With a background in architecture, it’s no surprise that Brooklyn-based artist Alexander Heffesse works so well with space. Heffesse engages with installation as a construction site, his point of departure being the idea of the construction worker as an artisan figure engaged in the act of creating. Noticing the proliferation of empty Gatorade bottles at construction sites, Heffesse drew a connection between social economics and the chemical makeup of the popular energy drink, which lead him to explore topics such as sanitation, synthetics, and the simulation of nature. The convergence of these issues can be seen in the artist’s composite installations.
As well as a popular energy drink for construction workers, Gatorade is also a prominent advertising giant in the world of athletics. And while athletes may be seen consuming Gatorade for branding purposes, for construction workers it is less a luxury than a way to energize within their means. Heffesse initially began looking into the FDA’s regulations on color additives. Extracted from petroleum, the dyes found in food coloring are used to enhance the appearance of a food item and increase its marketability and sales; particular food colorings such as Blues 1 and 10, which Gatorade uses to create the stark blue Blueberry Pomegranate flavor, are said to cause allergic reactions in people who have asthma. Heffesse references these findings in Work Hard (Feel Great) (2015), a minimalist installation showcasing a series of Albuterol cartridges typically used by asthma patients, filled with various Gatorade flavors. The vibrant colors of the energy drink are an uncomfortable reminder of the chemicals that go into manufacturing.