Mechanical Hall exhibit inspires art and dance collaboration
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 12:09
Visitors of the Mechanical Hall gallery this fall are bound to be a little overwhelmed. Hanging from the ceiling are hundreds of boxes, cardboard containers that once held Cheerios and Happy Meals, garbage bags and tampons. On the floor are even more, forcing museum guests to stare at sideways Corona Extra logos and every flavor of Hot Pocket.
The two pieces, “Hanging Boxes” and “Changing Boxes,” form a new installation from artist Maren Hassinger to Mechanical Hall, she says. Hassinger is sharing the space with Sonya Clark, who primarily uses combs and her own hair to examine personal identity in her art.
Hassinger and Clark were brought to campus this spring as part of the President’s Diversity Initiative, giving lectures and working with art majors in a foundation studio class. When Mechanical Hall curator Julie McGee and her colleagues were planning their fall exhibit, she says they decided to ask Hassinger and Clark to contribute.
“What I wanted to do was to find ways to prolong and enhance the engagement that the campus has and the students have with Maren Hassinger and Sonya Clark,” McGee says.
Hassinger says two things she noticed about her apartment when she moved to New York City served as inspiration for her exhibit. The first was a sweeping, almost panoramic view of lower Manhattan and part of Queens, and the second was an incredible quantity of packing boxes, she says.
As an artist comfortable using everyday materials, like newspaper and fallen leaves, Hassinger says she was quick to see creative potential in the cardboard. The view from her window offered inspiration as well, not in the beauty of a New York sunset or the twinkling of lights, but in the amount of boxes also found in the architecture, she says, making her realize boxes are all around us.
“Our whole concept of basically how we live and where we live is controlled by boxes,” Hassinger says. “So I decided to do the piece that’s in Mechanical Hall, and I consider it, among other things, a kind of meditation on the box.”
Part of Hassinger’s meditation is on the restraining quality of boxes, she says. Living within both figurative and literal boxes affects the way people think, causing ideas to become stagnant and stunting intellectual and creative growth, she says.
Hassinger says she began to construct what she calls floor-to-ceiling totems from the packing boxes. As the project grew, she enlisted the help of her building’s porters to save boxes other tenants had recycled.
“Kind of on the surface of everything are all of these product boxes that I have used, and it really does show what our tastes are, and it’s kind of disappointing,” Hassinger says. “We’re eating a lot of cereal; we’re eating a lot of frozen food.”