All Over the Place debuts four newly commissioned projects, Flint Fit, Soundtrack, Unmoored, and Wake. Flint Fit, an ambitious, boundary-breaking project, consists of a complex triangulation of places and processes. Flint Fit is envisioned as applying the strengths of places, as an action in the face of crisis, connecting New York City; Flint, Michigan; and Greensboro, North Carolina in time, function, and fashion. In Flint, the water is contaminated with lead, and residents must use bottled water for cooking, washing, and drinking, creating countless, constantly accumulating empty plastic vessels. At Chin’s instigation, over 90,000 used water bottles were collected by the people of Flint, and sent to Unifi, Inc, a textile manufacturer in Greensboro, North Carolina where they were shredded and made into fabric. Michigan-born, New York-based fashion designer Tracy Reese designed a capsule collection made from this fabric, with a focus on rain gear and swimwear. The garments were then sewn by women sewing their way back into the workforce at the St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center back in Flint. These designs debuted in a fashion event at the exhibition opening and are displayed at the Queens Museum’s Watershed Gallery.
In a major partnership with Times Square Arts, two works by Chin have been commissioned. Unmoored is planned as a spectacular, surreal phenomenon pushing Mixed Reality to fill the skies above Times Square. It is a work to engender a moment of awe, with a glimpse into an imperiled future. A parallel work, Wake, commissioned by the Times Square Alliance, is a presence evoking the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal bleached by erosion and time. A larger-than-life ship’s figurehead based on Jenny Lind, the superstar of the 19th century, surveys the air above her. While offering a shift from the frenetic energy of the city, these works evoke the city’s triumphs, its grave dark past, and create and a place for contemplation.
Soundtrack is a new work of collaborative sound art initiated by Mel Chin with project curator Jace Clayton (aka DJ /rupture). Five local musicians will transform field recordings from the routes of the 1, 5, 7, E and F trains into compositions that bridge the mechanical and the human.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mel Chin was born in Houston to Chinese parents in 1951, the first of his family born in the United States, and was reared in a predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhood. He worked in his family’s grocery store, and began making art at an early age. Though Chin is classically trained, his art is both analytical and poetic and evades easy classification. Alchemy, botany, and ecology are but a few of the disciplines that intersect in his work. He insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. Unconventional and politically engaged, his projects also challenge the idea of the artist as the exclusive creative force behind an artwork.
“The survival of my own ideas may not be as important as a condition I might create for others’ ideas to be realized,” says Chin, who often enlists entire neighborhoods or groups of students in creative partnerships. In Knowmad, Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic peoples facing persecution. Chin also promotes works of art that have the ultimate effect of benefiting science or rejuvenating the economies of inner-city neighborhoods. In Revival Field, Chin worked with scientists to create sculpted gardens of hyperaccumulators—plants that can draw heavy metals from contaminated areas—in some of the most polluted sites in the world.
Chin received a BA from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1975, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988 and 1990. Chin lives in North Carolina.
Photos by Savona Bailey-McClain