“On Saturday, September 9, Liz Roberts and Henry Ross performed Death Knell on the parking lot outside of Transformer Station. The performance included a car, equipped with 70 contact microphones that fed into an audio mixer, and a range of simple mechanical tools such as a rotary saw, a hammer, and a crowbar. Over the course of two hours, the artists gradually disassembled the car. The destructive act of disassembling concurrently generated a wide array of tones; a musical creation of astonishing complexity and subtlety. Mirroring the car’s carefully orchestrated dissection, the sounds slowly faded away with each shattered window, unhinged door, and more and more of the contact microphones being cut off.
Cars are collectively perceived as expensive but omnipresent consumer goods and status symbols. The performance by Roberts and Ross foregrounded a very different, less obvious but similarly fundamental narrative that is inherently tied to a car’s material manifestation and subsequent deterioration: its close connection to the rise of industrialism and, in turn, its relation to organized labor. Through their performance, the artist duo repurposed a car that had reached the end of its lifespan and turned it into a sounding body. From an ontological perspective, they also reversed the car’s symbolical meaning as a metaphor for the achievements of industrialism, turning it into an allegory of decay and society’s blind spot for the precarious state of the current economic system. The resulting sound piece incorporates that very allegorical dimension by documenting the event and its complex intertwine of process and meaning.” - Reto Thüring, Curator of Contemporary Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art
An exploded diagram of a film is a good analog for this installation. The process of filmmaking—including research, screenplay writing, location scouting, set production, composing a shot—becomes invisible in the final production. In Soft Regards, the peripheral activities that go into the production of filmic space, place, and time are abstracted and extended; the play of real and unreal is centered.
Set in California’s Central Valley—an already surreal, indeterminate landscape, where parched farmland abuts new calico housing developments—Soft Regards pulls from contemporary self-help sources like survivalist instruction manuals, urban planning reports, and yoga breathing tutorials. At the heart of the exhibition is a reading room where these texts, in addition to critical theory and novels, are arranged in sequence. One book connects to the next in a corrective claiming of the practice of survivalism. In the lower gallery, the screenplay, usually a working document adhering to a strict format, is presented in skeleton form as a series of letterpress prints.
Outside the reading room, a multi-channel video installation, Protection, made while driving the periphery of walled and fenced neighborhoods in Fresno, CA, continuously circles, combining an extended take on a location scout, dolly or tracking shot. Video work No. 008: Use Improvised Body Armor, is both an earnest attempt to recreate an instructional diagram from 100 Deadly Skills, and a camera blocking exercise wherein the shot is rehearsed. How to Make Stones Weep, a sound installation referencing a film set and the staged landscaping of housing tracts, fills the street level gallery.
The climax of a film also doubles as a crisis; the plot of Soft Regards reaches its climax during the 2016 election. Addressing the election directly are 4 posters made during the month of November that quote our theoretical mothers. Together they form a sentence that can be read as a set of instructions, to be expanded and built upon: Mother and destroy, refuse to normalize, stay with the trouble, and go off screen.
WILL PLAY FOR SPACE
MINT Collective, 2017
SPRING/BREAK BKLYN IMMERSIVE, Brooklyn, NY, May 2017
WILL PLAY FOR SPACE: MEATBALL originated from a proposed basketball tournament in which local artist-run spaces would participate: our gallery, a former meat processing facility, transformed into a nearly full size court, Columbus’ art community as players and spectators in a communal performance. MINT Collective has since vacated our former facilities, alleviating undue financial burden and mitigating friction between our physical operation and city administration. Without a home court, WILL PLAY FOR SPACE is recontextualized into a broader conversation about displacement and nomadic participation, sustainability, and alternatives to alternatives.
Skylab Gallery, Columbus, OH, June 2017
What are the necessary conditions for competition? For sportsmanship? What happens when there are too many players but not enough resources? How many hoops must we jump through? When monitoring the occupying players, when is security guised as surveillance? Secure for whom? Who cheers for the away team? The underdog? Without a home court, can one still play? Can one win? In WILL PLAY FOR SPACE, the gallery is a site for away scrimmages and sketches. MINT invites viewers to play pickup games of HORSE where the activities of each competition are recorded, producing a reflexive, cumulative drawing, a play-by-play for an art gallery reception. With each layup, slam dunk, and foul, the players’ bodies are monitored, tracked, and organized through mark making and livestream video. A short zine accompanies the exhibition, including questions concerning sustainability and future of artist-run spaces, emerging artists, and the Columbus arts community at large.
MINT is a collaborative, multidisciplinary collective founded and operated by artists located in Columbus, Ohio. Abidingly fresh, adaptable, and dynamic, our mission at MINT is to support underrepresented and developing artists, to cultivate relationships within the community, to embrace alternative projects, and to remain persistently disobedient to traditional thinking.
Brooklyn photos by Samuel Morgan Photography and Christos
Columbus photos courtesy of Skylab Gallery
Below Your Mind: Lawncare
Liz Roberts, 2016
turfgrass sod, paint, 2 channel video, 12ft x 6ft
Failed utopian instructions from the human potential movement and a turfgrass sod screen upon which sensory awakening exercises are projected/performed. The players in the video are members of the artist-run space and collective, MINT. This space operated in somewhat of a disaster utopia zone, which inspired the original impulse to install a fresh lawn inside of a former meat-packaging facility. The community formed by banding together around an ideal and a space can simultaneously heal and harm, much like the Esalen Institute, the source of the instructional text for these group exercises.
Esalen's experiential and experimental freewheeling early days in the 1960s - with lecturers like Ken Kesey, Alan Watts, Buckminster Fuller, Aldous Huxley, and Joseph Campbell - laid the groundwork for neoliberal personal optimization in a bizarre backfire. The encouragement to turn inward and retreat from the world negated political action and social engagement. Lawncare approaches and circles this cautionary tale, looking for a different way out.
Liz Roberts, Elena Harvey Collins, 2015
Downward Dishwasher is comedic critique of personal wellness as a consumer good. The messaging of white yoga and particularly the slogans in the Lululemon manifesto - decontextualized pop-psychology snippets like “your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself” or “do one thing a day that scares you” - are reductive and point to a wider issue: the way that neoliberal capitalism creates an unattached individual who alone is responsible for their health, happiness, and success. If you fail, it’s all on you: you didn’t work hard enough/weren’t good enough. Downward Dishwasher pushes back against the callousness of that idea, as well as lampoons the way that women are still expected to maintain perfect bodies and homes. The video intends to bring complexity to the identity of the woman who attends a white yoga class. She’s white and suburban, but it’s never that simple. The installation is certainly a critique of that, but the intent is to criticize the culture without demonizing her.
Liz Roberts, Elena Harvey Collins, 2016
5-channel video projection, 03:08
Right down on the beach flats in south Santa Cruz county there is a 12 foot high, privately owned sea wall that stretches maybe a quarter of a mile. Million dollar houses sit behind it. The wall is just one of several layers of security that include a gate and a private security patrol; private property laws exerted in the tsunami zone. The wall is constructed from curved concrete, which arcs towards the water, engineered to both repel and mimic a wave. The fortress-like blankness of the wall and the shuttered houses behind it is broken by the charcoal graffiti scrawled upon it by people who make fires on the beach. A collaboration between the two artists, the video was shot by Harvey Collins, who recently moved to the area, and edited blind by Roberts, processing the landscape out of context. Place-specific narrative breaks down as the scene passes through multiple mediations, the piece evolving as a conversation between the two artists. A visual transference occurs, commuting the distance between the West Coast and the familiar landscape of wealthy suburban anywhere, engaging broader questions of self-isolation, cultural and aesthetic sameness, and public space.
Drive-in Movie: Everything I Need To Know About Sex & Death I Learned From JG Ballard
Liz Roberts, 2015
Made from salvaged automobile windshields and retrofitted hardware in the garage at MINT — a former meat-processing plant turned artist-run space. A re-edit of JG Ballard’s Crash! and Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy is projected onto the 8.5ft x 18ft ‘screen.’ Part of a compilation of automotive cinema (with Always Nowhere and Redux) using the car as narrative structure for the relationship between auto body and body.
A road movie where no one goes anywhere. The car is a membrane between the world and the body - somewhere between a sacrificial pallet, a coffin, and a bed.
Always Nowhere and Always Nowhere Redux draw the perhaps obvious and rather mundane parallel between cars and psychoanalytic spaces.
Liz Roberts, 2013-2014
Liz Roberts, Bobby Luck, 2016
Mouthfeels was made to participate in an all-women exhibition called Dare To Be Heard. Do all-women shows help change gender inequality in the art world, or perpetuate it? Grappling with that question, my mind seized on another question, “how does it feel to be a woman eating a sandwich?” This absurd question was posed by Jehnny Beth of the band Savages, in response to the repeated inquiry of what it’s like to be a woman in music. Woman musician, woman filmmaker, woman artist - language is powerful, and words can perpetuate sexism, gender essentialism, and cisnormativity. I asked Bobby Luck - trans artist and frequent collaborator - to answer the question, and he does so while eating a sandwich from beginning to end. Later Bobby mentioned, “my dad used to call me ‘mouth’ as an insult when I stood up for myself,” reminding me of the lifelong struggle to dare to be heard.
My Body Your Landscape
Liz Roberts, Elena Harvey Collins, 2015
My Body Your Landscape is a road narrative that picks up where the myth of the open road and parallel quest towards self discovery leaves off--the feminized, practical landscape of malls and big-box stores, where driving happens not for the adventure and freedom but the utility of it, where landscape dissolves into suburban traffic, Target, and weaponized mulch.
Liz Roberts, 2014
2 channel HD video, color, sound, 00:02:00
Lift re-proximates and simulates the freight elevator from a long-defunct department store, Lazarus. The elevator shaft retains the painting residue of previous industry that carried passengers to a commercial wonderland.
2 channel HD video, color, sound, wired button panel, c-stand
Hoist resulted from a visiting artist residency where cinema students discussed movies as a form of transportation. Each student made an elevator floor video, and a defunct industrial elevator panel was rewired to control the installation.