MIT Exhibition Kate Ericson and Mel Zeigler

By Christine M. Liu, Contributor, decor8

As a student of the media lab at MIT, I literally spend each day sitting on a goldmine. And that, dear friends, is the List Visual Arts Center, a gallery for contemporary art lovingly curated by Bill Arning, directed by Jane Farver, and coordinated by Hiroko Kikuchi. The List is located on campus, in the Weisner building E-15; if you're in the vicinity you should stop by for the current exhibition America Starts Here, works by Kate Ericson and Mel Zeigler.

MIT Media Lab, Wiesner Building, Cambridge, MA

No one can describe their work better than Bill; however, I can introduce Zeigler and Ericson as a duo who focus on public works, giving new interpretations of everyday life, public space, history and memory, home and family, and the human experience. The works mostly approach the idea of american identity through domestic media like paint, glass, and construction materials. the house as home focus establishes the psychological space of safety, comfort, and ritual.

A favorite piece of mine incorporates a full set of china dinnerware that is elegantly decorated with gold flourishes and script letters. Only when you look closely do you realise that it's not your typical fancy plating; the gilt words on the Dutch china spell out the names of industrial compounds from the central chemical factory in the origin town. It's an amusing cognitive tingle, to imagine resting your dessert fork on the tetrachloronickelate lettered rim...

Camouflagued History, 1999

The strikingly painted house (the cover work for the exhibit) was produced in response to reinterpreting the colors defined by the neighborhood council to be acceptable for residences. The artists, in conjunction with the owner of the house, painted the exterior of the house with a camouflage pattern (a real design commissioned from the U.S. Army) composed from all the permissible colourings. The official names of the shades were printed as well, their descriptive names shedding a subtle dimension of the neighborhood and the intrinsic history embodied within.

The partnership of these two artists as lovers and as producers permeates the pieces with emotion and strength. An additional dimension to the exhibition is the fact that sadly, Ericson suffered from a brain tumor and passed away in 2005 (with Ziegler still alive today), giving a sense of her spirit finding new life in the exhibition of their work. More works from the exhibition:

Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, 1989

America Starts Here, 1988

I had a bit of a challenge finding some of their works documented online, though here is an feature that I found on one of their objects, Sift Before Measuring. Inside a dry sink, they placed numerous jars, each filled with flour and etched with the names of traditional american cake recipes.

And don't forget the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which features an extensive slide presentation of more of their public works and performances. There's even a picture of them dining on the Dutch dinnerware! :)

[photos above from LVAC]