In a new site-specific installation near the Smart Museum’s entrance, artist Valerie Snobeck (University of Chicago MFA 2008) re-uses construction material to open up broad questions about aesthetics, value, and the built environment. Who Build What Build You centers on debris netting that was previously used in a building project on the University of Chicago’s campus. Such netting serves a function—to catch debris let loose by construction activities—and also behaves as an aesthetic marker of the construction site itself. Snobeck’s work takes this duality as a point of entry.
Snobeck’s interests in the language of structure extend beyond the specific narrative of the material's past use. She is attentive to the interaction between her materials and this new site: the permeability of the netting in contrast to the Museum’s exterior limestone wall; the netting both frames the wall and relies upon it for support. The netting thus speaks to a story of use and reuse, while its outdoor site suggests connections to nearby projects to renovate old buildings or erect new structures. As in much of her recent work, the artist considers the limits of both visibility and production, and a structure of reliance between work and context: “What is it that we are building? What are we rebuilding? What existing structures are we using for support?”
Snobeck’s piece is the third art-banner commissioned as part of the Smart’s annual Threshold series.