Material Exchange was founded by Sara Black and John Preus in the wake of time spent working with Wochenklausur, an Austrian collective that was in residency at the University of Chicago in 2005.  MX was dedicated to creating and developing projects around waste and surplus materials…

-as a celebration of the human and biological labor embedded in materials,
-as a means of investigating the complex relationships between humans and things, objects and images, representations and their referents,
-as an inquiry into the various forms of being,
-as an elaboration of the western interest in found materials from Duchamp’s experiments with ready-mades to driftwood figurines, from Rauschenberg’s combines to ethnographic artifacts and religious reliquaries,
-as a symbolic or tactical intervention,
-as an antidote to expansionist economics,
-as alternately apocalyptic and utopian

Following are a few of my favorite projects that we did.  You can also see more of our past work at the Material Exchange website.

I’d Rather Be Fishin’

follow this link for the stop motion animation of the project.

In conjunction with the Smart Museum’s traveling exhibition Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art, John Preus and Sara Black were invited to participate in a short project-based residency in Marquette, Michigan through the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University. The project began with a retired wooden fishing boat refashioned into a truck topper for transportation to the Upper Peninsula atop a slick Chevy Silverado rental. Upon reaching its destination, the topper was transformed and installed upon the frozen inland body of water, Teal Lake. The sculpture was collaboratively designed and built over 5 days with high school and college students while Preus and Black were in residence. In the warming months of spring, the turtle sank to the bottom of the lake and assumed its final role as a freshwater fish habitat. The specific design requirements were determined by the Department of Natural Resources and coordinated by the Superior Watershed Partnership, and are intended to create shelter and protection for small fish until they get big enough to swim in open waters.

photo set can be accessed here:

The Fortuitous Sequel to Martin Kippenberger’s Installation, 2007

The Experimental Station hosted the Putt-Putt Green Design Competition, organized and curated by Material Exchange. Area artists, designers, engineers, and school groups, submitted putting green designs, employing a range of circuitous and inefficient means to get the ball into the hole, out of which ten were selected. Each of the green designers was given a piece of Astroturf salvaged from German artist Martin Kippenberger’s The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s America, an exhibition held at the Renaissance Society in 2000. Adding to the challenge was the requirement that each hole be constructed from reclaimed materials and that the finished product have a built-in future use. Afterlives for the holes included a skateboard ramp, bike panniers, and bird houses.
The event was covered on Artbeat, WTTW channel 11, available here

It was also reviewed in the Chicago Reader, and The Chicago Weekly, a University of Chicago publication.

You can also visit the blog which has more information about the event.

The Green Designers were: Steven Carelli Dayton Castleman Michael Dinges Matthew Dupont Evan Fulford Matthew Hebert, Monica Herrera and Heather Mullins Hyde Park Academy, Rod Northcutt

Repair Shop, 2009

During the second week of September, Material Exchange, InCUBATE, and Adam Bobbette traveled to Buffalo, New York to develop a project called Repair Shop. The Repair Shop is our contribution to the larger exhibition entitled, Conversation Pieces, hosted by CEPA gallery. For information about Conversation Pieces, please follow the link.
The following images document the project from the build-out to the opening night. Objects are still under repair. There will also be a 180 page catalog that where we will produce a group-written text, as well as a flip-book style animation of one of the object repair transformations. Info to come!

Project Description:
The Repair Shop is a platform for experimentation. Repair is a process of transformation, determined through conversation, problem solving, and making-do. When an object, or and infrastructure appears to break (fall apart, peter out, decay, lose steam, or simply change), an opportunity is provided to reconsider our relationships to these things and re-make them in a way that pushes in a different direction. The Repair Shop addresses a number of things in need of repair (ordinary objects, the infrastructures of our everyday lives, and how the larger artistic community is supported in the current arts funding system). The strategies we use: an object repair service, a temporary space for non-profit use, a soup café and bar, all generate money for artist projects through the Repair Shop Grant. The grant is a means to facilitate new projects. These divergent yet resonant strategies experiment with the opportunities and constraints of broken things.