When Jennifer Mawby turned on the television last winter she was horrified. She had been without cable since moving into her studio a couple years ago, and apparently life as she knew it was coming to an end thanks to an economic crisis of epic proportions.
Overwhelmed by the onslaught of doom in the media, Mawby quickly came up with three ideas under the banner of “recession proof thinking.” The first project, Stone Soup is based on the stone soup fable where travelers trick a town into pooling its food into a giant soup. Six artists will be working together to pool their talents into two shifting works of art.
“Rather than curating shows where you just go around collecting things from the inventory various artists have and coming up with some statement to how philosophically it fits together, I’m actually interested in something that’s a little more performative where the work is created within the gallery so it’s something new and special,” says Mawby. “It’s in keeping with this overwhelming concern about how the current economic crisis is being sold to us almost as a form of theatre through the media.”
Mawby guest curated the show with the Rachel Zottenberg, director of Grace-Gallery, and co-produced it with her Vantage Art Projects partner Sherri Kajiwara. Running for the eight months now Vantage functions like a film production house, to create opportunities for artists and bring together the people who make art with the people who love art.
Drawing on her background in project management and theatre/dance, Mawby is drawn to collaboration and community. She put forward the Stone Soup as a sort of challenge. A chicken and the egg proposal, Mawby first had to find a gallery to host the on-site project before she had artists.
“It was really interesting when we launched vantage we were treated by some people as being really radical…[We're] pushing the business model of the traditional art world, because I find some things incredibly antiquated and backwards.”
Her build-it-and-they-will-come pitch worked, and the right artists came to the table. Three artists—Lisa Birke, Weakhand, Christian Nicolay—will create a mural in the gallery, while the others— Sascha Yamashita, Christopher Donnelly, Rebecca Donald—will work on a sculpture. It turned out the muralists were all friends, and the three sculptors were partial to using everyday, domestic materials—the kind being affected by the economy.
Mawby feels by having the work re-worked and eventually torn down she sets up an interesting challenge for the artists—one that speaks to the solutions to our economic woes. She hopes to show the sum is more important than the whole, the impermanence of things and the notion that this too will pass.
“Just as this work will come into being, exist in a certain format and then pass on to be re-worked, we will get through this current economic crisis and we will have affluent years once again. These very, very rich layers became apparent as I put the concept together.”
And while Mawby compares most exhibitions to a sort of Wizard of Oz theatre, she’s excited to have the art-making process revealed.
“In some ways maybe revealing the process is about revealing the vulnerability—the human aspect, the everyday. If you reveal the process of art-making, it isn’t a mystery. It’s something that happens everyday.”