I think that this process of gathering materials in the community helps not only to inform and strengthen our art work, but that the process of meeting people in the community actually becomes an integral and meaningful part of the art itself. In other words, they are inseparable. The process of scavenging is the art as much as the final work is.
In creating our piece The Last Smelt Shack
, we had limited time (two and a half days) to build the shack and we were committed to working with the materials we were able to find in the location (Provincetown, MA). (The only exception was the sailcloth, which we brought with us from Maine.) Fortunately, we made contact with Mr. Scott Bronsdon. Scott is the Foreman at the Provincetown Transfer Station –our home base for scavenging materials like metal, wood, and other materials we'd find a way to incorporate into the smelt shack design. Scott was generous and enthusiastic (we spoke on the phone a few times before we even got to Provincetown) and he gave us permission to go scavenging for materials in his well-organized dump. His only rule was "Don't climb INTO the dumpsters!" We could live with that.
While we were at the Transfer Station, we met other people that live in Provicetown, including a women that was keeping her tomato seedlings safe and warm in her van until it was early enough to to plant them outdoors. I always enjoy the exact moments when I have to describe my art while scavenging. Being asked to explain, for example, why the heck we're building a symbolic smelt shack in Provincetown, MA to honor rainbow smelt? I think this forces me to make the work more accessible and less academic. It makes me focus on what I feel the work is about and fine tune other things the art should include. I also think it challenges me to ditch some assumptions that I might have about who understands art, who cares about art, and about who can add good insights and ideas. I've found that in scavenging at dumps, in dumpsters and around construction sites, some of the best dialogue with people happens. It's like a free critique and a way of doing field work to learn about the place and people that live and work there. Genuine interaction outside the gallery walls excites me and drives much of my work.
This is all a way of saying thank you to Scott Bronsdon and the staff at the Provincetown Transfer Station; the construction workers that gave us their permission to pull stuff out of their dumpster; and the other folks we met while digging around for materials in Provincetown. Thank you!
|Kelly Rioux at Provincetown Dumpster|