The smell of sod infiltrates the interior air of such a non-descript building, adjacent one half of my love affair with public transportation, BART. The smell of piss in this San Francisco summer's heat infiltrates the exterior. Preferring both the smell of sod and a cool retreat from the heat, I take in the current installation of Christian Frock's Invisible Venue. Invisible in that her artists will present their voice in her home and, hopefully, in the surrounding Oakland for a sort of "Wait- what was that?" public display of meaningful art. Christine Lee, an Oakland based artist, has used Christian's Invisible Venue to investigate the order of ornamentation, as humans place it.
Simplistically- Lee has taken the sod and grass of outside, inside. And the carpet ornamentation of the surrounding 100 year old homes, outside. Lee has planted lush grass, in Christian's Invisible Venue, patterned in the same style as the in-laid hardwood floors of the rest of the building. This is an installation of a human replicating nature, inside, where nature has been molded and shaped into what we all commonly both accept and disregard as the floor we walk on. For me, seeing the familiar pattern of hardwood floors, mirrored with fresh, vibrant grass, provided a chuckle of: "Oh we people...." It also made me revisit a serious desire to grow grass in my home in place of carpet (the smell of sod!).
Adjacent The Invisible Venue, is an empty lot. Just a corner patch of dry grass and mostly dirt. A spot to vandal, trash or simply cut a corner through. Lee has sliced and directed recycled carpet into the designs of what the surrounding home's carpets looked like at one point in their 100 year old lives; she has brought the interior to the exterior. The "woven" carpet Lee has created is a growing project. She is adding to it, as long as it is still there, and emphasizing on the desire path already created. This pathway of trampled down grass, from years of human footsteps following one another to cut a corner, to meander off the concrete of our usual walkways, or to catch BART on time. Lee's beautiful recreation of a this delicate rose pattern is more evident the first time around, from the window of The Invisible Venue's headquarters in Christian's home. This seems fitting, as it was from this window that the ideas blossomed in Lee's mind, while Christian expressed her desire that an unsanctioned intervention by her artists would incorporate the neighborhood surrounding.
This intervention of order is a shy one, indeed. A visiting eye would not gather from the nailed down, dirty carpet, on a patch of earth, that this design was purposeful, meaningful and created for their eyes. However, this one criticism is offset with my realization that there aren't so many visiting eyes in the West Oakland hood. Christian tells me that most people who use that empty lot to cross through on their daily routes, know that "something is always happening in [her] building." Because of this, they will happen upon the nailed down, dirty carpet and they will stop. They will look up at her window, and they will stare at the carpeted ground beneath their feet once again. What they will gather from this, I could never guess. Hopefully they know to ring her bell and inquire.
**Some notation** Oh temporary- this public intervention by Christine Lee was a temporary one to begin with, lasting only as long as... well, as long as it would last. Three days after I strutted my small feet over her carefully sliced recyclyed carpets, the carpets disappeared. Considering the mortality rate of carpet, as well as most things in West Oakland (yes, and in the world as a whole), this is sad but not surprising.
But guess who still has grass and sod growing on the inside?
(*Images, Christine Lee, Order and Ornamentation, April 19 - til it lasts, 2009; Invisible Venue, installation views, photos by Montgomery Rene.)