In lieu of his appearance at The Arts Club to discuss Lyric Opera’s 2020 Ring Cycle, dramaturg Roger Pines hopped on a call with Arts Club Programs Manager Jenna Lyle to talk about Wagner, the Ring, and the contemporary relevance of old stories.
Looking back on Industry of the Ordinary’s performance at The Arts Club of Chicago on Tuesday, March 10th, it seems we were in a different world than we are today. The Arts Club’s gallery was full of people, sound, ice, and water.
The collaborative duo Industry of the Ordinary (Adam Brooks and Mat Wilson), in keeping with their ongoing series of performances involving interaction with melting ice, presented If you’ve got a blacklist, I want to be on it (title pulled from the lyrics of Billy Bragg’s 1988 anthem “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward”) with cellist Katinka Kleijn, performers Luci Lei and Jay Wolke, and sound designer Dan Dehaan.
An exploration of group think, symbology, endurance, and privacy vs. collectivity; Brooks and Wilson lay prone on the floor of the club’s gallery with heavy blocks of ice sculpted into the shape of a circle with either an X or a cross through it (depending on the orientation) on their backs for 2 hours, testing their bodies and focusing their minds on the accompanying activity. Kleijn performed a deeply inquisitive scripted improvisation with live processing of her amplified sounds. She incorporated waterproof microphones scraped across the blocks of ice on her collaborator’s backs, inviting the audience to don headphones and explore the sounds of the hydrophones themselves.
Between each use, Lei carefully, diligently wiped down the headphones with an antibacterial cloth in deference to the rising pandemic yet unaware of the imminent shut-down. As ice melted down the backs of Wilson and Brooks, Wolke, wearing a janitorial uniform, mopped around the bodies of the two prone performers.
The role of the audience in the space was constantly in flux, though over time it became clear that they were co-performers from the outset.
As guests entered the gallery, they were greeted by the club’s security guard, Eric Hampton. The room was silent, and there was a stack of chairs near the wall on the right side of the room. Guests were invited to grab a chair or to roam around as they liked.
Before long, the guests in the space assembled themselves into a relatively unprompted traditional audience arrangement, in neat rows of chairs. Everyone sat, silent, whispering, anticipating.
Wilson and Brooks came into the space in tuxedos, sitting among the audience, looking around, having quiet chats with attendees, reading the vibe of the room and following suit.
People continued to enter the gallery, now propping themselves against the back wall or tiptoeing toward an empty chair here or there, wary of disrupting the reverent, anticipatory energy of the room.
The performance itself was well underway before Kleijn played a single note and before a single drop of ice melted.
Brooks and Wilson habitually expose and examine implied contracts in their work, preferring to avoid any didactic text explaining the performance and leave the attendees to set the tone and level of interaction. Throughout the two hours of If you’ve got a blacklist…, those in attendance looked to one another and to their understood conventions of performance to craft a collaborative environment for shared experience.
This interactive gathering occurred on the heels of a week of interventions at The Arts Club, a project entitled Seven Days in March.
From a list of 29 proposed interventions over the course of the week, The Arts Club selected 6.
The theme of labor and service was never far from mind. For the picnic performance in The Drawing Room, Brooks and Wilson both wore chef’s whites as they sliced pieces of cake and formally, with decorum, passed them to visitors. In The Arts Club’s gallery, Jay Wolke performed in a white maintenance jumpsuit to mop dripping, melted water from a pair of 12 x 12 inch frozen sculptures placed on Brooks’ and Wilson’s backs as they lay prone on the floor.
Seven Days in March highlighted, among other things, the omnipresence and at times simultaneous invisibility of service workers (and laborers in general) in the arts. By putting the inherently performative act of service on the proverbial stage, Industry of the Ordinary call into question to whom we give our attention in arts institutions. And by subtly intervening on the Club’s everyday surrounds with new objects and artworks, they call into question to what we give our attention.
Industry of the Ordinary have made a practice of examining the histories and structures of the sites where they produce work, and The Arts Club was no exception. They chose to highlight The Arts Club’s collection, space, and the ways in which service and labor work within the club’s infrastructure. Each intervention prompted a necessary awareness of one’s surroundings, certain unspoken social contracts, and the way said contracts are established or upheld, leaving observers to answer emergent questions for themselves.
Industry of the Ordinary (Adam Brooks and Mat Wilson) has been mediating the daily life of Chicago for over 16 years. Dedicated to an exploration and celebration of the customary, the everyday, and the usual, Brooks and Wilson use sculpture, text, photography, video, sound and performance to challenge pejorative notions of the ordinary and, in doing so, move beyond the quotidian.
At The Arts Club of Chicago, Industry of the Ordinary will spend a week intervening on the space in a variety of ways—subtly altering the trappings of the club rooms, feeding visitors edible historical artifacts, and performing with CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn in the gallery. Their residency, entitled Seven Days in March, celebrates and comments upon what is customary and usual at The Arts Club—that we might reevaluate our perception of normal vs. noteworthy.
Saturday March 7
Public Program: Industry of the Ordinary “invites you to eat history”
12:00 – 2:00 pm in The Drawing Room Bar
Public Program: Private Collection tour of The Arts Club (to include IOTO’s interventions)
1:00 – 1:45 (meet in gallery)
Swing through the club on Saturday to literally taste a piece of the club’s history, as provided by Industry of the Ordinary (between 12 and 2). And while you’re at it, join for a group tour of the entire club and its collection (1 – 1:45), which Brooks and Wilson have augmented with pieces of their own. Free and open to all
Tuesday March 10
Public Program: Industry of the Ordinary with Katinka Kleijn perform “If you’ve got a blacklist, I wanna be on it”
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm in the gallery
Visit here to RSVP.
Photo: Jay Wolke
For her Garden Project “garden/ruinate”, artist Eliza Myrie will open a gate to The Arts Club, hosting monthly gatherings within the transformed garden space. This series of programs, under the heading “Tie Up”, will explore the nature of extended invitations, caring, community, and existence mediated by both built and imagined structures. Programming will include conversation, sound, and poetry, among other things, so feel free to drop by and hang out. If you’re late to your plans later on, you can just let your friends know you got “tied up” hanging out in the garden.
To close the project, Eliza Myrie will be joined by writers Emily Bock, Jersey-Shabazz Hosier, and others for a reading of written works related to black women and/or the Caribbean diaspora that have inspired, fortified, or soothed them. Please join us and feel free to bring words that you may want to share.
Free and Open to All.
Eliza Myrie, b. 1981, New York. Myrie is a sculptor working in Chicago, IL. She received her MFA from Northwestern University and BA from Williams College and was a participant at The Skowhegan School. Myrie has been in residence at Yaddo, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, The MacDowell Colony, and Arts + Public Life at The University of Chicago. Myrie is a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a co-founder of The Black Artists Retreat [B.A.R.]. She has received grants from The Propeller Fund and 3Arts. Exhibitions include Gallery 400, Chicago; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Shane Campbell, Chicago; Roots and Culture, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago; Davidson Contemporary, New York.