Public Reception: Saturday April 11th, 4-8pm Lost & Foundry Oakland 305 Center Street, Oakland CA, half a block from West Oakland BART
Lost & Foundry Oakland will be unveiling new works by Artist in Residence, Anja Ulfeldt this upcoming Saturday. Time Peace is the culmination of a 5-week residency featuring a series of rotary devices that measure time and symbolize its passage. I wanted to visit her in the studio for a little sneak peek before the opening. Upon entering the metal door of The Lost and Foundry Gallery this past Wednesday, I was immediately confronted with two huge barrel-like structures, and several smaller versions lining the walls. Covered in mahogany and cherry veneer, the wall "tumblers" still had their plexiglass faces covered and tapped tight with blue painters tape, evocative of large faceless wall clocks.
As part of the crowd funding campaign to build the work during her residency, contributors donated objects that they had felt an attachment to for one reason or another to be weathered down by these tumblers. In effect this transformation would lift the weight of the donor’s previous inability to let go of the objects, relieving them of their attachment through a mechanical weathering of the object.
“You’ll be able to see through them,” says Ulfeldt, placing her fingers on the blue tape holding the industrial covering onto the plexiglass, gently spinning it on the wall.
“The tumblers are definitely a sound piece. They have these mahogany shelves inside like a dryer, that help lift/stir the contents and then drop them. It's supposed to be like a chorus of randomly timed falling sounds. The motors make a whirring/grumbling sound when they run. I kinda love it! I just got a donation of a pile of coins too which will probably sound great falling every couple of minutes." Across the room she pulls a cardboard box out from under a collapsible table and sits cross-legged on the floor, opening the flaps. Inside rests the collection of objects that have been donated for their eventual destruction.
“Growing up in what might have qualified as a hoarder house I have a close personal relationship to the question of what gives an object power over us emotionally? What makes us love an object of art for reasons we sometimes don’t understand? Often in art there is a focus on longevity. Some artworks are made of stone and can outlive the civilization that created them while others are intentionally ephemeral. But what about other items those individuals collect and keep in their lives and how does this relate to wealth accumulation and assignment of value on objects, material and art? I'm particularly interested in how we assign value to possessions beyond the obvious monetary value of the materials they contain.”
She shows me a sand dollar with -January 5th 2014 -Surfing for the first time- written in fat black marker on the back. Then pulls out a pair of glasses, some hearing aids, a softened and sad looking plaster cast of a child’s face, a little ceramic bird, and several other everyday objects from the box.
“I know the story of some of these objects better than others,” she said holding the sand dollar out to me as we rummaged through the box together. I turned it over in my hand and knew this was the last time I would see these little objects that someone, somewhere, had cherished in their whole, un-mutilated state.
She closed up the box and placed it back under the table, and humored my curiosity regarding the giant wheels in the center of the room. I watched her step into one, and as it turned around and around with her steps it became evocative to a time in my childhood. For a moment I was back in a county fair funhouse, rolling about with a bunch of other squealing children in an oversized padded wheel. The sounds of those memories faded away and all was silent except for the loud whirring of the metal-framed wheel turning under the warm gallery lights.
Ulfeldt steps out and explains The Hustle (working title), “… Invites visitors to enter one of two walks of life: one a fast-moving hustle, the other a seductively soft resting place. These take the form of rotary drums sharing an axle and transmission. The gearing is designed so that the movement of the fast-paced climbers eventually destabilizes those lounging on the slow-moving side. The treadmill … speaks to the labor of love that is sculpture and the sculptors’ love of labor. The Treadmill represents the desire for purpose and the need to work toward that purpose. If you can understand the idea of art for art’s sake then why not labor for labor’s sake.
"This piece is also inspired by the level of hustle required to survive as an artist in the Bay Area. While the love is the labor and the labor is the love there is still this feeling that if you stop to rest you may never make it back onto the wheel or that the fast paced world of money may just pass you by. The level of hustle required to be an artist in the Bay Area is increasing at a rapid rate and many people are leaving. So I pose the question: How much hustle can you sustain? Is it really worth it?”
Ulfeldt stairs up with tired eyes at the pair of wheels she has meticulously welded together and layered in plywood. I left her to her work at the Lost and Foundry studio. She seemed anxious to get back to it, probably with a grand to-do list looming in her head.
The question Ulfeldt had previously stated rang again and again in my head. At first this question in her statement threw me off.
“Is it worth it?”
As an artist, The Hustle speaks to me of the amount of work many Bay Area artists must endure to be able to sustain their practice: working 40 hours a week, producing art, maintaining the work load and personal relationships, and the attempt to grow an ever evolving network to forward my creative career. This is a task many artists face. It can be wholly overwhelming at times, and can feel utterly unsustainable. How do I keep my own momentum moving forward without overturning everything I’ve been working towards?
“Is it worth it?"
"Is it really worth it?”
You can Interact with The Hustle (working title) and join Anja Ulfeldt for a public reception of Time Piece this Saturday April 11th, 4-8pm at Lost & Foundry Oakland 305 Center Street, Oakland CA, half a block from West Oakland BART
Anja is the Co-Founder and Director of Basement Gallery Oakland (slated to reopen in May, 2015) as well as a founding member of the Artstead Boat Project, a floating venue for art and performance built from a converted potato barge. She is a recipient of the Visions from the New California Award in 2010, TSFF & SOMArts Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award in 2013 and The AAF/Seebacher Prize for Fine Arts in 2014 resulting in a three-week fellowship at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria.
The daughter of a painter and an engineer, Anja grew up in Berkeley, CA, and earned her BFA from California College of the Arts in 2001 and her MFA from Stanford University in 2014. Her recent installations have become know as “performable objects” and are physical scenarios in which the participant becomes an impromptu performer.