Things headed due south this summer with preparations for the 9th Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The action started here in Richmond in the Dye Lab at VCU where the alchemy of natural dyeing 40 lbs of pure Romney wool was guided by former VCU student, Jessica Dodd and absorbed by Hope Ginsburg with graduating and current Sponge HQ monitors, Colleen Billing and Gavin Foster. The meticulous process of achieving color matches with four sponges found off the coast of Brazil and in freshwater settings respectively, was rooted in stop watches and boiling broths and the chemistry of combinations. It was not an exact science but from cochineal, weld, indigo and cutch came a fabulous rainbow of yellow, green, brown and pink. It was sent back to the supplier to be carded and bundled ready for the making.
Lift-off happened in early September as Gavin Foster and Lindsay Clements accompanied Hope on the long flight to Brazil. They were loaned an outdoor studio and shed in which they prepared large areas of wet-felt for the expansive Oncosclera Jewelli installation. Tightly packed in, there was little warmth and pouring rain to contend with as well as the sheer scale of what they were to achieve in ten days. Heaters were sourced and a routine grew, between meeting with producers and architects and lighting engineers and the curators.
Across town in the former Thermo Electric Plant – the Usina do Gasometro -were the sunken spaces they were charged to fill. On first viewing both students were overwhelmed by the space and the task ahead. The sequencing of making, finishing the exhibiting space and installing was challenging, physically as well as emotionally. Ultimately seen from above, the Gene for an Eye installation and the neighbouring, On Resisting the Separation of the Continents did come to glowing fruition and fed into the Biennial’s pedagogical program, Cloud Formations as well.
Back home in the Sponge HQ a new season has begun and new monitors have joined those remaining. For Gavin and Lindsay their relationship with the pedagogical and conceptual roots of the space have shifted and extended way beyond the university and gallery context and out into the realms of the international biennial…
– Text following an interview with student collaborators Lindsay Clements and Gavin Foster, November 2013
For complete image sets and documentation of the process click on the links below: