01.21.2015 · Exhibitions
It was with these measures of distance, metrics of time and space that I travelled from the UK to The Luminary to participate in the residency program.
1) London and St Louis are approximately 4198 miles apart.
2) Approximate flight time from St Louis to London is eight hours forty five minutes.
3) TAT-14, the most recently laid (2001) transatlantic telecommunications cable is approximately 9587 miles long connecting the European Union and The United States of America.
4) Approximate travel time for ten terabits of information along this fiber optic tunnel is one second.
5) It took about an hour over lunch for the whole of Sefton Park Primary School (circa September 1993) to find out that Ben Harrison licked the exact figure of one dick a day.
The initial point of engagement for work on the residency was to re-build the gallery space in computer game form. However, upon my arrival at The Luminary it became obvious that the space wasn’t in it’s final form, the basement of studios wasn’t finished and the top floor wasn’t started.
The architectural plans of the building told a pretty different story to that of the actual gallery as did the Counterstrike level I’d built as a combination of the both. The Luminary, in its unfinished and developing form leant itself brilliantly to exploring ideas of different spaces, the distance between those spaces and their overlaps.
At this point I mentally returned to Ben Harrison, aforementioned unfortunate pre-schooler.
Frequenting Cherokee St.’s many bars and cafe’s, namely the famous Yalla Yalla Swimming Baths, talking with members of the thriving local art and music scene it became apparent that whilst obvious geographical differences lie between the American United States and the United Kingdom there is (perhaps to some unsurprisingly) a space cohabited by those on both sides of the pond.
I met fully fledged ex-members of the Pen 15 club, those whom had been diagnosed with Skil at a young age, recognised the true excellence of Bob Seger & his silver bullet band, had been introduced to Whistler through Mr Bean and understood that Ray Liotta wasn’t just a man.
Through conversation it became apparent that there are two spaces at odds with each other. Geographic & cultural space. Whereas Geographic space is constrained to physical topography, those 4198 miles from St. Louis to London, cultural space is not, that one second through the cables.
I spent the two month residency developing a show that attempts to explore the relationship between all of these different spaces, the virtual, the cultural, the geographic. That show is/was ‘de_luminary.bsp’, running January 30 - February 28.
With all that art talk out of the way I feel it is necessary for me to at least mention something about the more serious issue that was ever present in my visit. I have to mention Ferguson.
Arriving in October the spectre of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision was a constant hanging over the city in all of it’s manifestations throughout my stay there was tension to say the least.
I’d made a definite decision before even arriving in the USA that I felt uncomfortable engaging with the issues from an artistic perspective. As a transplant with a paucity of understanding of the particular situation in terms of Ferguson and the wider social issues at play in St Louis and ultimately the wider scope of America in general I struggled to see what a useful position for myself would look like.
However, outside of artwork or creative practice the conversations were had and I had the chance to engage with people in what felt like an extremely important time of change for St Louis and America.
It was through these conversations, people’s openness, willingness to discuss uncomfortable or outright embarrassing parts of the city that I took away one thing. The people of Cherokee St, South City and St Louis in general are rad. They are some of the friendliest, engaging and hopeful people I've met. Of all the changes that I hope to see continuing to happen in the city and America this is not one of them. Stay cool St Louis.
Joshua T Howell's solo exhibition de_luminary.bsp opens January 30th, 7-10pm.