September 14, 2017 - March 16, 2018
In 2013 the city of Chicago closed 50 public schools, almost all in low-income neighborhoods. Chicago-based artist John Preus gained access to the materials - desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves - that were bound for the landfill, and negotiated a deal with the moving company contracted to clear out the schools. 6 semi loads of wobbly chairs, marked up desks, and gum-laden bookshelves were packed into a donated vacant store front in Jackson Park. To confront some of the social complexity of the issues raised by the materials, a wide range of artists, designers, and architects were invited to respond to the materials producing a kaleidoscopic collection of work, installed at Open House Contemporary, an Airbnb in Chicago's RiverWest neighborhood.
Infinite Games 50/50 considers the malleability and visibility of history, and the relationship of story and value. These materials carry over 80 years of memory, about the ambitions and failures of public education and the public sphere in general. The anonymous scrawls, longings and antipathies of generations of school children carved into these materials are poignant in part as demands for visibility; because of the contentious way in which the public schools were closed, and the pattern of displacement it seems to perpetuate; because we are stymied by the intractable economic and racial stratification that plagues this and many other American cities; because many of us that circulate in the world of clean gallery may never know first-hand the sting of racism or grinding poverty; because any influence we might have on such an entrenched set of conditions may remain symbolic.
Infinite Games 50/50 aims to keep a certain set of issues on the public radar to ferment and stew a bit longer in our collective conscience and develop a more robust compost for later growth. Considered artifacts of an important if anonymous piece of Chicago history, the exhibition is a performative memorial designed to use loss as traction, and brokenness as a starting point. We may legitimately wonder: are the spoils too tainted to even entertain the possibility of their use? Is it better to do nothing than something? What degree of collective psychoanalysis is available to us through the handling of materials infused with political pathos? Where is the line of toxicity that renders some topics off-limits, too sensitive to broach? And aren't these precisely the topics we should all be most committed to re-addressing, over and over again, into infinity?