Bryan Schoneman at Gallery4Culture
At the opening for Bryan Schoneman’s Attempts at Bedrock, visitors wandering around Gallery4Culture might have been expecting a performance. But the machines were at rest. Right now the gallery is filled with tools, conveyor belts, a cistern and geometric sculptures sprouting from the ground, which has been dusted with soil.
Schoneman’s art practice is primarily based on process. The tasks he sets up for himself are Sisyphean games with set self-imposed rules, limitations and restrictions.
For instance, last year Schoneman received a Hauberg fellowship at Pilchuck Art School and spent twelve hours a day for four days in the wilderness carefully dislodging a 90-year-old fir tree stump, keeping its root system perfectly intact — without ever physically touching it. Instead, he used a contraption built of scaffolding, pulley, I-beam and chains. After the stump had been hoisted out of the ground, Schoneman collected soil samples from the roots in a special collection suit he’d made. The suit was lined on the outside with gaping pockets to catch dirt as he crawled under the massive root system and dislodged the samples with specially-made scrapers and tools. He collected over 300 lbs of soil in the suit. It was so heavy he couldn’t climb out of the hole.
I sat down with Bryan to find out what to expect from Attempts at Bedrock over the course of this month.
The machines weren’t in use during the opening. What’s the idea behind this show?
I think many people expected Bryan in performance mode, but this show is about gradual processes and displacement. I’ll be working in the mornings in the gallery and there will be a closing event where you can see all the work that’s taken place. I have a schedule: I’ll be coming in to install grow lights, planting corn and alfalfa. Think of it like a garden I’ve set up to facilitate actions all based on the idea of displacement.
Displacement demonstrates basic principles of physics and Newtonian law, yet it’s an infinitely variable process. Ultimately, I like the idea of a reasonal approach to establishing moral, ethical and conceptual grounds, and displacement is a process by which to observe results and develop truths for myself based on them.
It almost sounds as though you were constructing a science-based mythology, one based on observable phenomena, cause and effect...
They are rituals of labor and repetition. I’m interested in learning what I can find out about something unknown. I want to construct my own rituals and find ways to express those artfully.
Ritualized play with base materials by artists like Joseph Beuys and Matthew Barney comes to mind....
Yes, and I’ve worked with Oliver Herring in the past, as a subject of one of his performances. That kind of process-based work is essential to me. I’m also fascinated by systems developed by self-taught artists. Emery Blagdon is one of my main sources of inspiration.
(left: concept drawing for Attempts at Bedrock, pen and ink, 2012.)
What about these cage-like sculptures mounted in the air above the soil — what are they?
On the ground I’ll be growing alfalfa as a cover crop. Directly underneath the sculptures, growing up into them, I’ve planted corn. The corn root is very strong and will break the sculptures open, like a geode, revealing what’s inside. I filled the clumps of dirt with pure pigments and minerals such as lapis lazuli. It turns into a sort of processed-based form of painting when the pigments break out. I enjoy the interaction, the tension between objects and processes exerted on them.
I want people to revisit the gallery a few times during the course of the exhibit to see things unfold. This exhibit is anything but static objects. It’s a laboratory of movement, of systems in motion.
Bryan Schoneman’s Attempts at Bedrock will be on view at Gallery4Culture through July 27th, 2012.