a nontrip to the nonsite of a nonflagpole
Ramón Miranda Beltrán & Emily Baierl
Curated by Arden Sherman
In artist Robert Smithson’s theory of “site nonsite dialectic,” he essentially states that one site can represent another site which it does not necessarily resemble. The site of this exhibition is a flagpole–or so it seems.
A 15-foot stainless steel pole sits at the edge of a suburban driveway at an undisclosed address in Oak Lawn, Illinois. In past years, the pole served as a place of communal activity when a basketball hoop hung from it. The basketball goal was removed and the singular pole is now used as an exhibition space called EXO Project Space. Thus, the location of this exhibition is neither a site of national identification or community, as flagpoles are commonly used, nor is it a site of leisure and is anything but a typical setting for displaying artwork. The pole is a representation of a flagpole — a “nonsite” in Smithson’s world.
Four artists have created site-specific works that underscore the fleeting and imbricated characteristics of the site: Sarah Hotchkiss’ Brick is a deflated basketball affixed to the pole as if has been pulled through a space-time continuum and magnetically drawn to the pole, only now a remnant of pole’s past purpose. Dana Hemenway’s fly flag has the look and feel of a pristine white gallery wall but lacks the essential support structure. Set outdoors and mounted like a flag, the work underscores the pole’s location and malleable identity. Ramón Miranda Beltrán and Emily Baierl’s “Help Wanted” sign is as ubiquitous as it is unique. A solicitation to viewers who might be looking for work, the sign hangs upside-down and displays the artists’ own phone numbers (with corresponding voice messages if one should call), emphasizing the pole’s outlying and unknown setting and the sign’s own futility. To encounter this nonflagpole, one would have to journey to Oak Lawn, IL and since the exact location is concealed, the exhibition lives only in an online and internet-based form and for passersby who encounter it unexpectedly. The exhibition viewing experience is merely a nontrip to the nonsite of a nonflagpole.