Urban Warp/Weft

Amanda Browder and Stuart Keeler

Urban Warp/Weft, a sculptural research project, is an investigation of the aesthetic imagination of “re-use,” “recycle,” and “green,” current buzzwords in Chicago art and politics. Exploring ecological connections in the built world, the project features combinations of recycled materials and plant material. The team of Amanda Browder and Stuart Keeler presents a group of installations created entirely from reused material, ranging from discarded paper reused as sculpture to salvaged State of Illinois-owned furniture. From recycled paint created by People Powered to rented plantscapes, the works that Browder and Keeler put on display create no waste and model low impact, sustainable activities.

The artists constructed the project as a two-part process, ranking brainstorming and construction as equals. Their admittedly utopian vision is to generate a new dialogue concerning the notions of social “sustainability” and process with architects, engineers, artists, and industry. As the artists state,

"The goal is to appreciate dialogue in its role of activating research as part of an ongoing collaborative material study."

The exhibition includes a mound of shredded paper collected by UICycle Waste Reduction and Recycling Program that grows higher day after day, through daily consumption, collection and addition. Replicating the landfill mounds south of the city of Chicago, the paper mound manifests individual output in space and time.

Assemblages of furniture and plants in the gallery create a landscape interpretation of beauty that took into account history, office life, learning, research, refuse, and reuse. Studies have proven that plant life in an office space increases the productivity, health, and happiness of office workers. Urban Warp/Weft suggests the positive effects of plants that have infiltrated our urban environment. Beyond the green roofs of Chicago, plant participation and infiltration is key to a Green City.

One wall of the gallery is adorned with Loop Limited: Recycled Paint, a remixed, recycled combination of donated excess latex household paint created by People Powered, a local artists group. The average household annually stockpiles one to three gallons of unused paint, which often improperly enters the waste stream. The display of Loop Limited offers an alternative model.

An array of posters of Browder and Keeler’s utopian proposals are also being presented. 

Urban Warp/Weft suggests possibilities for collaboration; the penetration of exterior and interior space; the expansion of what the artists call a limited art world context into a public art experience; and the development of relationships with architects, engineers, artists, and other design professionals.

The plants are rented and on loan from an indoor landscape company, the furniture is reused from a UIC supply, and the paper and paint are recycled. Urban Warp/Weft reveals and revels in the ins and outs of an intertwined system and weaves together the paths of objects in our expanding, connecting global-urban-world.

A number of events, lectures, and discussions are being presented at Gallery 400 as part of Urban Warp/Weft, including talks by artists Bonnie Fortune, Sandra Dillon, Tiffany Holmes, Jaime Topper, and People Powered, as well as an introduction to I-Go cars by CEO Sharon Feigon.

As a collaborative team, Amanda Browder and Stuart Keeler are interested in joining and expanding the dialogue about the insides and outsides of the built environment. The artists say about their project, "Conversation is the key, and dialogue is our method. Our goal is to incorporate social dynamic in the creation or exploration of environments. Beyond the process of brainstorming, our practice becomes a catalogue of future projects, ideas, and wish lists. We are fueled by observation, conversation, direction, research, and spontaneity.” Browder and Keeler maintain a blog as part of their research process.

Urban Warp/Weft was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2007 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series.

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