Slow Recovery is a long-term engagement with the ideas and issues surrounding adaptation, or the ongoing malleability of things, people, buildings, spaces, stories, and identities.


For SHoP’s inaugural exhibition  (Southside Hub of Production), I relocated the defunct desks and chairs from the exhibition The World as Text, at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, and recast them into new roles for SHoP

The chairs became furniture for hosting conversations and events in the main room.  Their continued use will be documented as part of an ongoing project considering the social dynamics of things.

The desks have trickled down into a variety of roles and uses, providing material for other artists, and work surfaces throughout the house.  A number of desks and chairs have become Red Flags Salon, an intimate public house-style meeting space, hosting local beverages, conversation, and an evolving video selection.

This exhibition is unusual in that the objects that make up the collection that I am considering a part of Slow Recovery are spread throughout the house, and not necessarily marked.   When considering The World as Text last spring, I decided that I wanted to finally execute an idea that has been in my head, and under discussion with collaborators, for many years, to enter a long term engagement with a specific set of materials, and commit to working with them in a variety of ways over time, as material for art objects, functional installations, and furniture, while also allowing them to drift into more invisible functions,

Incidental Collection in the front room

or substructures for other events.  I started with desks and chairs, both as a reference to reading/writing/study/scholasticism, and as a way to draw parallels between the way in which language changes and morphs to suit the needs of the time, and the way in which objects remain a part of our lives, suspended within a daily functional language.   There are desks and chairs throughout the house, in the main room that are part of the original body of material.

Thank you to Gary Zucherman of Recycle Plus, Jessica Cochran at The Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, Ken Dunn and The Resource Center, Theaster Gates and the Rebuild Foundation, and SHOP for their generous support of this project.

Notes On Recovery

Recovery has a conflicting set of meanings, which makes it an interesting word to play with in relation to unwanted things.  One can recover from an illness, a traumatic event, a loss, one can recover lost memory, and one can recover a piece of furniture, both in the sense of claiming something that someone else has discarded, and in the sense of reupholstering it.  But I have never heard it used in its literal sense, as in to cover again.  If I were to cover a couch with a dust cloth, after removing the cover and putting it back on again, it would be strange to say I recovered the couch.  Language games allow for drifts into common usages, strays from literal ones at times, sometimes returns by means of a circuitous path.  To recover a word might mean to regain some former, and ostensibly more useful, complete, or poetic meaning of the word that was lost over time.  But a recovery is not a return.  There is always some degree of loss or scarring, and the recovered position that much more precious because of it.

Opening event patrons at Red Flags.  Archway lighting fixture made of one of the desks, as is the bar counter.


Covering implies a series of steps, a process.  There are bones, or structure, and then there is the cover, the skin.  And recovering would mean to add another layer on top of, or in place of  the first one.  In the sense of healing, this bears some similarity to the process of scarring in which a new layer of skin grows to replace what was lost.It seems that a thing is always in the process of becoming something other than what it is, both physically and metaphorically.  Things are suspended in a world, a dominant paradigm, within which they are something by virtue of being useful, or being bearers of legible content, and without which, we do not know what they are.  We can say that they used to be something, or that they are a broken something, meaning that they no longer belong to the economy that gave them value and significance.   A table with a broken leg does not become a new and inscrutable object the moment a leg breaks.  We do not stare at it incredulously and wonder what on earth it is or where it came from.  It enters the broad, unwieldy and non-descript category of garbage.  Yet I want to advocate for the idea that maybe we could or should suspend a things ontology more indefinitely.  It is not garbage until it enters the dump.  Until then, it is a more or less recoverable resource.  But once,  a thing has been made out of a collection of resources, say a printer, when the printer no longer prints, it has become a wildly diverse collection of resources in a very small package.

Imagine a series of global warehouses in which all dead/broken things of a type are kept, until their capacities are understood.  All broken printers go to warehouse 5,356 in the desert of Arizona.  They are kept in holding as an archive.  If oil is indeed dinosaur bones, or the results of some epic tragic global event, who can say what an enormous warehouse of printers could become given the proper circumstances?  Yes, I am dubious too, but I like the image.  A garbage dump is something like an enormous stew, put together by an unselective chef.

When a thing falls or is expelled from its world, it can be admitted into another by virtue of a creative act, meaning that it is the subject of a categorical adjustment.  Therefore, it is no longer what it was.  It becomes a free agent.  It drifts, or is taken up by another ecology or vocabulary, accidentally reclaimed, unwittingly inherited, or deliberately recovered.

Some things demand our attention, some wait to be noticed, some prefer to remain invisible if it means that they will be touched or recovered instead.  Nothing wants to be left alone, unless it can be seen as such, in which case, it is left “alone.”Some things are available or consumable all at once.  They are experienced more or less in one sudden jolt.  They are swallowed whole, and require only modest digestive energy.  Some things are slow explosions, trojan horses, zip archives, layers of mild shock that reorganize ones interior life over a long period of time.  These are destructive agents which either disarm us, bring us up short, or create a clearing, or an opportunity for construction.  They penetrate us unwittingly and seep into our cells, and then are recovered.

Some things are valuable to us because they make us think of something else; a lover, a friend, a cherished idea, a painful or happy memory.  they become surrogate placeholders, standing in for memory.  They are nostalgic in the sense that they speak of something other than themselves, and recover thoughts that may or may not bear any necessary objective relationship to the object itself.  One who bears no hint of sentimentality, may simply have nothing to lose, or have already lost everything.

Some things demand your undivided attention, like 3 year olds.  They demand that there is only material, and that there is a perfect unified synergy between the thing and the fact that you are looking at it, and its reason for being made at all.  It is unclear to me how it is possible to care about something that is utterly suspended, except as a novelty.