Under the conditions of general uncertainty and fear brought on by a global pandemic, twelve artists, exiled from their studios, dive into planning the show that will mark the beginning of their 2nd year in their MFA program.
Cautious but hopeful, the cohort chooses to exhibit their work off-campus at a factory-turned printing space south of downtown Columbus. The building is a safe bet in this time of unpredictability.
And yet -- the building ignores all attempts at communication from the group. They take the hint.
The group convenes on Zoom. Next option? A fleet of U-haul trucks? Shot down. Annex the windows of closed storefronts on High Street? Shot down. How about the gymnasium inside that one artist collective?
After a tour of the gymnasium, the artists decide it can be Covid-proofed. A little shoddy, slightly unorthodox (no, the grand piano cannot be removed from the gym), but it’ll work.
The group rests easy for a moment as they await the gym’s quote for a one-week rental.
Meanwhile, mass protests erupt in downtown Columbus and across the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Making art is impossible...and yet, in this hour, under this stress, under massive inequalities, amidst fear and burning love, the artists respond. They make art.
The gym gets back to the group with its rent quote; the details will not be divulged here, but, needless to say, the group is left reeling from this capitalistic smite.
Gloom on Zoom
What’s this now? International student visas may be denied if university classes go digital? Call your senators! Call your representa—
The issue is resolved momentarily (keep vigilant)
Another stab-- the group will have the show completely outdoors on the grounds of an old military fort-turned-arts high school.
After 5 long months spent making art at kitchen counters, on coffee tables, and in garage corners, the artists’ studios on campus reopen!
With a rush of questions, the artists grapple with making work on the expansive grounds of a retired military arsenal. A sampling: Can I paint on the grass? Can I dangle a swath of spandex from the bell tower? Can I attach a neon sign to the roof of that one crumbling building that used to store gunpowder?
Important information for something is lost somewhere down an email black hole.
Scheming and dreaming… hot bands of sunlight filter into the studios of Hopkins Hall and Sherman at 4:30 everyday signaling that it is time to step away for the evening.
The artists establish a website as a complement to the show. It will not replace the gallery, but rather act as a new site. An appendix. An addendum. A free-floating wavelength that is zapped to your device on command.
There is a vote for the show title: 24-hour Drama wins after heated debate. The artists inch their way towards the end of the drama.
And yet-- the old arsenal regretfully informs them that it must cancel the show. As a mere prisoner to the bureaucratic powers of public education, its hands are tied.
Absolute ruin… and then--
The Hybrid Arts Lab Tent pops up on campus, offering shelter to the bruised and battered bunch. One last proposal, one last trial, oh please!
This is precarity eroticized by the drama of distraction. This is the promise of infinite, infinite possibility that masks utter neglect. These are the conditions of this particular hour, and this hour lasts forever.
Instead of trying to create order from disorder, the artists lean into the enduring chaos of the exhibition and allow the 24- hour Drama to unfold at its own will.
Ji Hyun Lee
(Clicking on the icons in the home page will lead you to each artist’s personal page with online art work)