Pope.L, a Chicago-based artist who has been making public interventionist art for over twenty years, comes to Detroit artist-run gallery What Pipeline with Flint Water Project, on view September 7 through October 21, 2017.
Flint Water Project is an art installation, a performance and an intervention that calls attention to the water crisis in Flint, MI by bottling contaminated Flint tap water and selling it as a limited art edition in Detroit.
150 gallons of water will be purchased from Flint residents and transported to Detroit for bottling and packaging. Approximately 900 bottles will be produced in advance of the exhibition, with an additional 300 bottles reserved for on-site bottling performances during the opening and throughout the run of the show.
Why is this project important?
When Pope.L was asked by What Pipeline to do a commission for Detroit, he felt that whatever he did it should not re-victimize the city as had been done too often in the past. What if Detroit could be the hero and come to the rescue of another midwest city in need?
In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, changed its water supply in order to save money. That decision and a host of subsequent and related decisions on local, state and federal levels created a crisis. Water quality was mismanaged, citizens were poisoned, and in the fallout of criminal charges and lawsuits many Flint residents still do not have access to reliable, safe water.
Flint Water Project will call attention to the city’s continued plight while raising funds to support Flint citizens in their struggle. Proceeds from the sales of the Flint Water art edition sold at What Pipeline will benefit the United Way of Genessee County, who will use the funds entirely for mitigating issues directly related to the water crisis.
A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to Hydrate Detroit, a volunteer-lead non-profit group assisting in combating water shutoffs and advocating for affordable water laws in Detroit.
About the Artist
Pope.L is a visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create art works in various formats, for example, writing, painting, performance, installation, video and sculpture. Building upon his long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist performances and interventions in public spaces, Pope.L applies some of the same social, formal and performative strategies to his interests in language, system, gender, race and community. The goals for his work are several: joy, money and uncertainty— not necessarily in that order.
What related projects has he created?
Pope.L has a long history of public intervention and community interaction in his artworks.
Between 2004-2006, The Black Factory toured the USA stirring up discussions about class, gender, race, and democracy. Visitors to the Black Factory were asked to bring objects that represent blackness to them. These objects were added to the Black Factory through performance, pulverization and documentation. Proceeds from the Black Factory Gift Shop Twice Sold products benefitted local organizations like food pantries and shelters; when Black Factory was at the Wexner Center proceeds benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio.
For the mobile and interactive artwork Blink, 2011, Pope.L invited residents of New Orleans to share photos of what they dreamt about or what they were thinking about when they woke up. The hundreds of photos he received became a slide show representing the hopes and dreams of a city slowly rising after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He created a film from these photographs and on the night of October 22, the film was projected on the back of an old ice cream truck as it was pulled through the streets of the city by volunteers.
In 2013, Pope.L presented Pull! a durational city-wide community performance piece in which rotating teams of Cleveland locals assisted in pulling a truck by hand for 25 miles, through the neighborhoods of North Collinwood, Glenville, University Circle, Hough, AsiaTown and downtown; to West Park, Clark-Fulton and Ohio City. This act was a way to connect an otherwise divided city and a chance to stir up a city-wide conversation about work.
These performances show Pope.L working in a space between community organization and an artistic practice—mobilizing individuals while attempting to address societal concerns through an abstraction of imposing themes such as labor, identity politics, and basic civil and fundamental rights.
What will your contributions support?
Much of the work for this exhibition is already underway. Your contributions will support the purchase of materials directly related to the exhibition such as bottling and packaging materials (1200 bottles and caps, custom fitted boxes, foam insets and mailing labels) along with construction materials (shelving, brackets, paint, wall paper) and labor costs.
Flint Water Project is supported by a matching grant from the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Arts Challenge. Donated dollars may be matched by this grant, doubling your contribution. Additional support comes from Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York City and Susanne Vielmetter Projects Los Angeles.
Two-Ply Flint Water Sticker ($15 or more), Flint Water Postcard, Signed by Pope.L ($50 or more)
Two-Ply Flint Water Sticker and Button Combo Pak ($25 or more)
Inside the Studio: Wonderful Studio Assistant David wearing a Flint Water Button
Hand Assembled Flint Water Prototype Water Bottle, Signed by Pope.L ($100 or more)
Very Limited Editioned Print, Signed by Pope.L ($225 or more)
Framed Original Sketches and Work Notes from Flint Water Project, Signed by Pope.L ($299 or more)
Failed Wallpaper Test Print ($499 or more)
Framed original Pope.L concept sketches and work notes ($550 or more)
Black Factory Pro-Pak ($799 or more)
All You Can Eat Taco Bash with Pope.L and Team ($999 or more)
Dinner with Pope.L in Flint ($2,500)
Dinner on Pope.L's lap in Flint ($9,999)
Even though the physical form of the project takes place in a gallery, with the collaboration of Kickstarter, its conceptual and activist outreach can be far wider, stirring discussions about the availability and sustainability of clean water and the necessity for connectedness and community. Kickstarter can extend this project's reach, spread the word about the exhibition, and raise awareness about ongoing issues relating to water and struggle.
Risks and challenges
Flint Water Project is scheduled to take place in September. We need to reach our Kickstarter goal to create the Flint Water installation. We then face the additional task of bottling and selling 1200 bottles of Flint Water. All together we will spend three months in daily engagement and promotion of this project.
Bottling will be physically intensive and repetitive work. What Pipeline will take on additional staff for the first time to ensure production can be maintained. Shipping will take place directly after the end of the exhibition, rather than throughout, to reduce the labor involved and maintain the installation on view.
With the cooperation of three galleries located in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, and an experienced team who have worked on many art exhibitions at major museums and events throughout the world, we are confident all goals will be exceeded, and that Flint Water Project is an important artwork to support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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