Installation Nation Presented by Primary Colours Today in Downtown Indy

It is often said, if you give someone an 8X8X20-foot shipping container they will give you their world. Actually, I doubt anyone has ever said that before. But thanks to the 2nd offering of Installation Nation, presented by Primary Colours, such an utterance might just become part of the Indianapolis art world’s lexicon.

While thought-provoking art is usually created by those who think outside the box, Installation Nation is a presentation of the work from seven artists–or artist teams–who thought inside the box. Each of the seven cargo shipping containers that can be found on the corner of Michigan Street and College Avenue in downtown Indianapolis act as a physical portal into the minds of the presenting artists. It hearkens back to the days of middle school when it was shoebox-diorama day, only the children are now adults and the shoeboxes are on steroids.

What is so enjoyable about Installation Nation is that it is fun and interactive; the experience  is equal parts art show and high-school kegger. There is food and beer provided by Indianapolis restaurants and breweries such as A Taste of Philly and Sun King Brewing Company, local DJs and bands providing music, wood burning fire-pits that stimulate the olfactory system and even a few drunk hippies trying to outdo one another with a hula hoop. At one point, I was ready for someone to break out the glow sticks when Phoenix Fire Productions took over with their fire breathing and dancing….much cooler than glow sticks.

It was just another normal Friday night for the Phoenix Fire Productions group.

The Indy-based nonprofit Primary Colours’ executive director Hugh Vandivier feels the setting is just as important as the art itself.

“By virtue of being on a vacant lot and not in a gallery space,we have gotten rid of that whole facade of being in the gallery and this nonsensical notion that you have to know something about art to be able to get it, so it causes our event goers to ask questions. They feel comfortable going up to artists and saying, ‘What were you thinking? What is this piece about? Where did you come up with the concept for this?’ It just makes the art more accessible.”

Vandivier, who has been with Primary Colours since 2005, added, “Our goal at all of our events is to have a great time and fun experience where the art is still central and it is of a true, high-quality.”

Some of the site-specific art for Installation Nation was created as social commentary on environmental issues like Chicago-based artist Marci Rubin’s piece which deals with the mysterious death and disappearance of millions of bees here in America. In a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” bees needed for pollination of crops like fruits, vegetables and nuts have just gone missing. Other pieces are of lighter fare and serve to entertain, such as the giant kaleidoscope created by Indianapolis artists Andrew Ball, Todd Bracik and Matt Warren.

Everything Primary Colours does is an attempt to showcase this unique form of contemporary art and help emerging artists from around the country and world be seen and heard. One such emerging artist whose work is on display in the open field just south of Mass Ave and College is Ben Valentine. Valentine is a lifelong Hoosier who recently completed a degree in metal-working at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and now works at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

“I do installations dealing with consumption…I think over consumption is one of the biggest problems we face in today’s world,” Valentine said. “The environment is the most important resource to protect, it is key for our future.”

His work at Installation Nation deals with the largely unknown effects of e-waste here in America and its unsafe discarding in third-world countries. To convey his message, Valentine literally used tons of discarded electronic equipment to call attention to our dangerous and wasteful ways.

“One person actually told me that they have been annoyed with their company for so long because they don’t recycle anything, and after seeing this piece he had made up his mind to start a recycling program at his job,” he said. “So a few people like that and I  accomplish everything I am hoping to do with my work.”

Installation Nation is a unique opportunity for Indy residents to interact with the art in a hands-on manner. Too often art is placed behind velvet ropes and interpreted, not by the individual art-goers personal response to a piece, but rather by the artist’s dictation and description. Installation Nation is more than that, much more. It is an open invitation to all of the Circle City to meet up in downtown Indianapolis and join in a party while interacting with art and others.

Vandivier said that Primary Colours “is fighting urban blight one art event at a time.” In this regard, Installation Nation landed a haymaker knockout punch.

Check out the Installation Nation Photo Gallery

Installation Nation is still open for all to enjoy today, Saturday, June 5, 2010.
Time: 5-11 p.m.
Where: 500 N. College Ave. – the vacant lot on the northwest corner of College and Michigan.
Cost: $8. Children under 12 are free. $5 for IDADA (Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association) members

For more information on Installation Nation, check out its Web site here. You will find a complete list of artists, musicians and concessions.

Primary Colours are the same fine people that bring Indianapolis Art-vs-Art every September. For more information on the organization look here.

For more on Ben Valentine, check out his Web site here.

For more info on Chicago artist Marci Rubin, visit her page here.