Walking into "My My Misfire," an installation exhibition curated by thinker/artist/writer and UT Arlington Professor Stephen Lapthisophon, and organized by collaborative Apophenia Underground, was a bitchslap of juxtaposition. Setting the tone is a hand scribbled note taped to the abandoned storefront's window. It reads: "We find things as they are. Sometimes we do something to them. Sometimes we leave them alone. S.L."
Running only six hours last Saturday afternoon, a team of artists took over a vacant address on Main Street. The building itself is one of many owned by Deep Ellum's newish property management company, Deep Ellum 42, a group that's gained local support through allowing artists to use their addresses for projects like this, and by pledging to retain the initial points of interest in these old haunts - rather than 'dozing the things. When first surveying this guerrilla gallery, the installation mostly blends into the empty storefront. As it pops out, like an evolved Highlights "hidden pictures," you see the new tucked into the old. You're a welcome guest in this curious and perplexing realm of ephemera.
A stack of photocopied maps sits by the entry. They're part skeletal blueprint, part puzzle, numerically ticking off each piece of work on display. You notice, while following along, that some numbers attributed to specific works of art are absent from the guide.
"Where's seven?!" a friend asks Lapthisophon. He smiles, laughs. "They might be fucking with you."
We walk back to a corner; Stephen gestures loosely towards a fire extinguisher. "It could have something to do with this." A factory-issue sticker screams from the device's handle: "It is a CRIME to tamper with this equipment."
It's been tampered.
A small book and collection of texts is tucked inside near the top, completely obscured without a severe posture readjustment. Number seven, one of several highly irreverent pieces of secret and/or unassuming art by covert team Apophenia Underground, is acknowledgingly titled, "OK".
It's here where I start absorbing each piece differently. At first I laughed at "Pet Gate", which is, in fact, an adjustable store-bought pet gate, snapped into place in the bottom of a large open doorway. It triggered images of the oversized rodent landlords that I imagine scamper through this space at night. By the end of my time at 2701 Main Street, "Pet Gate" made me laugh for an entirely different reason.
Almost blending into a wall, a rectangular white box hangs. Its only point of distinction is the hotel-style peep hole installed into the front. It's by Hannah Hudson and titled "Non Meaning." Looking in, I saw simply a door, like a nosy neighbor. Or maybe it wasn't. The image was distorted, bendy. And still, I became an invasive snoop, spying because I was compelled to, but with no set goal or purpose.
To the left was a piece by Lapthisophon, who converted an old door into a sculpture by adding a few, well tuned spacial components, like the tidy cluster of thumbtacks above that pinned lines of loose thread into the wall. And an accent plank of newer-colored wood that resembled a frame top. There was a clean, simple beauty to its understatedness. A softspoken nature to its placement and role within this environment - completely at home, but useful for nothing.
While roaming from interior mini gallery to interior mini gallery, you're repeatedly teased by a long distance view of an extra piece of art. It's not on the map and the room that it's in - an adjoining warehouse space - seems off limits. Of course, the thought of trespassing makes inspecting this work up close feel much more enticing.
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From my vantage point, it resembled a crude, cartoon trap: a box with "ATM" cut out of the sides, propped up with a stick.
There's an obvious way to reach it, but it requires opening a door and walking through a piece of performance art called "I'd rather be sleeping" where Hayley Fowler was attempting the world's quirkiest nap. Taboo as it felt, I tugged the handle of her makeshift bedroom. Locked. The open windows were too narrow to scale through. And then, I looked again at the Pet Gate. It couldn't have been more than 16 inches tall, it was, after all, a fucking pet gate.
How had I missed this? Was the symbolic suggestion of a barrier, miniature as it was, strong enough to make me forget I could walk through that entryway, or was it the strangeness of climbing over art to get to other art that made this fabricated pothole feel like a legitimate road block? I stepped over it and walked back to the ATM trap: a crinkled up dollar bill sat underneath as bait.
"My My Misfire" was a one-day show, and is part of a series of curated projects in old Deep Ellum buildings called Deep Ellum Windows, organized by Apophenia Underground. You can see another project by Deep Ellum Windows, Sprawl, a light installation by Joshua Hargrave from 7 to 9 nightly through February 22 at 2650B Main Street.