Dec 2006

Detroit Industrial Projects 

Looking Deeply: Beasley, Cukovic, Glenn

“Even Clean Hands Leave Marks and Damage Surfaces”

Installation exhibit by Detroit artists Kevin Beasley, Miroslav Cukovic and Curtis Glenn

December 1st through January 13, 2007
Artist Talk: Sunday, December 10, 2-3pm

In “Even Clean Hands Leave Marks and Damage Surfaces,” Kevin Beasly, Miroslav Cukovic, and Curtis Glenn collaborate to transform a vacant, raw studio space within the Russell Industrial complex by very subtle means. It’s likely at first glance a visitor might dismiss the room as having had nothing done to it at all. The project is installation, yes, but not as in major construction, yet it is still completely transformative. By manipulating the smallest aspects throughout the room – the entire space becomes activated – everything becomes an integral element of a three dimensional composition. Room becomes art object. So what’s inside?


There are obvious pieces, clear signs of intentional intervention: A flywheel attached to a wheel, mounted directly inside the entrance. A pullout couch bed frame serves as a third wall of sorts for a tent frame nestled in a corner of the room. Inside the makeshift structure: a bed of plastic air-filled packaging bags. There’s a light, and images of a toilet – a likely reference to Marcel Duchamp’s “fountain,” a readymade urinal exhibited as an art object, quite appropriate for an installation of this sort.  A long, curved pipe is place purposefully, leaned against a wall, rust spilling out from its floor end, depositing a striking red stain on the yellow painted cement floor. A small blue painting is hung askew on one wall. Nearby, elements of representation adorn the wall – paintings of a fish.


A drafting table is mounted high on the opposite wall, an element of the architecture now, rather than a tool to help design the architecture. A plastic power strip serves as the hypotenuse of a triangle whose legs are the floor and wall. The work becomes in a way an elaborate Easter egg hunt: A strip of red tape stuck vertically along a support column in the wall is obscured by a strategically stationed metal shaft. There’s at least one hook sticking out from the wall, power supply cords have their ends plugged into the walls and are arranged in a symmetrical formation.

A bucket collecting water dripping from the ceiling presents a new question – what was done and what was already here before? Is a nail on the floor set out in a particular position or is left behind from earlier construction?  Additionally, the bucket creates variable sound effects; both as it fills higher with water and as the dripping slows with lessening precipitation outside.

A rickety wooden frame, hanging off the wall, falls apart at a touch, providing a means of interacting with the viewer quite actively. So what then of the cracked paint on the ceiling? Or the nearly invisible drawing in dust on the window panes? A strip of blue tape in a corner? It becomes almost impossible to know what’s intentional and what’s incidental. Everything in the room acts in concert – modified or not, each element matters to the entire composition.  And thus this experience makes us look differently at our own spaces – that cracked paint on the kitchen ceiling, flecks of blue-green tile revealed through chips in the black paint covering the floor, a yellow extension cord snaking across that same blue-spotted, black floor. Our own spaces take on greater visual interest. (In my case, raising the entirely separate question of whether it’s art or just poor housekeeping?) It’s a lot of fun, it’s Easter Egg nature turns into a game of sorts, and perhaps one of the most engaging exhibitions in sometime – which is curious, as stated above, that on first glance, it’s nothing but a fairly empty room in a state of unfinished construction.


But in looking, we start to see hidden depths, which open up further views, and soon a lot of time has passed, and it seems we’ve just started looking, and are ready to look some more. As such, this connects the work to the mathematical concept of fractals – geometry able to more closely approximate the complexity of nature. We might see in a coastline, a naturally occurring fractal, within every inlet, smaller inlets can be found, and similarly within them smaller inlets, and so on. Infinite depths in limited area. The closer one looks at such objects, the more we see, as this installation seems to do. (Even in writing this, I’m finding new things – like, does the fishing rod in the entrance connect to the fish paintings across the room? If there’s a “bed” room in one corner, a drafting table in another, an area for seating and conversation, fish in the “kitchen?”, does this mirror someone’s studio/living space?)This also connects to light and space installation artist Robert Irwin (as was pointed out to me). Irwin’s modifications of entire, otherwise empty rooms often included the placement of something almost unnoticeable – a single strip of black paper, an altering of the lighting. Yet these subtle, exceedingly minimal manipulations dramatically changed people’s perception of the space. This caused visitors to pay great attention, thus enabling them to see something they’d never seen before, and the whole space in an entirely new light. Irwin describes his practice as, “the gift of seeing a little more today than you did yesterday.”

Beasly, Cukovic, and Glenn, too, invite us to pay greater attention to our surroundings and in the act of doing so be pleasantly surprised with what we discover in the act of looking.

– Nick Sousanis, ws@thedetroiter.com  

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