Camp Out: Finding Home in an Unstable World at Laumeier Sculpture Park

[uds-billboard name=”campout”]Those familiar with Laumeier Sculpture Park will be able to spot the new works for the exhibition Camp Out: Finding Home in an Unstable World right away. Contrasting with the massive, metal and steel minimalist sculptures in the park’s front lawn, the temporary works are distinctly campy—in the s’mores and meet-your-neighbors kind of way (rather than in the Susan Sontag “Notes on Camp” kind of way). And for an exhibition centering around home, that’s quite fitting. From egg-laying chickens in Kim Yasuda’s community-minded Hunt and Gather (2012) chicken coop, to Dré Wapenaar’s canvas, pod-like Treetent (2005), in which visitors are encouraged to climb, the sculptural, architectural and interactive works in the summer exhibition offer an invitation  to the process and materiality of art. Focusing on the overlapping themes of place, home, temporality, community, and built environments, Camp Out successfully re-invigorates a visit to Laumeier with an experiential, hands-on art exhibition. Home, of course, includes the domestic, which is addressed thoroughly through carefully curated photographs, film, and installation in a compelling continuation of the exhibition within the indoor galleries.

Outside, there is a focus on structure, shelter, and process. Oliver Bishop Young’s High Rise (2012) consists of various shapes of wooden furniture packed to the brim with natural materials collected from the park such as pinecones, branches, and stumps. The materials are arranged in a way that relates back to its title, situating this natural, built environment with an urban architectural feel. Young is also interested in object conversion: the entire work sits atop a former dumpster, complete with graffiti, calling into question what we consider trash and treasures, and the wide range of shared community spaces, from an alley-way dumpster to a local park. Kim Yasuda’s works also addresses  ideas of community building, living, and working. In addition to her chicken coop, she has also initiated a community garden, kept up by local volunteers to eventually contribute to a potluck for the public in the fall. Yasuda’s concept of home is a markedly broad one, in which the locale is encouraged to work together to create home-like experiences beyond the confines of the structures in which they live.

Michael Rakowitz’s Untitled paraSITE (2012), Mary Mattingly’s Wearable Portable Architecture (2011) and Dré Wapenaar’s Treetents explicitly engage with the exhibition’s subtheme by imagining temporary structures that could serve as a home in uncertain environments. Rakowitz has created an inflatable shelter that attaches to the exhaust vent of the gallery building using garbage bags, tape, plastic tarp, electrical wire and scissors. Visitors can climb inside of a shelter, but in doing so, must confront the reality of those without a place to call home, especially timely with the recent eviction of tent city, or Hopeville, near the St. Louis Arch. Mattingly’s work is a canopy-like shelter and a high-tech dwelling place, made from camouflage jackets equipped with GPS and Internet, which both protect the physical body and expose the position of the user. Wapenaar’s Treetent attractively provides a means of shelter; kids will love the pod attached to a tree and reached by ladder it for its quirky shape, and adults for the tree house they never had (or could never build for their own kids).

Inside is a solid and nuanced exhibition that gets to the heart of home and place, examining what exactly constitutes house and home and the difficulty of gaining and losing that sacred place in different stages of life. Edgar Martin’s stark photographs of empty hallways and blank walls in unfinished or abandoned or broken-into homes (we cannot tell which or what combination) are a chilling introduction into the negative associations people have had with homes, especially in the last few years with the housing and economic crises. In the same room, Emily Speed’s cardboard structure, Inhabitant (St. Louis) (2012), reflects the architecture of the St. Louis area, culling from the various styles over the years. The fates of these structures are often unsure.

The films in the galleries are gems, critically engaging and timely: Cyprien Gaillard’s short looping film, Pruitt Igoe Falls (2009), shows one of these uncertain fates. Named after the urban housing project built in St. Louis 1954 and demolished only 18 years after its construction, the film is a bittersweet, metaphorical look at the connection between housing demolitions and the majesty of Niagra Falls. Isabelle Hayeur’s three short films are also carefully nuanced and crucial investigations into the contrasts of economic busts and booms. In part of Losing Ground (2009), for example, the camera is situated in a car, driving by an unfinished, suburban, luxury housing development in which houses are squashed together in pre-planned, nearly identical communities without privacy or nature. At the back of the galleries, closing the show, the artistic group BGL (Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère, and Nicolas Laverdière) have installed a large, indoor, orange plexiglas bonfire, entitled Le Bûcher (2010), a clever play on the push and pull between the natural and the constructed, the intelligence of humans and the power of nature.

Curated by Marilu Knode, Executive Director, and Dana Turkovic, Curator of Exhibitions, Camp Out is an important show for St. Louis right now. Its interaction with the outdoor works is directly linked to its interest in space, place, and community and is not just a cute add-on. Inside, the work engages social, economic, and political issues that are ongoing and very present and that constantly force us to re-evaluate what is a house, what is a home, and what it is exactly that we need to feel settled in one.


Camp Out: Finding Home in an Unstable World continues at Laumeier Sculpture Park through September 16, 2012.
Laumeier is located at 12580 Rott Rd in St. Louis, MO and is free. Visit for hours and more information.

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