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Phoebe Washburn at the Kestnergesellschaft
Artists Awarded at the Venice Biennale
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The New Deal
Phoebe Washburn at the Kestnergesellschaft

In the summer of 2007, the Deutsche Guggenheim showed Regulated Fool's Milk Meadow, Phoebe Washburn's first major museum exhibition and one of the most elaborate installations she's ever made. Now, the 1973-born New Yorker has completed a new project for the Kestnergesellschaft titled compeshitstem - the new deal, her biggest work to date. Two large rooms one above the other are transformed into a kind of factory within the exhibition hall in which works of art are manufactured from second-hand T-shirts. The two rooms are connected by electrical wiring and water pipes that feed the production process while referencing Joseph Beuys' Honigpumpe am Arbeitsplatz (Honey Pump in the Workplace). Presented in 1977 at documenta 6, Beuys' famous installation used a system of hoses to transport honey through the Fridericianum. Like Beuys, Washburn is interested in making processes and energy cycles visible; at the same time, her works explore themes such as sustainability and recycling. Thus, the water used to clean the T-shirts is prepared for reuse by passing through a system of filters. In the final analysis, the gigantic apparatus is itself a recycling product, consisting as it does of discarded wooden boards.

compeshitstem picks up where Washburn's project for the Deutsche Guggenheim left off. For the Berlin exhibition space, she developed a hermetic production facility in which plots of sod were grown in a small greenhouse and transported on a conveyer belt through a wooden construction that filled the exhibition space. In the end, the plots of sod wound up on the roof of the building, where they slowly dried up in an absurd cycle of growth and decay. The work can also be understood as a political commentary on western consumerist society, yet Washburn is chiefly concerned with creating vital conceptual works of art out of everyday materials. "I am not a 'green artist,' I am a greedy artist," she remarked. "And I resolved this problem of greed by collecting materials. I find it satisfying to make do with what I collect. It is more interesting to work this way. And I also like the layers of history that are inherent in the recycled materials."

Phoebe Washburn
compeshitstem - the new deal
August 14 through October 25, 2009
Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover

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