Q & A with Alex Lindsay, 2013 FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artist

Alex Lindsay, an FSP/ Jerome Fellowship Artist from Minnesota, is working on a kinetic multi-media artwork for exhibition at Franconia.  His working title for the project is, “Highway.”  As a Fellowship Artist, Alex has been in-residence at Franconia this year working in our outdoor studio alongside other Fellows and Interns from across the globe.

Alex first became involved with Franconia as an Intern Artist in 2008.  During his internship he produced an interactive sculpture, Machine for Photographing the Narcissist.  The project involved a fabricated steel structure with a mechanized wheel that powered a film camera.  A performer running inside the wheel causes the film camera to orbit around the steel wheel and take still images of the performer.  Below are images of a sketch for the project and the work after it was installed for exhibition at Franconia.


A look back at Alex’s work shows that he has a consistent interest in machines, but not machines as you or I may know them. For example, in a work entitled, “Gas Vacuum” (2009), Alex combines a motor and a vacuum to create a high-powered vacuum that confuses our view of domestic household objects. What is supposed to be a task for tidying up the house becomes reminiscent of a destructive outdoor machine meant for chopping, or blowing.

After his internship at Franconia in 2008, Alex was propelled to the graduate program at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where he earned his MFA in 2011.  In graduate school, Alex continued to explore kinetic and mechanized objects and installations.  This video is documentation of “Star” which was shown at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011: Star from Alexander Lindsay on Vimeo.

Last November, Alex had a solo show at Franconia in the City @ Casket, our NE Minneapolis gallery in the Casket Arts Community Complex.  The show, Everyday Objects of Ordinary Life, took over the gallery space by illuminating and activating familiar objects.  “Le Mans Car and Tire” was the star of the show (image below) taking up nearly have the space.  The work is simultaneously nostalgic and ghostly, making use of a once mechanical object’s skeleton.

Q&A w/Alex:

Q: How did you develop “Highway”? What are your inspirations/motivations?  How does “Highway” relate to your body of work?

A: “Highway” investigates the development of the mid-20th century phenomenon of the American interstate highway system.  This system changed our patterns of mobility and environment forever and it still plays a critical role in the daily life of millions.  With “Highway,” my intent is to reinvent or create a new, non-conventional way of understanding the psychological and emotional significance of freeway travel in our society.

My primary conceptual interest lies in ordinary objects, sites and events and how such things, when investigated, reveal deeper layers of meaning embedded in particular experiences.  Readily recognizable, these things – airplane travel, plastic water bottles, and the Detroit car – are often all but invisible because of their common, ubiquitous presence in our 21st century cultural landscape.  In fact, their cultural meaning is potentially more complex or iconic than the actual object/experience itself.  My installations are intended to free these entities from pre-established hierarch and meaning, opening them up for new investigation and interpretation.

Continuing this artistic practice, “Highway” will focus on the freeway system in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  I will film various highways with a video camera and mirror system attached to a large box-structure that, in turn, will be mounted on a trailer that I will pull behind my truck.  My mixed media installations like “Highway” allow the viewer to construct new or alternative narratives.

Q: How is “Highway” different from your past work?

A: The thing that is the most different is that the work gets to be installed for such a long period of time at Franconia.  This allows me to add a feature to update the video periodically, change or alter the content and provide a new viewing experience for visitors.  I am able to revisit the work for the duration of its exhibition.  “Highway” is site-specific to the landscape and environment at Franconia.  Other works that I’ve made are able to fit inside any white-box gallery, but this sculpture is meant to be here.

Q: This is your second time in-residence at Franconia, first as an Intern Artist in 2008, and now as a Fellowship Artist this year.  How have the experiences been similar?  Different?

A: The attitude and energy of the park, the ‘you can do anything’ atmosphere is here just as it was in 2008.  I’ve noticed that the park has become more organized and more frequently visited by the public since 5-years ago, which is exciting when I think about how many people will be exposed to my work.  Outside of the funding that fellows get, this place supports everybody, no matter where you are in your career.  As an Intern Artist I felt just as encouraged to develop a big and ambitious project as I am now as a professional working artist.

As an intern I had the idea in my head for more than a year in a half and the opportunity at Franconia allowed me to finally produce it.  Now in my career, my ideas don’t mull around in my head for so long so as I’m working on a project that’s still relatively new, idea-wise, I’m working through concept and technical considerations simultaneously which ties them together with a precision.   I’m more motivated to make a refined product now.  As an Intern Artist, I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that artwork is on exhibit for such a long time and how that has an impact on the artwork that you make.  Rather than approaching it with a “build it, install it, now I’m done” mentality, I’m approaching this work with more consideration and carefulness as to how the sculpture will age, transformation.

I have a number of friends and colleagues who are Franconia Alumni, and we all discuss how high quality the work is that we produced at Franconia.  Even now when I’m looking back at the work I made as an Intern, I consider that one of my most successful sculptures.  This place has a way of lighting fires and bringing out ambition in artists.

Q: How has/will working and exhibiting at Franconia impact your professional career?

A: Being the recipient of the FSP/Jerome Fellowship is an honor and helps to push me into categories of eligibility for other opportunities that will benefit my career in the future.  Working on “Highway” has been a learning experience for me and Franconia gives me the freedom to experiment and adapt along the way.

My brother was living in Eugene, OR for a long time.  He and his wife met a guy out there who recognized my brother’s last name from seeing my sculpture at Franconia the summer before.  That is the perfect example of what an incredible networking opportunity Franconia provides for artists.  This is person half-way across the country, primarily uninvolved in the art-world who knew my work.  Franconia is a gateway for all kinds of people being exposed to the arts and to the work of emerging artists, like myself.  That is an invaluable service that Franconia is providing artists.  Not only for artists, for the public, and for art.

For the project that he’s working on at Franconia during his fellowship, “Highway,” Alex created digitally-rendered sketches that illustrate the soon to be completed artwork.

“Highway” consists of three main elements: a fabricated steel track, the back-end of a box truck, and a projected video.  The back-end of the box truck will be mounted to a fabricated steel unit that is powered by a mechanized gear to move back and forth along the steel track at 1 rotation every 24-hours.  The back door of the box truck will open and close via a garage door opener triggered by a motion sensor.  Visitors to the sculpture will be invited to enter the box truck and view a projected video of highway scenes on a loop.  As visitors are watching the projection inside, the box truck will be moving along the track.  Below are images of the progression of Alex’s project.

To view more of Alex’s work, make sure to visit his website and come out to the park soon to see “Highway” after its installation.  Also, check in on the blog next week to see progress of another Fellowship Artist, Peter Morales, and his quirky, antlered Viking ship.


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