March 12, 2014

2014: Marissa Lee Benedict @ Chicago Artists Coalition

Above: Marissa Lee Benedict, left, with artist and partner David Allan Rueter, right, opening night, March 7, 2014.
Marissa Lee Benedict
March 7 - 27, 2014
BOLT Residency
Chicago Artists Coalition
217 N. Carpenter Street
Chicago, IL

Friday, March 7, 2014: Within the context of a site-specific installation which occupies the whole of the Chicago Artists Coalition's BOLT Residency gallery, Marissa Lee Benedict exhibits (4-channel) video documentation of an earlier performance in the Mojave Desert.  Benedict, the performer, presents herself as a hydrologist occupied with the task of collecting soil samples from Harper Dry Lake, in Hinkley, California.

Above: The video component of Marissa Lee Benedict's installation "Augur," in the Chicago Artists Coalition's BOLT Residency gallery.
Presumably, it takes a bit of research outside of the gallery in order for most members of the audience to learn that the site of Benedict's investigation, Harper Dry Lake, was made arid as a result of human intervention in the local ecosystem.  Having made the effort, it's easy to connect Benedict to Sarah and Joseph Belknap, whose own installation, "It's Getting Hot in Here," filled the same BOLT Residency space two years earlier, from April 13 to May 3, 2012.

Above: Sarah and Joseph Belknap's "Glacier Spring Rider" in "It's Getting Hot in Here" on April 13, 2012.
As playful glaciologists warning of the imminent, global destruction sure to result from rising sea levels, the Belknap's concerned themselves (at least in part) with flooding, i.e., the side of the climate change coin opposing Benedict's depiction of drought.

At least one other point of coincidence exists between Benedict's "Augur" and the Belknaps' "It's Getting Hot in Here," just barely visible in the photograph of the "Glacier Spring Rider" above: In the northwest corner of the BOLT Residency gallery, the Belknaps, with great difficulty, obtained permission to drill a portal in the floor.

Above: The portal in the northwest corner of the BOLT Residency gallery which was made by the Belknaps in April of 2012.
If memory serves, the Belknaps intended the portal, depicted above, to suggest the scientific practice of core sampling--to which Benedict has returned, both actively in her video and also passively through the inclusion of a similar portal in the floor of her installation, seen below.

Above: A detail of Benedict's portal in the southeast corner of the BOLT Residency gallery reveals the core sample set within it.
Above: Benedict's portal found in a floor of reclaimed lumber, built above the gallery's natural grade, on March 7, 2014.
Above: A shadow is cast by a visitor walking near the portal set in Benedict's floor of reclaimed lumber, March 7, 2014.
Outside the Chicago Artists Coalition, within the Museum of Contemporary Art's recently closed exhibition "The Way of the Shovel," Tony Tasset's self-portrait as Robert Smithson communicates a similar aesthetic vision, if not also a similar ideological agenda, realized twenty years earlier.  And one wonders about Benedict's exposure to said work, as well as her exposure to said exhibition's curator, Dieter Roelstraete, whose own curatorial conceits have wanted to examine the appearance of scientific processes in art of late.

Above: Tony Tasset's "Robert Smithson (Las Vegas)," 1995, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
Above: Marissa Lee Benedict, still from "Attempting to collect a good sample, Attempts 1-4, Harper Dry Lake, Hinkley, CA," 2014.
Tasset's piece, portrait orientation seen above, is the still photographic study of a particular man, here found clothed in a light color; Benedict's piece, landscape orientation seen above, is a time-sensitive video study of the environment as subject to some dark-clothed figure's intervention.  There are differences between the two; nevertheless, the comparison seems worth introducing at this point.

The art world is its own sort of environment, remarkably resistant to investigation and objective measures, in which delicate things are variously inclined to flourish or fail because of abundance as well as scarcity.  Attention and money, like water in the BOLT Residency shows from both Benedict and also the Belknaps, tends not to be evenly distributed; rather, we have flooding and droughts according to the caprice of our kind, and the cruel indifference of Nature.  It's an interesting year to be in Chicago.

Images (1,2,5-7) March 7, 2014;
Copyright Paul E. Germanos.
Images (3,4) April 13, 2012;
Copyright Paul E. Germanos.
Image (8) MCA Chicago, gift of artist & Rhona Hoffman; restricted gift of Jack and Sandra P. Guthman, 1995.
Copyright Tony Tasset.
Image (9) Video still from "Attempting to collect a good sample, Attempts 1-4, Harper Dry Lake, Hinkley, CA," 2014.
Copyright Marissa Lee Benedict.

Read more:

"Presented by Chicago Artists Coalition’s BOLT Residency, 'Augur' is a new immersive installation produced by artist Marissa Lee Benedict. An extension of Benedict’s ongoing investigation into processes of research, collection, extraction, and cultivation, this solo exhibition will feature a 4-channel video installation depicting Benedict’s repeated attempts to collect a core sample from the arid, clay-hardened surface of Harper Dry Lake located in Hinkley, CA.

Working to cut into the parched ground and glimpse what might lie beneath, Benedict tries to gain traction in the harsh landscape via a series of gardening tools (a sledge hammer, a bucket, a shovel, a drill, and a series of pipes) and amateur soil sampling techniques. The show’s title, 'Augur,' plays between the words augur – to portend a good or bad outcome of an event or circumstance, to foresee or predict– and auger – a hand tool often used by soil scientists, geologists and glaciologists to bore holes into the earth.

Just as the aperture of a camera opens to allow light to pass though, Benedict’s repeated attempts to extract and expose the strata below speaks to the artist’s process of searching and re-searching, striving to make tangible connections with the elusive or imperceptible."

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Marissa Lee Benedict joined Sarah and Joseph Belknap in a special project (which also included Karsten Lund, the curatorial assistant to Dieter Roelstraete in "The Way of the Shovel" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago) at the alternative print publication Newcity on September 5, 2013:

"Invited by Newcity to 'hijack the newspaper,' Chicago-based artists Sarah Belknap, Joseph Belknap and Marissa Lee Benedict have inserted into this special issue a selection of photographic re-enactments, highlighting the contemporary fascination with space and space travel, and the growing number of Chicago-based artists and curators who are participating in this resurgent dialogue."

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