Why we do this
“A single installation for the 12,000 square feet of The Soap Factory gallery space, Why we do this stitches together fragments of pop culture, workaday symbols and collective memory to create a single shared experience, an elegy of working-class aspiration. At moments directly interactive, at other times purely spectacle, encompassing poignancy, sentimentality and humor, Why we do this allows visitors to immerse themselves in a series of interlocking and varied vignettes and performances. In experiences both literal and allusive, visitors can challenge a friend to a giant game of Battleship, peruse a thrift store, paddle a canoe through the Boundary Waters, run with the team onto the football field, witness an alien abduction, watch the clouds roll by from the seat of an airplane, or catch a glimpse of a Sasquatch through the window of a log cabin.
DuCett utilizes the visual language of natural history dioramas in his detailed full-size installations, juxtaposing contrasting cultural references throughout the exhibition. While large scale installation is a new direction for the artist, the non- linear arrangement of Why we do this links to DuCett’s established drawing practice in which the viewer’s eye is invited to wander throughout his multi-layered picture plane, playing with both formal dimension and cultural concept. This exhibition has no prescribed path, no single curatorial narrative to follow. The overlapping of a multiplicity of environments mimics the way we all access our memories—hopping from one tangent to the next—as the mundane tasks of the work day allow our minds to wander to fantastic places.”
Ben Heywood, Former Director of the Soap Factory
Photography courtesy of Eric Melzer and The Soap Factory
This project was the culmination of 3 years of planning and plotting. The gallery was closed for 5 weeks for installation, while 4 interns, a dozen volunteers and the fabulous people at the Soap Factory assisted me in the construction and coordination of this exhibition.
The exhibition was spread out over all 3 of the Soap Factory’s galleries.
The view from when visitors first walked into Gallery 1 from the main entrance.
The curtains are drawn on the windows of the 1968 Volkswagen Westfalia, but the psychedelic mood lighting is visible from the outside. Soft sounds of a Grateful Dead live show drift through the open windows. This looks like a party. Unfortunately, the doors are locked and no one responds to knocking.
A sign taped to a BC Rich Warlock guitar reads “Back in 10 minutes”, and empty beer bottles line the stage in front of a few dozen speakers buzzing from the live amp.
“Johnny Lunchbox”, a fully functioning vintage shop that had regular hours during the course of the exhibition.
Acknowledging the pending end of the world on December 21, 2012, there was a countdown calendar next to the Mayan temple, ready to celebrate.
During the opening reception, Chanticlear Pizza took a page from “free sample day” in the supermarket, and gave away free squares of their pizza, right next to the giant six pack of beer.
The La-Z-Boy Lazy Planetarium offered plush seating, complete with an interactive switch box that took prompts from an audio tour of the night sky.
The Foxtrot was painted on the floor, and a 45 rpm record of Frank Sinatra’s You Make Me Feel So Young was on the turntable.
For one night only, the staircase to the basement was blocked by 8 bit blocks, with music from Super Mario Bros. Lvl 1-1 playing from the landing below.
Drawing upon some of the language of the Minnesota State Fair (which was happening at the same time as the exhibition), I collected used pillows from people in the local community and awarded them 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons.
The gallery was unheated at the time of the exhibition (an HVAC system has since been installed), so I drew radiators in each of the galleries to keep things warm during the latter part of the exhibition.
A wide view of Gallery 2 when you first walk into it from Gallery 1
The deinstalled actual kitchen/break room for the Soap Factory that was re-installed in Gallery 2.
A section of a commercial airliner that offered a great view of the clouds passing by while you perused your Sky Mall magazine.
Next to the section of the airplane was a scale shifted version of Construx, a toy that was very influential for certain youths in the 1980’s.
The National Geographic reading room, with over 8,000 copies of the magazine for visitors to travel the world, sitting on the comfort of a fake leather couch.
Every exhibition opening needs a bar, so a tavern worthy of rural Wisconsin sat in the corner of Gallery 2. Complete with Green Bay Packers paraphernalia, The former owner’s league bowling shirt, a cigarette machine and a record setting Muskie, caught in local waters.
The bass from the Chicago house music could be heard throughout Gallery 2, and through the frosted window, people looked like they were having a good time. The door was locked, but you could call 651-216-0597 and talk to someone about getting in.
The most expensive unrecovered painting in the world, Vermeer’s The Concert was back, and on loan to us for a short while. We wanted to be vigilant, so a guard was hired to keep watch.
For the opening and closing of the show, dog owners were on hand with their canine friends, armed with Wikipedia-esque knowledge of their dog’s breeds, and a willingness to let you pet their dogs.
The Romance Room, The Rolling Sky Room, and the Conspiracy Theory Room. The Romance Room was activated throughout the run of the show, complete with long stem roses and a living romance cover model winking at you.
If the camera outside the metal door didn’t tip you off, there’s a very untrusting person who lives in this apartment. Fortunately, they’re on an upper floor, so they probably have nothing to worry about.
When you walk through the hole broken through the concrete, you enter a small hallway where some excavation work is apparently underway.
You enter Gallery 3 and to your right is a locker room, complete with pads, helmets and blockers. On certain occasions, you might see members of the Minneapolis South High School football team, standing on both sides of the players tunnel, holding out their hands for a high five and chanting encouragement. You then run through a screen that has a projection from inside the player’s tunnel at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Golden Gophers play at the University of Minnesota.
A record store in the corner of Gallery 3, where you can purchase anything in the store for 25¢, placing it in the jar on the counter.
A reconstruction of a MN State Park “Camper cabin”, using parts from an actual Camper cabin on loan from the MN DNR. The your left, there is a door with trees, leaves and a video projection of the woods visible through the window. If you wait long enough, you might have a sighting of an elusive creature.
A super sized version of Battleship, complete with enough pieces for a full game, as well as ladders and megaphones, allowing you to shout your attack to your opponent while you stare into their beady little eyes.
The last section of the exhibition, a hallway was covered with 5 layers of bubble wrap, and the wall lined with balloons. It apparently proved cathartic for many of the exhibition’s visitors.