Gas Ring Alligator Park
Grace Black | Maddie Banwell
There are no people though there’s places for them to go. What light there is is red, like a bad memory, like an incubator for children with no minds yet (for whom it isn’t time yet). The ordinariness of slightly janky plumbing and adult play is inefficiently metabolised by a collective gut that is longing for unpaid and non-normative effort to be consistently constructive and transformative. That’s not quite what’s going on here. Infrastructure’s charisma is shy, like a child actor.
If there’s a general theme it’s: infrastructure, of the literal kind. Bridges and pipes and wind turbines, street lighting. But it’s in miniature and it’s only half-useful at best; it’s less like actual bridges and turbines and more like an explanation of how it happens at the Early Learning Centre. Bridges and wind turbines (and so on) are maybe things that flash on the screen when you sit there blankly trying to document the ordinary world of sociality, at scale, where faces blur out of specificity and are replaced by hovering words like ‘citizen’. What they’ve made is meant to be useful. Of all the things it could be, then, the most actually useful would be: diagrams. They want, I think, to learn something. They want, I think, also, to explain something. Pay attention to my desire for things to work as if by magic. Pay attention to my desire to learn. Watch me wanting really badly to be in the world while knowing it’s bad without leaving behind everyone who seems from the outside to think it’s OK: circuitry, flightlines, pipes, trains. We aren’t much better off since we learned the names of what is wrong. What form does that discomfort make? You know structures by the shapes they take; you know rules by what the street signs say. A passage on a flag pole to extract from the wind its way and tell it, tunnelling mootly cause it’s not a worm, like an adult tired of learning, waiting for the bod to slip the bone. In the windsock the wind is moving and its movement becomes form, which makes it social, but only as the wind keeps moving. Trying to understand how to make it takes the shape of trying to prove that it can be made.
Why does it feel so good to reproduce what other people can do so much better than you can? Why does it feel so good to prove that you could make again what’s already here? Attending to the romance and then the hassle of trying to do things - big things - differently outside of, like, art (outside of metaphors and smart responses), it’s mostly just brief moments of optimism in an otherwise changing same... in this, it’s not enough. It’s also a person quietly building bridges in a studio that’s good and a resource but also, despite itself (and what can it do?) a placeholder for gentrification, building pipes incompletely and imperfectly but still well to train themselves to cope with how they will, with the world, before long have to change-
One adjective that latches to this stuff Grace and Maddie have exhausted themselves in service of is ‘diagrammatic’. Another is: draft. Another is: normal. Childlike. Outside.
Lonely... missing something, and knowing that. OK with that, but only if it’s not forever. What I get a sense of in this work is not the standard DIY world-building aesthetics associated with cultural anti-normativity, but a more patient, already-disappointed-but-not- giving-up desire for better norms, conventions that afford some rest. Once you figure out how to make the machinery work, your life will be easier, things will be easier. Coaxing lessons from the way things we all use and rely on are shaped; how they are made; who knows how to make them; who knows how to change them; who believes they could...? What would it be like if you tried to understand the mechanics of pulleys, circuitry, and energy capture as well as your world demands you at least try to understand your gender and your class and your race? Literal, unadorned infrastructure, in its omnipresence and muted complexity, starts to shimmer with all the questions hidden by the answers, all there is to learn.
The work is also running water, as well as wind and gravity and what levers do, so it’s also about leakage, escape, the muscle of constant availability and lack that needs re-routing, which people follow and build lives close to. Liquids are live but they are also media for loss. Drainage lets that happen. Good plumbing makes it safe. One thing I think I think about the tap, the bridge, the cable car, the wind-spoons is: they are not metaphors. A metaphor is a transference, it creates meaning by displacement. This stuff is the opposite, in a way. It wants to unpack what’s lodged inside the given. It wants to stay.
Text by George Lynch