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Help me build a community center, within an art space, within a carcass, in exchange for original art works and multiples.
91 backers pledged $5,020 to help bring this project to life.
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beast in progress - being covered by salvaged carpet felt
beast in progress - being covered by salvaged carpet felt

The Beast is a 20 x 40 foot installation at the Hyde Park Art Center in the form of a steer, skinned with salvaged carpet, imagined as an architectural embodiment of a social condition.   The created environment divides the main gallery into distinct vantage points. The garage doors on the front of the building open directly into the belly of the beast, from within which the outer form of the beast is not visible.

Through conversations, dinners, presentations, musical productions, stories and more, the Beast becomes a venue for exploring violence and the sacred, forms of collective organization, architecture and public space as expressions of broader values. The shape of the construction speculates about an "embodied" relationship to history, a form of dual consciousness, a disenchanted enchantment, a way of being alone together.     

As the video makes clear, the Beast is going to be built whether or not this campaign is successful, but will enable some elements that are not yet accounted for-building materials, tools, transportation of materials, a few programming elements.  But another way to look at it is that your support makes you a patron and collector of my work, and goes a long way toward helping me proceed boldly with upcoming projects after The Beast. 

Following the Beast:  

-Mirror/Hammer/Dream (the 3 most common metaphors used to describe the social function of art) will be a large-scale installation at EXPO Chicagoin which I will unveil a series of objects and furniture pieces made from the Chicago Public School furniture.  They are imagined as prototypes for the purpose of developing an apprenticeship program, to teach craft skill and thought, to Chicago youth.  The CPS furniture project is in development with a series of partners, including Jamie Kalven.  

-The Swing and the Wall, a partner exhibition with SHOP at the Comfort Station.  

-Solo exhibition at the Heilbronn, Kunstverein in Germany - a series of pieces with the prison population, intended as a partner project to the CPS furniture project.  

I only have 10 days to build the structure between the closing of the previous exhibition, and the opening of the Beast on April 13th. To make it happen, I have enlisted every available friend and builder to help with this ambitious around the clock "beast-raising," party.  Please help me make the best of this opportunity!  

Gifts are available at many contribution levels.  Every bit helps!  

thank you immensely for your support, and I look forward to seeing you at the show!! a press release with more information about ongoing programming is listed below the gifts. 

sincerely,

John Preus

Gifts! All donors at any level are cordially invited to a kickstarter party (date TBD) in the Beast.  Light appetizers and drinks provided.   See the installation first hand, and meet the other folks who helped make it happen. 

In addition to an invitation to the party, contributors at the following levels receive:  

$25 level-

-a screen print of the original concept sketch

limited Kickstarter edition screen print of original concept sketch.  As many as are needed to fulfill Kickstarter contributions, will be printed, and then no more
limited Kickstarter edition screen print of original concept sketch. As many as are needed to fulfill Kickstarter contributions, will be printed, and then no more

$50 level-

-a screen print

-a signed (by Simon) copy of Simon Critchley's book, Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

$100 level-

-a signed screen print

-an original sketch from my collection.  a few pictured below

it could have been worse, study for stained glass window, archival inkjet print, 8x10, 2002
it could have been worse, study for stained glass window, archival inkjet print, 8x10, 2002
envelope doodle, 2007
envelope doodle, 2007
Selfy Plus-graphite on paper,  4x5, 2010
Selfy Plus-graphite on paper, 4x5, 2010
Weather Brought the Darkness Out, graphite and marker on paper, 4x5, 2011
Weather Brought the Darkness Out, graphite and marker on paper, 4x5, 2011
study for a stained glass window, graphite on paper, 8" x 9" 2003,
study for a stained glass window, graphite on paper, 8" x 9" 2003,
untitled, pen on paper, 2.5" x5" 2003
untitled, pen on paper, 2.5" x5" 2003
happy couple, study for a stained-glass window,archival inkjet print, 8 x 16, 2002
happy couple, study for a stained-glass window,archival inkjet print, 8 x 16, 2002
sketchbook page from The World as Text, columbia college center for book and paper arts, 2011
sketchbook page from The World as Text, columbia college center for book and paper arts, 2011

$250 level-

-a signed screen print

-a private tour of the Beast with the artist, followed by lunch at Bridgeport cafe.

$500 level-

-a signed screen print

-1 cube from the Incidental Cubes/Chicago Archive Series. Scroll through the cubes here. (not that some of the cubes listed are no longer available) 

weathered plywood and wood scrap
weathered plywood and wood scrap
hollow cube made of metal industrial shelving and weathered cedar fencing
hollow cube made of metal industrial shelving and weathered cedar fencing
radiator cover screen box filled with wood scraps
radiator cover screen box filled with wood scraps
drawer, cedar fencing, painted-on-plywood, wood scrap,
drawer, cedar fencing, painted-on-plywood, wood scrap,
vinyl chair seat, duct tape, plastic industrial crate, window shutter, wood scrap
vinyl chair seat, duct tape, plastic industrial crate, window shutter, wood scrap
found table top, wood scrap
found table top, wood scrap
milk crate, radiator cover, wood
milk crate, radiator cover, wood

$750 level-

-a signed screen print

-a custom cube made of materials of your choice

custom cube made to client's specifications
custom cube made to client's specifications

$1,000 level-

-a signed screen print

-1 Pelt from the series exhibited at the opening.  

Pelt 1, (in collaboration with Kevin Reiswig), skinned ottoman, alley-harvested leather, 40" x 60", 2011
Pelt 1, (in collaboration with Kevin Reiswig), skinned ottoman, alley-harvested leather, 40" x 60", 2011

$2,500 level-

-a signed screen print, 

-private tour of the Beast with the artist

-dinner with the artist at MK restaurant

-1 cube from the Incidental Cubes/Chicago Archive Series.

-1 pelt

$5,000 level-

-a signed screen print, 

-private tour of the Beast with the artist

-1 cube from the Incidental Cubes/Chicago Archive Series.

-Sitting Bull-modified Chicago Public School early childhood rocking chair, upholstered with alley-harvested leather. 

sitting bull, modified Chicago Public School early childhood rocking chair, upholstered with alley-harvested leather.
sitting bull, modified Chicago Public School early childhood rocking chair, upholstered with alley-harvested leather.

$10,000 level-

-a signed screen print, 

-1 cube from the Incidental Cubes/Chicago Archive Series.

-a private party for 20 in the Beast, with music from New Material, and food from local star chef.  

PRESS RELEASE

Hyde Park Art Center PRESENTS 

JOHN PREUS: The BEAST 

April 13, 2014 – August 3, 2014 

Beast Structure Will House Weekly Companion Event Series 

Chicago—

Intertwining spectacle and site, John Preus’ “The Beast,” becomes a new space for cultural inquiry, public dialogue and creative production within the Hyde Park Art Center.  Preus will transform the gallery’s interior with a complex architectural framework inspired by the form of a dead steer emblematic of violence and sacrifice, fabricating the structure from harvested materials including upholstery leather and discarded wood and furniture from recently closed Chicago Public Schools. Existing as an artist-run space throughout the span of the exhibition, “The Beast” will be activated through corresponding performances, discussions and educational offerings programmed by the artist and collaborators. 

Best known for his work as the lead fabricator for Theaster Gates, and the principal designer and builder of the Dorchester Projects Archive House, Preus founded Dilettante Studios in 2010, which designs and builds cabinets, furniture, and residential and commercial spaces, relying almost exclusively on second-hand materials. He co-founded SHoP (Southside Hub of Production), with Laura Shaeffer, a collective of artists, educators, and local civic organizations, and has collaborated with countless others on projects that make up his multifaceted practice. “The Beast” is the culmination of Preus’ yearlong participation in the Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center, and his most ambitious solo exhibition to date. The exhibition showcases his skill in adaptive design and architecture as well as his interest in creative placemaking, and draws heavily on new and longstanding collaborators. 

“Preus has a strong aesthetic. He moves the conversation past adaptive reuse through his practice of harvesting discarded building materials,” said Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibitions & Residency Programs at Hyde Park Art Center. “Out of the carcass of ‘The Beast’ grows a hopeful forum of ideas, turning negativity into a constructive force that the whole community can take part in.” 

The large-scale, two-floor intervention designed and built by Preus responds to the Art Center’s experimental architecture, and echoes its mission to engage the community through participation in the arts. The belly of “The Beast,” which will resemble the skeletal structure of a cathedral interior and will open to the Art Center’s outdoor plaza, will include storytelling, live music, sermons, panel discussions, dinners, and more. The diverse programming schedule will be determined by Preus and collaborators to raise questions about the use and social value of public space, and how collective experience can encourage the development of a better city. 

“John Preus has been a leader in the artistic community on the South Side for many years, known  for being part of powerful collaborative projects,” said Kate Lorenz, Hyde Park Art Center’s Executive Director. “We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to present his first major solo show in our 75th year, as his project reflects and critiques some of the core concepts at play when we ask the question of what purpose an art center should serve today.” In celebration of “The Beast” and all the shows currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, a public reception will be held April 13 from 3-5pm with special remarks by Lorenz. Preus will be available for press interviews and photo opps during the installation of “The Beast.” 

A preliminary schedule of companion events is listed below. For an up to date schedule, visit hydeparkart.org

Thinking Without Hope, with Simon Critchley. April 16, from 6-8 pm, John Preus and Bart Schultz will engage with Simon about politics, hope, and commitment. Simon Critchley is Chair and Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Bart Schultz is Senior Lecturer in Humanities, Special Programs Coordinator for the Graham School of General Studies and Director of the Humanities Division's Civic Knowledge Project at the University of Chicago. Visit hydeparkart.org for details. 

Spectrum of Immersion May 2-May 3 

Part opera, part lecture, part musical improvisation, this hour-long operetta will explore death and redemption, collective trauma and transformation. Produced from an original score composed by Leroy Bach and adapted from essays by Preus, “Spectrum of Immersion” will feature Sarah Lawrence (formerly Christine Daae in the 3rd national tour of Phantom of the Opera) and tenor Calland Metts (formerly of Chicago Lyric Opera), and be performed BY NEW MATERIAL with instruments created from found materials by Preus. New Material is: artist Mikel Avery (Everypeople Workshop, Black Monks of Mississippi, Josh Abrams), Leroy Bach (Wilco, Low Tide, Iron and Wine, Beth Orton, Liz Phair, Black Monks of Mississippi), and artist and builder, Tadd Cowen. 

Our Public Space 

June 21-22 Presentations and conversations in the Beast, around public space, with international architects, Iker Gil, Quilian Riano, Mimi Ziegler, Patrizia di Monte, and a workshop case study considering a specific Chicago site led by Riano. Details to follow. Organized by Dilettante Studios and MAS Context. 

Ongoing Programmed conversations led by activists, academics and cultural producers will include a wide range of topics that both inspired the image of the Beast and will be respond to the installation, the community, and will develop throughout the course of the exhibition.  

Heart of the Beast Story Slam 

Session 1 of 4: April 22, 6-7:30 pm. Judith Heineman and Laura Shaeffer curate a series of themes beginning with the "Heart of the Beast". A story slam consists of 5 minute true stories, told without notes or props. 10 people  sign up to tell. Their names are put in a hat and are randomly selected during the event. Preselected judges and audience volunteers score the tellers. The first place prize is a screen print of the Beast. When there are 10 monthly winners, there is a "Grand Slam" based on the model established by The Moth. 

Colin Ward Memorial Potluck Conversation Series: every Thursday at 6pm (unless otherwise noted). bring a dish to share. 

Upheaval, Grief, and Creativity: Invisible Institute (Jamie Kalven, Steve Edwards, Patsy Evans, Audrey Petty with special guests) A series of 4 community conversations led by Jamie Kalven on public housing, violence and landscape, public school closings, and homicide rates in relation to geography. 

BBoy Potlucks and Breakdance Battle. with the University of Hip Hop and Connect Force. Come and witness the mad skills of Chicago' youth. Bring something to share, come prepared to move.

Winning Words youth philosophy presentations - a program of the Civic Knowledge Project.  middle and high school kids engage in philosophical debate and conversation.   

Pecha Kucha with Rachel Herman - brief presentations and conversations on art and design 

Saturday School ongoing youth programming. 

On Movement and Play, an Augusto Boal (Theater of the Oppressed) inspired workshop, with Alexander Starr.

past projects:

plan view of the Beast-garage doors at the bottom of the page enter into public living room
plan view of the Beast-garage doors at the bottom of the page enter into public living room
Installation of 60 cubes at Spontaneous Interventions-US pavilion for Venice Biennale at the Chicago Cultural Center
Installation of 60 cubes at Spontaneous Interventions-US pavilion for Venice Biennale at the Chicago Cultural Center
                      
documenta 13-12 ballads for Huguenot house-Theaster Gates.  Preus was project leader and lead fabricator for the project.
documenta 13-12 ballads for Huguenot house-Theaster Gates. Preus was project leader and lead fabricator for the project.
Red Flags Saloon-as installed in SHoP-reviewed in Chicago Magazine
Red Flags Saloon-as installed in SHoP-reviewed in Chicago Magazine
interior of the Archive Library at Dorchester Projects-predominantly designed and built by Preus
interior of the Archive Library at Dorchester Projects-predominantly designed and built by Preus
Entry shelf at the Black Cinema House-Dorchester Projects
Entry shelf at the Black Cinema House-Dorchester Projects
incidental kitchen-pieced together out of scraps and cabinets from other kitchens
incidental kitchen-pieced together out of scraps and cabinets from other kitchens
Threewalls 2nd hand reading room
Threewalls 2nd hand reading room
incidental wall shelf
incidental wall shelf

Risks and challenges

Art is largely about risk, so if there is no possibility of failure, the project has not risked enough. My intention is to use whatever failures might arise to reveal logjams and points of socioeconomic entropy as they manifest themselves in the built environment.

Possible failures:
1. As with any art project worthy of the name, my vision may not be something that the public wants, appreciates or asked for. Most of us are asserting ourselves into the world according to our own will, ideas and ambitions.

2. I have never built a sculptural structure this large, and with hopes of some verisimilitude. Spontaneity is part of the energy of the project and it embraces the risk that goes along with that. I am collaborating with a wide range of interesting people, "successful" in their own right, all of whom are deeply engaged with the project and are committed to making it a successful project. I have secured a group of able builders to help me create the structure, and to make it sound. I have had many years of experience building experimental structures, none of which have yet failed miserably.

3. The music might suck. Again, risk is the flavor of improvisation. The beauty of watching improv is that you see the thought, the idea, the thread unfolding at that very moment, under the conditions of uncertainty. In hindsight, I thought New Material sounded like hell while we were playing at a recent concert, but when listening back to the recording, I am really happy with it, even happy for the little bit of hell in there.

4. The fear of many of us who make and exhibit things of one kind or another, is that what interests and fascinates us turns out to be really boring to everyone else, or a total cliche. There is really no way to totally mitigate that fear. The sophomore record of any great debut by a band, for instance, is usually disappointing because expectations are running so high. I think there are high expectations surrounding this exhibition, and I am just making my work and can only hope to exceed them. There is no way to avoid all risk, and why would we want to do that anyway?

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    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    An invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.

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    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -a signed copy of Simon Critchley's book, Faith of the Faithless; an experiment in political theology

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    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -one of a series of signed sketches from John's archive

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -private tour of the beast and lunch at the Bridgeport cafe with the artist,

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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -1 incidental cube

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    Pledge US$ 750 or more About US$ 750

    -a custom made cube, incorporating materials of your choice
    -a signed screenprint.

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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -1 pelt from the pelt series exhibited in the Beast

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    Pledge US$ 2,500 or more About US$ 2,500

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -1 incidental cube
    -1 pelt
    -private tour of the Beast
    -dinner at MK with the artist

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    -an invitation to the kickstarter party in the Beast.
    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -1 incidental cube
    -Sitting Bull-a semi-functional object made from Public School rocking chair upholstered with salvaged leather
    -a private tour of the Beast with the artist

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    Pledge US$ 10,000 About US$ 10,000

    -a signed screen print of concept sketch
    -1 incidental cube
    -private party for 20 in the Beast, (at the Hyde Park Art Center) with performance by New Material, food by local star chef

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Funding period

- (26 days)