The contrast between established arts institutions and alternative spaces is often stark—different areas of town, different audiences in attendance, different coverage (if any) from very different publications. Artforum has a ten-page spread on the latest from Martin Kippenberger, while the arts and culture section of a local blog has two hundred words on an emerging artist. But the rare moments when the two worlds collide with synergy powerful enough to influence both are instantly recognizable. Crashing through the barriers with the force of a football team, the thirteen-member collective Homecoming! Committee made its debut in the experimental exhibition Available Space, at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Available Space is a month-long initiative that aims to highlight contemporary practices in North Texas. The area has a history: giants of contemporary art like Robert Irwin (creating the site-specific Portal Park Piece ) and Robert Smithson (commissioned for a topographical project with the Dallas/Fort Worth airport) have engaged in brief love affairs with the landscape. Until now, Dallas’s legacy has been closely bound to big names making temporary marks while on a temporary stay. The artists in Available Space, though, are all homegrown—and Homecoming! Committee’s presence is by far the most magnetic.
The title of the collective’s contribution to Available Space is Post Communiqué. Elbowing its way into both a large central gallery of the museum and onto the pages of Artforum, Homecoming! Committee lets you know exactly where it fits in this well-documented history of monumental passers-through. Post Communiqué—the perfect title for a meticulously engineered, public introduction—is filled to the brim with false documents. The Artforum is a fake: dated 1963, it appears carefully preserved beneath the glass of a vitrine, with Homecoming!’s name in the company of figures like Sol LeWitt, Dan Graham, and Robert Morris. Framed correspondence between the collective’s members and other prominent artists and staged ephemera from numerous “historical” projects litter the walls. Two of the most memorable include a letter to Robert Smithson, casually addressed “Hey Bob,” and a shattered glass Coca-Cola bottle, allegedly left over from a practical joke once played on Robert Irwin. The bulk of the work is dated from the late 1960s and early 1970s and is listed as “on loan from a private collection.” Post Communiqué is intended as a retrospective, after all—of a young group of artists that have only been producing since November 2011. But the multitude of scrapbook-like ephemera is indicative of decades of labor and accreditation, right? This is the part where the installation’s largest component reveals its value.
Center stage amidst the abundance of fictive materials is a large, open-face, two-story structure (playfully referenced as “The Facility”) that is not unlike a life-size version of the dollhouses many had growing up. However, this command center has more sinister intentions than anything Barbie and Ken could have cooked up: entering into one of the few rooms at your disposal, one must prepare to be deprogrammed of what you know to be art historically logical and chronological. Montages of cut and spliced video play from eight televisions on an endless loop. It is hypnotic, indoctrinating you with images of characters reaching alternate states of consciousness. If Homecoming! Committee is a sort of rag-tag, art-conscious gang, you’ve just been jumped in. This relatively new collaborative seems to now in fact be a staple in the canon of modern and contemporary practice—if you like the taste of the Kool-Aid. It seems to have collaborated and mingled with all the right schools of artists, and the myth of its long career has culminated in this moment: the unveiling of an archival retrospective, showcasing the most important remnants from its early foundations. If you escape deprogramming alive, you are welcome to pull up a seat in the office headquarters or take a moment to reflect in a library of books hand-chosen for display. The opening night setup provided an opportunity to ask questions in the manner of a press conference. The members of Committee will take turns manning the structure for the duration of the exhibition, and each is prepared with clever quips to counter your doubts about the information with which you’ve been presented.
Ultimately, these lighthearted hijinks situate the collective, and the Dallas Museum of Art, firmly in the discourse of institutional critique. This is appropriate, given the era Homecoming! Committee has chosen to present as its beginnings. The question of what it takes to be handed the keys to a nationally visible exhibition—what sort of “certified” curriculum vitae, what sorts of relationships—has long been a source of inquiry (and friction) for aspiring professional artists and their publics. Fortunately for the Dallas/Fort Worth community, those questions have been temporarily answered, courtesy the DMA. Over the course of the month, the installation will continue to evolve, revealing more false propaganda from more eras of production. The final days, much like the final rooms of many mapped retrospectives, may catch us up to what Homecoming! Committee is working on in 2013.
It’s not often one laughs out loud in a gallery space, particularly not while straining to recall everything they’ve learned in “Art Since 1950.” But in this spirit, Homecoming! Committee has produced a happy reminder of the vast potential for interactivity and exchange with the cultural institutions that act as our pillars.
Post Communiqué is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art through August 18, 2013.
Ashley Stull is an independent curator and writer most recently based in San Francisco. Holding a BA from Texas Christian University and an MA from the California College of the Arts, she has produced numerous projects dealing with flux, ephemera, and marginal histories.