January 24, 2009 - March 28, 2009 // OTIS Ben Maltz Gallery, Los Angeles
The Future Imaginary
An Indirect Intention: A Viralnet.net Intervention into the Museum of Jurassic Technology and CLUI
by Tom Leeser

During the winter of 2007 and the spring of 2008, the online curatorial initiative, Viralnet.net, (Chris Bassett, Stephanie Kern and Tom Leeser) sought out artists to respond to the words home and garden through research projects, performances, workshops, essays, fiction, interviews, video, sound and interactive online projects. It was our intention that the artist's responses would collectively spark an appeal to a certain pathos;  a more personal dialogue around the current global ecological and economic crisis.  We also wanted the work to creatively engage the social conflicts between public and private space and the  personal tensions between physical and virtual space.

During the life of ''Home and Garden,'' the project kept producing new offshoots and branching into new areas of investigation. In June, 2010 we decided to bring the project to its natural conclusion by orchestrating a final event designed as a tactical intervention into the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Culver City, California. The event ran from June 17 to June 20, 2010.  The selected images are a documentation of the four day event.

Intervention as an artistic strategy has a history nearly a hundred years old within the twentieth century avant-garde. Its most foundational aspect is the intention to subvert, disrupt and to engage with existing public spaces or artworks for purposes of protest or political opposition.  It was our idea  to intervene into the two institutions, more in the role of a friendly 'silent partner' rather than a provocateur engaged in an oppositional critique.

However there is also a desire on the part of many interventionists to alter the day-to-day conditions of ordinary experience by playing the part of the trickster. We fully embraced this desire, aspiring to produce a response that resembled a 'misadventure' into the realm of the uncanny- a blending with the everyday activities of the institutions and their exhibits.  We were interested in creating, within the visitor, an element of surprise by exhibiting the artworks anonymously, placing them directly into the existing exhibits. We wanted the intervention to be seen as an indirect intention, a congruence that connected the “Home and Garden” artists to the Museum's encyclopedic collection of curiosities and CLUI's exhibition space.

We strategically "smuggled" the artworks, videos, sound installations,  readings and performances into the two institutions so they could enter into a secret dialogue with the Museum's permanent collection and CLUI's exhibition, “Through the  Grapevine.”  In addition to the artwork and sound installations within the galleries, we  screened videos from the “Home and Garden” website in the Museum's Borzoi Kabinet Theater and hosted a day of readings by the contributing writers. After the readings we held a concert by the vocal group, Marshweed, and hosted an outdoor reception in the  garden behind the Museum. On the final day of the event we held an indoor picnic in the Museum's Tula Tea Room. The picnic featured writer and curator Margo Bistis and author Norman Klein. Margo and Norman led a discussion with a group of invited artists and activists on native California plants, the cultural and political effects of the recession, the foreclosure crisis and the history of Southern California sprawl. The picnic also included Barbara Wampole, co-founder and board member of the Friends of the Santa Clara River. Ms. Wampole gave a brief history of her organization and talked about their efforts to protect the Santa Clarita River, one of only two remaining natural river systems in Southern California. 

Among the tactics that we employed was the decision not to use title cards to identify the artworks and sound installations in the galleries.  Instead, we supplied a handmade map, designed by Heather Lockie (of Marshweed), that pointed out the location of each work to the visitors. The map allowed the embedded artworks to be exposed like hidden artifacts, in a way like "squatters," revealing themselves to the wandering visitor, temporally and spatially, complimenting the sense of discovery and inquiry that defines both institutions.

The works included in our four day action were by  Deborah Aschheim, Jordan Biren, Margo Bistis, Ursula Brookbank, Frank Chang, Drew Denny, Ken Ehrlich, Fallen Fruit, Nicolas Grenier, Norman Klein, Nate Harrison, Carla Herrera-Prats, Robin Lasser, Marshweed, Lisa Mezzacappa, Pat O'Neill, Albert Ortega, Adrienne Pao, Reclamation Project, Phil Ross, Nathan Ruyle, Elleni Sclavenitis, Susan Simpson, Janet Sarbanes, Claudia Slanar and Michiko Yao. The work collectively spoke in a harmonious undertone, one that  diffused  into the atmospheres and spaces of the Museum and CLUI. For a brief time, we were all collaborators, as  Charles Willson Peale said, "guided along as it were a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life."