Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What To Take Away From "Indianapolis Island"

Andrea Zittel's addition to the IMA's recently opened 100 Acres Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, an island made of fiberglass and foam that is approximately 20 feet in diameter, is called Indianapolis Island. Zittel received many proposals for artists' projects involving the new island. Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge, both Herron School of Art and Design students, created a proposal entitled "Give and Take" that was selected, and they are inhabiting the island all summer long.

Below is an IMA video about the fabrication of the island:

Dunn and Runge have now been living on Indianapolis Island for about two weeks. They have launched their artistic concept on many levels. Dunn describes the concept:
"Andrea Zittel gave us the island for us to take and use for our own living needs and artistic concept. In return, we want to give back to the public and have them give and take with us as well as leave their own mark on the project. From this general concept, we developed our ideas for trade, messages, and the blog." The physical exchange of objects with visitors recalls a project by artist collective Gelitin that was called Tantamounter 24/7, which occurred in 2005 and saw the artists receiving objects from visitors and then physically recreating them by hand with what materials they had and giving the visitor their newly forged version of whatever object they received. Give and Take has its similarities insofar as being completely open-ended as far as what visitors put in, but here the object that they receive will be far more unpredictable, although it may be bartered for. Runge explains, "It's been fun to see how people interpret it. It's really fun to give no direction and see what people come up with. People interpret island life differently; a lot of people have brought us practical things like sunscreen and bug spray, some people have brought us things to keep us busy like games and books, and others have brought us food."

Runge describes the give and take aspects of the project: "That's still coming into it's own life. All of the things we are doing in this project have a give and take theme; the trades are most obvious. There's a tangible example by the object that people leave behind and the object they take with them. The messages they send are also a give and take; the idea of communication. Our blog is a way for us to communicate, the tours are a way to communicate, the message is a way to communicate. The gardens are growing. They take water, sunlight, nutrients, and design, and they give food. Compromise in the sense of living on the island is also a give and take. When you go to a place, you leave your mark on that place. You are physically changing everything in ways that you cannot see, but you are also changing the energy. It's a little more obvious what you take with you (experience, knowledge, different perspective). The trade idea was just a tangible example of that. The visitors are leaving their mark on their space, but they are also taking a souvenir."

Runge and Dunn are striving to live as simply as they can on Indianapolis Island. The space's physical constraints necessitate it, but it is also a sort of philosophical reduction of the many unnecessary things that surround us in modern life. As a part of this new way of life, they are attempting to grow some of the food that they will consume. Runge already has a garden and raises chickens in his personal home, and the island has a floating garden that the pair designed. The crops will not mature for a couple more weeks, but eventually they will become a sustainable food source.

What Runge and Dunn thought would be a secluded getaway and spiritual retreat has turned out to be quite the opposite. "I could get upset about it, but it allows me to treat it differently. It becomes more of a performance than a retreat," Runge explains. He feels quite a bit like an animal in a zoo not only due to the omnipresence of watchers, but due to their vigilant monitoring of his mundane daily activity and enthusiastic responses. Dunn adds, "It's just kind of surreal. Everytime we walk outside and look out on the porch, there are people, completely around the lake, staring, watching us all the time. One time I went on the porch, and the pier by Kendall Buster was completely full of people and they all yelled out in unison, 'Hi, Jessica!'"

In order to chronicle their experiences, Runge and Dunn are keeping a blog that is located on the IMA website. Besides providing records of physical trades of items that have occurred, photos and writings chronicling the pair's daily life on the island, and images of messages they receive from the floating capsules that they fabricated, the blog has also been an avenue for the pair to respond to questions they receive via message. They have recently completed a FAQ section to avoid redundancy, but unique questions may receive an answer on the blog. This allows the artists to add a "give" component in a situation where a lack of technology previously would have rendered it a mere "take;" by utilizing a publicly viewable blog, the pair is able to respond to often anonymous messages in a way that they never would have been able to before, lacking contact information from the messages' senders.

Stay tuned, as we will be checking back in with Michael and Jessica at different points during their tenure on the island this summer.

coauthored by Scott Grow and Charles Fox

Video of a conversation between Charles Fox, Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge on the opening day of the park

Conversations with Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge from Charles Fox on Vimeo.

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