Faheem Majeed’s installation, “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden,” has already gotten a lot of attention at the Hyde Park Art Center. It was a big hit during our Spring Gala, when nearly 400 guests had the opportunity to circle and observe it while sipping cocktails and chatting with the artist himself. “Garden” takes its inspiration from the Margaret Burroughs Gallery walls at the South Side Community Art Center, and its title from that of an article about the organization by Anna Tyler.
"Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden" by Faheem Majeed, in various states of construction
The piece is borne of Majeed’s nine-year relationship with the SSCAC, where he began building his practice as an artist new to Chicago, and ended up as the organization’s Executive Director.
The installation consists of 67 moveable cedar panels that mimic the original knotty pine panels at the SSCAC. While the cedar panels in Majeed’s installation are not “original,” they nevertheless have their origins at the SSCAC. Like the originals, which bear the marks of every exhibition hung on them, the wooden planks in Majeed’s installation will communicate with the works they display, leaving a patina of historical process.
“I half expect people to think it’s a hoarder’s living room. And I’m ok with that. But it’s not a history exhibit. It’s interpretive. It’s about intervention.”
The panels will, over the course of their existence, facilitate and host myriad interventions as they are reconfigured for each new installation or use, and Majeed will track that provenance, noting the ways the boards change as they are recycled and reused.
During their tenure at the Art Center this spring, the wooden boards will transform into a variety of configurations. For example, on Sunday, June 3, they will become a stage for a musical performance by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. They will also host a series of spoken word performances by former Director of the SSCAC, Douglas Williams.
Former Director of the SSCAC, Douglas Williams, will do a series of performances in which he will pick up objects in “Garden” and narrate their history, meaning, and relationship to the SSCAC.
In its current iteration as part of the Hairy Blob exhibition, the panels deal explicitly with questions surrounding archival practices. The SSCAC has valuable, catalogued archives of historic documents and artworks, which it has collected over the course of many decades of service to the artistic community on the South Side of Chicago. But those are not included in Majeed’s piece.
Instead, Majeed has curated countless other objects not belonging to the “official” archive and displayed them on a 30’ wall and a 10’ x10’ table constructed out of the wooden panels. These objects are not valuable in a commodifiable sense, but rather in an interpretive sense. In a way, the audience is overwhelmed by the very idea of archiving when confronted by this seemingly endless and chaotic pile of artifacts. And that, in a sense, is the point. How to negotiate the uncatalogued archive?
We asked Majeed at the beginning of the "Garden" installation process if he thought he’d end up with excess ephemera. His response summed his project up perfectly.
“That’s exactly it. It’s all excess.”
Artist Statement: "Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden" is part of an ongoing series of work that utilizes cedar wood panels to host a variety of interventions. Based on the 1930s New Bauhaus designed wood paneling of the South Side Community Art Center's Margaret Burroughs Gallery, these wood panels will also serve as a didactic tool that will physically record the artists and community members that utilize them. Sometimes installed as walls, tables, or floors, every intervention will inevitably leave marks that will create a patina of usage.
As a part of the Hairy Blob exhibition, these wood panels were used to create a 10' x 10' table and a 30' wall. For the purposes of this "intervention," I have positioned ephemera and other short life objects from the South Side Community Art Center. These are found objects that have not, and perhaps never would have been, perceived as collection or archive appropriate. By being randomly set aside over a period of time, they have formed their own "collection." Although ephemeral in their original life, they currently serve a new purpose, gaining importance from the story they tell in their diverse multitude...now "almost collectible."