Aug 04 - Aug 17
by Michael Rothfeld
For two weeks this summer, eleven artists and curators were given access to a three-story house to mount S.H.E.D. Projects’ House Show. The show displayed site-specific work in the rooms and outside spaces of a house in West Oakland, providing a group of emerging artists and early career curators the opportunity to exercise their practices. For the duration of the show, the house was occupied by tenants who provided “a domestic backdrop for the work.”1
Calder Yates’s Untitled (2012) was tucked away and partially obscured in the back corner of the rear yard. The piece consisted of a tangle of garden hose, extension cord, bucket, bungee cords, and a rickety wooden ladder leaned against a privacy fence. Attached to the top of the ladder, the hose terminated in a valve housing topped with a standard issue garden sprayer. The hose and extension cord retreated back toward the house, where the hose connected to a spigot and the extension cord disappeared mysteriously into the first floor of the house.
Meanwhile, viewers could look out at the backyard view from a bay window inside and upstairs above the kitchen sink. Nearby, an installation by Roxanne Crocker invited visitors to consume cakes lying on the floor. If a visitor felt inclined to wash her hands after eating the cake, the act of reaching toward the kitchen faucet triggered a partially hidden motion sensor. This caused the aforementioned backyard valve to open and unleash a blast of water from the garden sprayer, which was aimed directly at the upstairs window.
The stream of water slapping against the window glass was startling and comical. However, it was less funny for anyone standing in the backyard close to the house’s exterior wall, where a deluge of water suddenly poured down and quickly turned the yard’s dirt ground into mud. Yates’s installation exemplifies how a well-intentioned act can often have unintended and even undesired consequences: one person’s simple desire to wash his or her hands directly caused misfortune for multiple other people.
Some might even consider the presence of House Show in West Oakland to have significant unintended consequences. Though the show allowed these artists and curators the opportunity to display their research and work with the exposure and space that is often difficult to come by, it also illustrates the art community’s hand in the area’s gentrification. Most importantly, it demonstrates how members of local and global arts communities must not only look to provide solutions for our art communities—including through such artist-run spaces or “live-in galleries”—but also question the possible effects of these well-intentioned actions and solutions.
House Show was a project of S.H.E.D. Projects that was on view from August 4 through August 17, 2012, in West Oakland.
Michael Rothfeld is an interdisciplinary, project-based artist and writer living in San Francisco by way of New York. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Studio Practice and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.