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Art Barge in Artvoice

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Displacement Barge Prototype at Burchfield Penney Contemporary Art Center by Patricia Pendleton

Read more at Artvoice

Beyond art as we know it
What is art for? What are museums for? How can the arts benefit more people? A collective of artists, curators, and educators have formed the Trans Empire Canal Corporation (TECCorp) to explore a desire to radically rearrange the idea of what a museum is and how it functions. Phase I of their Cultural Commodities project crashes into our expectations about all of the above. Cultural anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake defines the human activity called “art” across cultures as the process of “making special.” Sometimes the public experiences this specialness as an elite activity that is urelatable. Philosophers, curators, and authors of Art As Therapy, Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, suggest that greater purpose and value could be added to art and the museum experience by positioning works of art to enlighten the public in new ways. TECCorp has seized upon an idea to expand the art-viewing experience to more people by utilizing our region’s rich water resource. The Displacement Barge Prototype is Phase I of a four-phase plan. Constructed to house art in the East Gallery, the exhibition also includes public involvement to shape the overall plan to launch an actual seaworthy vessel in the future. The floating museum will travel (Replacement Phase II) from Silo City along the Erie Canal to Brooklyn and back again (Replacement Phase III) to a final location at Canalside (Harbor Placement Phase IV).

Barges once transported essential goods along the Erie Canal. You remember singing the Erie Canal song in school. There’s even a Bruce Springstein version. This exhibition proposes that a barge moving along the canal waters may be the ideal art-delivery system for our time. TECCorp envisions a mobile floating art gallery that will allow greater numbers of people across the state to visit and be impacted by art. I imagine the art ship will be infused with a sense of fun and accessibility to instill excitement in the towns along the way—a new version of the circus coming to town. The 100 x 30 foot barge prototype features work by local artists that address a range of TECCorp concerns, such as commerce, transit, economy, community, communication, ecology, geography, history and connectivity.

The gallery space surrounding the structure features supportive installations. Projections by Michael Bosworth show grain silos and a barge model bobbing upon waves. Caitlin Cass reviews the history of the canal project with emphasis on the difficulties, including a job advertisement poster for “hard workers” ready to dig through seven miles of solid bedrock. The barge entry leads into nine galleries, beginning with a conventional white space showing a selection Kate Parzych’s Cyanotype prints, a drawing by Katherine Sehr, and a oil painting by A.J. Fries. A corner installation by Anne Muntges, titled Reading Room, features a wingback chair covered with pen and ink line art, along with a with a coordinated lamp, rug, and notebook. Courtney Grim and Shasti O’Leary Soudant present an interactive photograph of Rick Heenan from the Lockport Visitors Center. Scan the QR code stamp to hear a history of the locks, as he sings Erie Basin Blues. Walk further inside to find a warren of room installations—wall to wall beer cans, a library of paperback books, and a series of ropey print imagery by Kathleen Sherin. Since the barge captain will need to sleep, a fur-lined boy bedroom has been prepared by A.J. Fries. This barge will not be pulled by mules as the song tells us. Mark Snyder has provided a power station assembled with a Chevy engine. The project is complete with logo and poster designed by TECCorp member, Julian Montague.

Artists may submit work for inclusion in the traveling museum installation by scheduling a time to drop off work during one of the “Load-In Thursdays” through October 2. A transparent open curatorial session will occur each Thursday evening to evaluate artworks delivered the previous week for the final selection. Music, performance, and a full range of public programs are scheduled throughout the duration of the exhibition with topics on preserving the waterways, art as commerce, and tourism.

The exhibition will remain on view in the East Gallery through October 19. Find out more about TECCorp at