Campus Surplus, 2001 - ongoing

Campus Surplus is a set of images I’ve taken as I’ve traveled to various college and university campuses to give artist talks. The work extends my larger project, Out of Order, in which I collect images of the used TVs and computers, used office desks, used cubicles and the unwanted “used” office plants for sale on websites such as eBay and Craigslist. As a parallel to wandering the web looking for these images, I also wander the colleges and universities I visit, taking pictures of the surplus of desks, file cabinets, copier machines, and stockpiles of boxes in the halls, studios, and storage rooms of these institutions.

The images of used unwanted desks and cubicles have become, for me, a symbol of the failure of utopian Modernist ideologies from which these objects were born. The cubicle, the Xerox machine, learning machines, SRA reading labs, flashcards, Dick and Jane, Coles/Cliff Notes, multiple choice, the white cube, B. F. Skinner, mechanical air conditioning, the potted plant – all point to a clean, elegant, progressive Modernism that promised to rid the world of disorganization, unsightly mess, and uncomfortable histories, or at least give us a measure of control… perhaps fitting responses to the atomic bomb and two world wars.

The success of these desks and cubicles was hinged on their ability to affect change and facilitate productivity, but in the pictures I find, all efficiency and productivity is in question - the mere fact that these objects are out of commission, being sold, points to an attendant deflation of their value. And among the offerings of used cubicles for sale are the unwanted “used” office plants whose job was to make office workers feel more human: to give them something to care for in these synthetic modular spaces. The indoor plant, by its very nature, is a Modern conception - an organic form molded to a modular, mass produced, industrial container (the pot), made widespread through industrial horticulture, and only viable indoors thanks to mechanically conditioned air.

This work is an exploration of the issues around these ideologies in relation to education: bank failures and unemployment during years after the economic downturn of the 1980s; the high cost of tuition; information as commodity; learning modules, and modularity in general; the cubicle; changing education technologies; the black box; the white box… and institutional educational as the ultimate box.

Related projects: Out of Order: Used Office Desks and Used Office Plants fro sale on eBay

 
 
 

Campus Surplus, 2001 - ongoing
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015

These are photographs taken at various educational instiitutions between 2001 and 2015, including the Carpenter Center at Havard University, Univeristy of Kenducky, Lexington, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, University of Minnesota, and Cooper Union, NYC.
 
 
 

Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Four archival pigment prints, each 30" x 22" and 30" x 20".
Taken in the surplus storage rooms at Bennington College, some of what is figured in these photographs shows up in the actual space of the installation.
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College, empty cardboard boxes from hallways at Bennington College.
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Empty cardboard boxes from hallways at Bennington College
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College
 
 
 

Installation, Campus Surplus, USDAN Gallery at Bennington College, 2015
Digital c-prints, used plexiglass, furniture and fixtures from surplus storage rooms at Bennington College