"It’s just a ride, and we can change it anytime we want." - Bill Hicks
Comedian Bill Hicks died 20 years ago today. To mark his passing, we’ve asked Houston artist DUAL to paint a few of the things Mr. Hicks said (the ones safe for broad public consumption) around the outside of the Cargo Space, transforming the bus into a rolling memorial to Hicks as prescient truth-teller and adopted son of Houston.
We’ll present the new paint scheme to the pubic on Thursday, March 27, to coincide with the closing reception of DUAL’s exhibition at Rice’s Emergency Room gallery. You’re all invited, naturally. We’ll kick off at 7PM and carry on for several hours.
In the meantime, if you want to help us to get the bus ready for a new coat of paint, shoot us an email. Of course you always can see updates on the project right here at thecargospace.com
OUTSIDE CONTEXT: Rice students make new artworks as billboards in Texas
Rice University’s Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts presents Outside Context, a new series of artworks developed as billboards in and around College Station, Texas.
As part of a course that examined the evolving role of art in contemporary society, students enrolled in the Outside Context class developed new artworks as billboards. In an effort to extend cultural thinking beyond the traditional places for art, such as museums and galleries, these students made new artworks that are designed to be seen by wider audience. After a period of research, including meetings with students and faculty at Texas A&M on areas such as LGBT rights, women’s education, arts education and sustainable farming, the Rice students went through a design phase yielding artworks that suitably engage the topics in a visual engaging display.
These billboards are currently on view around the town of College Station, Texas, as 22’ x 11’ billboards using space donated by Lamar Outdoor Advertising.
The Outside Context billboards are:
What’s Left? by Yutian He
"This billboard is a collaboration between a Rice visual art student and an A&M student organization. In support of Texas A&M’s Life to Love, which champions for women’s rights by providing global women with access to education, this billboard is designed by Yutian He of Rice University to remind all that education remains a tangible, viable, and specific solution to alleviating the vast issue of gender inequality."
This project seeks to bring to light the apparent duality of Texas A&M’s famous ‘Howdy!’ Phrase. Where on one hand it is a harmless and traditionally Texan welcome, it can also raise questions of LGBT inclusion in a university that has been ranked as one of the least LGBT friendly in the nation.
Location: S/S UNIVERSITY DR. 1 MI W/O FM 2818, L/H, College Station TX
Have you seen this child? by Constance Lewis
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up -Pablo Picasso.
The arts belong to everyone (not reserved for the fortunate or privileged). Arts education is not a luxury — a necessity not a frill. Art education can make abstract concepts real and understandable—expanding options and opportunities for students. But, what is the quality of the core skill set with which we hope to —and must— equip future generations? And how are we connecting with urban, under-resourced youth? Amongst a sea of road-side directives, a large-scale public statement about “Art Education” has the potential to raise important questions, and to perhaps level the learning field across socio-economical boundaries.
Location: W/S SH 6, .1 MI N/O HWY 21, F/S L/H, Bryan TX
“Trust people with dirt on their hands” by Heather Olson
I worked together with David Smith and Elizabeth Kennedy of the Howdy Farm, a sustainable student-run farm at Texas A&M, to create the billboard. The message “Trust people with dirt on their hands” challenges the authority that our society grants to scientists and bureaucrats in debates over farm policy and practices.
Location: S/S 290 W/O 389, RH/WF, Brenham TX
The Outside Context billboard project was supported by the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, and is umbrellaed under the Cargo Space, a mobile artist residency program developed by Assistant Professor Christopher Sperandio. Cargo Space facilitates artists and cultural workers, helping them to engage a wider public in the development of new artworks.
We took a rainy drive to College Station to take a look at the latest Cargo Space project. Students from Rice made new artworks as billboards, after engaging folks directly at Texas A&M. It was a rainy day, so our photos are a bit ‘oh, dear.’ Still the work is terrific and we couldn’t be more proud. The above piece is a subtle dig at the state of arts education. The child pictured is Pablo Picasso at age 15. We’ll post more images later, as we get them doctored into a presentable condition.
The above drawing is the first artwork actually completed on the bus. We had company on the trip to College Station, and although the artist wishes to arrange anonymous, the paper napkin drawing you see will be framed and hung on one of the bulkheads.
Only back in Houston for a day, and we’re already on the road again. This time it’s with Rice students as part of the Outside Context class. These young artists are making new artworks that will appear as billboards next month. These works will be made after a period of research, and some interaction with students at Texas A&M, in College Station.
(A candid moment before departure)
We’ll also make a Cargo Space billboard. And when the billboards come down, we’ll capture it them to make awnings, book bags, and more.
We’re packing up at the Hardesty, and by tomorrow we’ll be on the road to Houston. With all the nostalgia in the air, here are a few of our favorite pictures taken by Geoffrey Hicks. No doubt some of these will end up in the upcoming book that will document the project.
Despite our nagging electrical problem, future Cargo Space expeditions are already in the works. Distances measured in the thousands of miles, not hundreds. Multiple states, multiple exhibitions, and more than a dozen artists over the next 12 months.
It’s your last week to see our work-product in Tulsa. We’re already hard at work on the companion book. Expect it to appear in January.
Mercury is in retrograde. We’ve felt it firsthand.
It’s a long story, but the short version is that we took the bus to Tulsa Freightliner, and they sat on it for more than two weeks(!!), before deciding that they couldn’t do anything to fix it.
The bus is now with United Engines in Tulsa. We’re hoping for better luck. The problem with the bus isn’t a big problem, it just requires someone with the patience to track it down this pesky electrical problem.
A few more days and Mercury will start moving the right direction again, and so will the Cargo Space.
We’ve been dealing with the same electrical issue for weeks now. It’s intermittent, meaning that when we deliver it to the mechanic, the bus behaves itself, and when we’re on the road, it acts out. We are meeting this problem with determination. We will nail this persistent goblin. Clearing the decks for some other, future problem, of course.
Some advice for those of you who might be considering a transit bus or school bus conversion. Get a machine that doesn’t have a brain. A pre-computerization vehicle would mean that, after learning diesel mechanics, we could work on the thing ourselves. More electricity means more wiring means more opportunity for hi-jinx like we’ve been experiencing.
Fortunately, and we still consider ourselves fortunate, these problems won’t interfere with our residency at the Hardesty Arts Center. In dealing with all of these issues, we’re learning that a strict timetable and transit across long distances aren’t all that compatible. We get there when we get there will be our new mantra.
If you are in Tulsa this Friday, stop in and see Natasha Bowdoin and Mike Beradino install their contribution to the 77001 > 74103 exhibition. After this weekend, the exhibition will be complete and on view through November 21.
And finally, watch for the Cargo Space: 77001 > 74103 book that we’ll produce, featuring an essay by Michelle Grabner and including documentary images of the exhibition, as well as a small DIY bus conversion guide. Don’t expect it before January, but we’ll release snippets of it as it develops.
We’re experiencing identical mechanical problems leaving Tulsa. Once again we’re leaving the bus at Freightliner and flying back to Houston. 4th time’s the charm on getting this speedometer problem sorted out. As always, watch this space for updates.
We’re back in Houston safe and sound. We’ve got about 30 more hours and then we’ll turn it around and do it again. This time Rob Pruitt and Seth Mittag will make the crossing. Watch for updates from the road. We’ll have wifi!
Here’s Daniel Anguilu working on his contribution to the Cargo Space 77001 > 74103 exhibition at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa. Drop by today to see him, and/or Rahul Mitra working. You can also participate in Rahul’s Box City project all day today or tomorrow in the AM.
The bus is on the road again, but we have algae in our tank. Wah-wah. Treatment includes adding a biocide to a tank full of fuel, driving around for a couple of hundred miles, and then changing our fuel filters. That’s exactly what we’ll do today and tomorrow while Daniel and Rahul make their work. Fingers crossed that we’ll be algae-free by Monday in time to make the return trip to Houston.
We’re ahead of schedule with repairs. Diagnosis number one is a leaky fuel filter. Once that’s fixed, the speedometer is next. We presumed that our problem was strictly electrical, not mechanical. We presumed wrong. Or is it ‘wrongly’?
Our electrical/transmission problems didn’t spontaneously reverse themselves overnight, so we’re off to the bus doctor at Freightliner. The waiting line is 4 to 5 days long. Let that sink in. Five days just to hear what they think is wrong. We remain philosophical while we wait. It’s the only option.
Future bus projects will probably involve a make and model that is pre-engine computers. A simpler machine — one that we could work on ourselves. Given the proper training, that is. See? Philosophical.
This small hiccup won’t set back our exhibition schedule at the Hardesty. Our first group will fly up to Tulsa on Friday. The first two artists will work on their contribution to the exhibition, and then fly back (or maybe drive? That would be too optimistic - but still we hope). If you’re in Tulsa on 10/12 or 10/13, stop in at the Hardesty Arts Center and see what’s going on. You can participate in Rahul Mitra’s project, or watch Daniel Anguilu work and maybe have a chat with him about political art.
Good news first. The 511 miles we put on the bus went well. No problems maneuvering, keeping up with traffic or handling on the road. If our calculations are right, we traveled nearly 15 miles per gallon of diesel.
The bad news, now. The semi-persistent electrical problems persist. We’d planned for a dawn departure. Once in motion, no speedometer, and worse, the bus is running in first gear only. Today being Sunday, there are no truck garages open. The only choice is to hang out at the Hardesty until tomorrow morning and then limp across Tulsa in search of some aid.
Being stranded at home base in Tulsa is not a hardship. There’s wifi, hot showers and delightful neighborhood eateries. Maybe Sooner mechanics will be able to do what their Texan peers have been unable to do - namely, pin down and eliminate our gremlins.
All of this is not unexpected. Machines fail, get repaired and then fail again. It comes with the territory.
There’s a real lack of critical arts writing in Houston. Houston artists rarely appear in the national or international magazines — rarely meaning four times a year. Arts+Culture Magazine is a new, Texas-wide monthly magazine, covering just what their title says, and is here to change, or at least ameliorate the lack of criticism. The article is written by Harbeer Sandhu, who has his own art-centric blog called Texphrastic, started with a grant from Creative Capital
This month, we’re lucky enough to have the Cargo Space share the cover of A+C with one of the most significant Houston art institutions, Project Row Houses, and its founder Rick Lowe.
We’ve known Rick since 1999, when Grennan & Sperandio participated in an exhibition at Row Houses. Our participation was curated by Jerome Sans, co-founder of Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Ours map isn’t topographic, but today we laser cut (thanks Mike!) a map of the lower 48 states for the bus. Ours is about three feet wide and covered with chalkboard paint. It will festoon one of the bulkheads. We’ll use it to make notes about trips, but it will probably become a repository for all sorts of information, geographic or not.
The bus is back from the mechanic. Yes, we had some last-minute electrical problems, and yes, it was a bit of a nail-biter, but we’re back in shape now. We’ll post a few pictures tomorrow as we install the drapes, hang our chalkboard map, and generally sweeten the appearance of The Cargo Space prior to blasting off to OK on Thursday afternoon.
We make our first official trip this Friday! Cargo Space will travel from Houston, TX (77001), to Tulsa, OK (74103), to kick off an exhibition at the Hardesty Arts Center. If you’re in Tulsa this Friday, stop by AHHA for a personal tour of the Cargo Space! Over the coming weeks, Cargo Space will bring six different Houston-based artists northward to implement a large exhibition. There will be lectures, workshops, and public participation, too.
Keep an eye on the AHHA web site for details and, of course, check back here for snapshots and musings as the exhibition develops. We’ll be making a book, and a film, in addition to the exhibition.
Art Blogger Robert Boyd paid the Cargo Space a visit on Thursday. While we’re a LOT closer to the finish line than Robert implies, we do like his humorous comparison of Cargo Space with other RVs in popular culture. Plus he took some photos, something we forgot to do.
We had a great launch event at Rice last night, with dozens and dozens (maybe a hundred) of well-wishers and lookie-loos. We’d post pictures, but we were so busy giving tours that we forgot to take any. We’ll get some from our friends, and post them later. Thanks to everyone who came out!
In advance of Thursday, a word about the interior color scheme
In advance of having people over on Thursday, we wanted to give a warning, and to maybe head off questions about our color choices. When you see the Cargo Space interior, you’ll notice the color scheme immediately. Parrot Orange may seem like an odd choice for the painted furnishings, but the scheme is driven by basic color theory.
When we got the bus, our initial thoughts were about the floor. We had this particular green in mind. The industrial green we selected was driven, primarily, by a desire to make Cargo Space a serious space. It’s a fairly institutional and familiar tile. There was also a practical consideration. Flecked, as it is, with lighter streaks, it would also hide some dirt.
Once we had our floor, we found the color compliment, or at least the partial split compliment of that green, if you want to nitpick. We landed on this red-orange as a bold, warm companion to the green. We wanted the furniture to hold attention. It works. The furniture stands out. But this ‘Parrot’ is also a deceptive color. In person, it’s bright, but also a has a slightly muddy tinge to it. It verges on crass, but veers off into a more contemplative direction, if that can be said of any orange.
Finally, the walls and ceiling are simply the mix of the orange and green. Berkshire Beige, despite its name, is not a bland color. As Iten put it, compliments annihilate each other. The walls and ceiling are a tinted (meaning adding white) annihilation . This retro putty color is pretty complicated — under different lighting conditions, it shifts dramatically in its nature.
Red-orange and green, compliments, and their child, a neutral. Maybe not the color scheme that would occur immediately to others, but taken as a whole, they really work together. It’s a simple, time-honored approach — finding the compliment, and mixing the neutral. The space is serious feeling, but also warm, and a little idiosyncratic. Like the Cargo Space project itself, we suppose.