Public Space One Presents: Wastedland 2
RADinc. — Friday, June 2 at 8 p.m.
The ‘Wastedland 2’ installation as seen in the front window of RADinc. — photo by Zak Neumann
Director and guerilla artist Andrew H. Shirley is bringing his film, Wastedland 2 (2016), and a traveling exhibit of structures from the film, to RADinc. for an “immersive” experience Friday, June 2, from 8-11 p.m., with late-night hangs following. There will be two screenings of the film — at 8:30 and 10 p.m. — as well as performances by local soundscape artists Chaircrusher, Houzatosis, Mustard in Law and True Commando.
Graffiti reconstitutes conspicuous public spaces through inconspicuous tactics; it places art in the everyday outside the surveillance of authorities, making canvases out of train cars and back alleys and fences and overpasses (more appropriately: anything that can be spray-painted, will be).
Shirley’s film follows a trio of miscreants who rove a post-apocalyptic America searching for their purpose amidst detritus. Wastedland 2 could be classified as autobiographical fiction — it’s a retelling of seasoned graffiti artists’ past experiences through a dystopian lens. The film takes the wastes, or land that has become wasted, and forces a meaning upon its inhabitants. These vagabonds’ transcendence is through art (a solution posited by Camus).
Through this spiritual journey, the troupe undertake a physical journey as well: the proverbial Road. The Road represents the psychology of unbridled self-examination; it feeds the ever-changing environs of the present moment with a landscape that never settles. Hopping trains, graffitiing in the night and (if you’re lucky) sleeping on a friend’s floor: These shape-shifting experiences can never be taken for granted.
The UFO in the Rocky Mountains on the way to Iowa City. — photo courtesy of the director
These moments heighten one’s awareness of what surrounds them, but, most importantly, what surrounds them inwardly, Shirley explains. “All of that is incorporated constantly into the narrative of my work,” he says. “But I think it’s total immersion. I think it has a reflexive feeling in both the film and the exhibition we put on.”
It’s necessary to mention: Wastedland 2 is not merely existential. Shirley admits his film hovers around ubiquitous themes of ennui with heavy-handed dramaticism. But the film never intended itself to be fully-scripted, cast, taken to post-production, etc. Shirley drafted and drafted scenes. His characters — Wolftits, Avoid and Smells — improvised each sequence instead, and the film then set its own course. The sets were filmed guerilla-style across the American backcountry and gritty train yards. No permission. No agenda.
The art of the characters in the film reclaims the decaying structures of their world. And Shirley has curated the accompanying exhibit vis-a-vis the movie. Each piece that goes into a structure has been lifted from debris or comes with a story behind it (that occurs tangentially to the film): the UFO was built with a grant funded by the Brooklyn Academy of Music several years ago; the object that depicts God comes from broken pieces of a wheelchair; a chimney that was literally taken from a rooftop in Brooklyn helps pin up a sign that reads THIS WASTED LAND.
“The artwork has been in different zones before it was in this film,” Shirley says.
There are several structures he takes on the road with him. But he has a rotating cast of traveling artists who collaborate with local artists to help in the installation and further modification of the exhibit’s structures. Each pieces carries its own geography and chronology. The theme for Iowa City is psychedelia, as Shirley’s expands upon the colors that already existed in the walls of RADinc.
Shirley wants his exhibit to dovetail with the overarching mission of RADinc — as a space that accommodates zine fairs, shows, clothing retail, etc — to “engage the public with artwork.” But he also seeks to engage the public beyond aesthetics. “The exhibit is not fragile, like you can’t touch or be interacting with it,” he says. One can sit in the UFO or watch the film in the piecemealed shack. “It’s work you can inhabit.”
William Thomas Porter
Ryan C. Doyle