Saturday, July 4, 2009

Palmer Fishman Industries at Art Around Adams

Palmer Fishman Industries, the artist collaborative made up of Otto Castillo and Jessica Hirst, presented Palmer Fishman's Recycled Lounge at the Art Around Adams Festival held in San Diego on June 6, 2009. The artists installed the equivalent of a living room with two seating areas on the ball field in front of the main stage. All of the pieces were reconstructions of discards left on the curb, mostly around Pacific Beach. Castillo and Hirst have become known for their imaginative transformations of everyday and found objects, with past projects including a jewelry collection made from bottle caps, corks, seeds and other ephemera, all in collaboration with dump-dwellers in Managua. The motto of Palmer Fishman Industries, "so much more than just trash," is just this side of twee cheekiness, appropriating the cadence of corporate shininess while attempting to subvert its mercantile motives.

Visitors to the Lounge were invited to choose from a variety of seating options, including a LaZBoy loveseat stripped down to its skeleton, then polished and painted a shiny red, with somewhat disconcerting cushions made of clear vinyl stuffed with bubble wrap. The coffee table was a celebration of kitsch, its surface upholstered with turquoise longhair fake fur, and a centerpiece titled "In Case of Emergency Break Plastic". Inside one could see a copy of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, a bottle of antidepressants, an R2D2 figure, and magnetic refrigerator letters spelling out "Om".

Palmer Fishman Industries crosses boundaries of design, installation, sculpture, participatory durational performance, and good taste. Not all of their experiments yielded attractive or indeed fully functional results, but their interactions with visitors were worthy of documentation and study. Several people spoke about loneliness, depression, and frustration with work, within five minutes of sitting down. Instead of prescribing pills, Palmer Fishman Industries offered one-word talismans in keeping with their re-use, transform philosophy: plastic bottle caps inlaid with computer keys reading "Shift...." "Home..." "Control..." and "Option". By removing these words from their daily context, the artists recapture alternative meanings, and in so doing challenge viewers (or clients?) to renew their perceptual possibilities.

Mason Beatriz, critic at large

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