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Okay Mountain - Recent Adventures

Written by Michael Sieben   
Thursday, 11 February 2010 01:33
Our buddy Michael Sieben blogs up Okay Mountains trip to Miami to install their corner store which won the 2009 Pulse Prize. Well hello there, Fecal Face.

This blog is about some recent Okay Mountain adventures. If you don't know what Okay Mountain is, please visit our website and then return to this blog. Or if you don't feel like doing that don't worry about it. You're on an art website so you can probably get the gist.

Earlier last year Okay Mountain was commissioned by Arthouse (an Austin based Non-Profit Contemporary Arts Organization) to create a comprehensive site specific installation for the PULSE Art Fair in Miami. We discussed many different ideas for the installation and ultimately decided to construct a convenience store similar to the stores we frequent around Okay Mountain. The project was inspired, influenced, and informed by previous store projects such as Claes Oldenburg's The Store, Barry McGee, Todd James, and Steven Powers' Street Market, Justin Lowe's Helter Swelter, and Xu Zhen's Shanghart Supermarket (to name a few.)

Our plan was to transform our art fair booth into a working convenience store. We wanted it to be a completely immersive experience for the viewer. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, head to toe. The installation included sculpture, painting, digital works, video, sound, performance, and incense. Everything in the store was handmade or had been altered in some manner. We tried not to put too many restrictions on how items were made for the store. Rather, we wanted everybody to go about working on the project any way they felt comfortable. Our hopes were that by having many hands working in many different ways, we could achieve the hodgepodge aesthetic that we all love about non-corporate convenience stores.

*Words: Michael Sieben
*Photos: Sterling Allen, Tim Brown, Justin Goldwater, Michael Sieben, and Carlos Rosales-Silva

So that's the background information for the following photos. If you have any questions feel free to raise your hand at anytime.

We started our Miami voyage by renting a 24 foot truck.

Big enough to hold an entire convenience store. And a case of beer (more on that later.)

Day 1 of loading.

Day 2 of loading.

Road food. It said on the package that you can "eat 'em shell-n-all." Which was true. If you like eating fibrous peanut shells.

We made it to New Orleans on the 1st day of driving.

And stayed with Emily Morrison at the Trouser House Gallery. She had two brand new kittens named Flora and Fauna.

Needless to say they were a big hit with the grown men.

We woke up the next day and noticed that one of the corners on the truck roof had apparently gotten a little smashy.

The first of many duct tape fixes.

Looks pretty good... they probably won't even notice...

After fixing the roof (sort of) we realized that somebody had left a light on in the back of the truck and as a result the battery was totally dead. Do you think you can jump a 24' moving truck with a CR-V? Answer: Nope.

After getting the truck battery replaced (thanks Penske) we hit the road and made the push for Florida. As soon as we crossed the Florida border our truck was immediately pulled over by a Florida State Trooper. I guess somebody should have told us that we were required to stop at all weigh stations... and that it was illegal to transport beer across state lines if you're a commercial trucker... commercial trucker?

Somehow we ended up being categorized as commercial truck drivers. We thought we were just artists going to an art fair. So what exactly does that mean?

Well, that means that all of you guys are going to have to come sit in this little room until we figure out exactly how much we're going to ticket you for.

The ticket turned out to be $700. We were also instructed that we'd be required to drive back into Alabama to the nearest truck stop, buy and fill out a driver's log and bill of lading, without which we wouldn't be allowed to enter Florida. This is a photo of Rod. He helped us fill out our paperwork and explained to us that in his opinion our situation was "total bullshit." Thanks for the help, Rod. We'd probably still be sitting in that truck stop without your help.

We never had to show anybody the paperwork that we filled out and from there on it was smooth driving. We got to Miami the next night, went to bed, and woke up early to start installing our store.

Putting down the floor and putting up the drop ceiling.

We had built everything in Texas in pieces and the first time the whole thing was put together was here in Miami. Sort of a leap of faith that we'd measured everything correctly.

Coming together.


Peat made a sign out of an old box fan. Dude is smart.

And here's what it looked like after two days of installing. The following 13 photos are installation photos of the Corner Store. Oh yeah, that's what we called the project: Okay Mountain Corner Store.

We (Sterling and Carlos) photographed all of the products so that when the Okay Mountain book comes out they can be included. Does anybody know any book publishers?

Corner Store won the PULSE Prize as well as the People's Choice Award. So in true art star form we hired a crew to take down the installation and we all flew First Class back to Austin. Or maybe we spent the next two days de-installing and packing up the work and then rolled 5 deep in the CR-V (2 in the Penske) and drove for three days. Hard to remember.

So... we got back to Texas, took showers, and then remembered that we had committed to doing another installation that was opening in just a few short weeks in San Marcos, TX. No rest for the weary.

And so begins the second chapter of this blog. Texas State University and Okay Mountain Presents: Big Strange Mystery. Here's how the Okay Mountain website explains this show: Big Strange Mystery is an immersive installation that borrows, mimics and transforms various elements associated with such phenomena and institutions as Crypto-Zoology, U.F.O. and Natural History museums. The installation, based on the accumulation and staging of various periphery objects, acts as evidence and documentation of the existence and serarch for an elusive water creature, while also functioning as entertainment, likening the woven characterisitcs of information and its presentation to a narrative, rather than a set of objective, knowable facts.

I'm glad it's somebody else's job to write show descriptions. I probably would have just written that we wanted to make a cool show about the river.

The gallery that we were exhibiting in was set up pre-wifi and had ethernet ports every four feet along each wall. So part of our installation included coming up with a solution for covering the plugs. We decided to try to mimic the bottom of the river by building up a sediment layer of cardboard and plywood.

We also wanted to create a mural that would envelop the entire space giving the viewer the feeling of being underwater.

Ryan underwater.

Early on we decided that the focal point of the show would be a huge skeleton that would be suspended from the ceiling. We contacted some local elementary school teachers and had them assign a project to their students to draw a mythical water creature based on a very vague set of descriptors we provided.

We took the kid's drawings and tried to pick out recurring elements that we could use to base our skeleton on. Things like, a long tail, wings, six legs, etc. Then we drew a rough diagram of our skeleton based on the kid's drawings. Sort of like making a sketch based on eye witness descriptions. But using sketches to make a sketch. Something like that.

We had no real plan for how we were going to physically construct the skeleton so it was very much a "let's see what happens" type of vibe.

Piece by piece.

Bone by bone.

Till it started to look like something.

We also worked on a variety of other sculptural elements. This piece was inspired by collections of debris in rivers that get built up around fence posts or other obstructions.

We shot a video one afternoon. River Bigfoot style.

And worked on a bunch of smaller river culture themed sculptures to place on these pedestals. We wanted them to appear as artifacts within the exhibit. Vary confusing artifacts.

The following seven photos are the installation shots of the show. This exhibit runs through February 26th so if you live near San Marcos you still have time to drop by.

There's a sound component to the installation that comes out of the ice-chest boom-box. It's a cloudy murky soundtrack to further instill the feeling of being underwater.

That concludes this Okay Mountain adventure blog. I'd like to conclude by thanking Sue Graze and Elizabeth Dunbar at Arthouse for all of their support (as well as Jennifer Gardner and Ben Slade for all of their help.) I'd also like to thank Mary Mikel Stump at Texas State University for all of her help (as well as the help from the gallery staff. ) Oh, this photo here is a picture of Travis Millard on a rope swing. It has absolutely nothing to do with this blog but I thought it would probably make him laugh to see it here. Bye.

Relevant Links:

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