We left London hours before a gigantic snow storm walloped London and St. Thomas. Good timing on our part as there is no way we could have gotten out on Friday – 55cm of snow overnight! But we also left so early because I’d made an appointment with Dennis Maher in Buffalo to see Fargo house, which I had in my head as “his house,” as in the site where he makes art, not as in “his house,” as in where he lives. Actually, it’s both.
This is what it looks like on the outside.
And then the door opens, and it looks like this:
His website says, “Since 2003, Dennis Maher has been developing a hybrid art/architectural practice that explores approaches to demolition, renovation, and restoration. His work has involved the harvesting of discarded building materials from sites of demolition, and the construction of aggregate environments of urban waste. His ongoing Undone-Redone City project suggests new spaces, places, and events that emerge from assemblages of city fragments.” We talked a lot about collecting and reassembling collections, about cutting away space in the house (it’s hard to see in the photos but there are a lot of layers in the wallpaper, and the floors are cut through to show the framework of the house), what it’s like to live in the space (interesting, but not always relaxing), hoarding, and about John Soane (we’re both fans, and there is one room in Fargo House that looks like a modern rendition of a room in the John Soane house).
The pictures really, really don’t do it justice. It’s an immersive space for certain and definitely crowded, but it also feels welcoming and organized – definitely a collection rather than a hoard. I’m hoping I can organize some kind of collaboration with the Museum Studies students in 2014-15…. We visited a couple of other things in Buffalo (including Maher’s show at Hallwalls gallery, a pretty amazing bike store, a totally random estate sale) but the combination of having played derby for the first time in two months, flu shot aftermath, a late night with friends and a very early morning caught up. Nap time. Fortunately we were staying with a parrot named Stella, so an early afternoon was all right.
We left the next morning for Pittsburgh and had some fairly bad weather en route. Can I just say that I had never even heard of lake effect snow before I moved to London, and I wish it had stayed that way! It is the ruiner of all fun. Fortunately once we actually got to Pittsburgh we were out of reach of the Great Lakes. It was bitterly cold the two days we were in the city, but blue sky and sunshine all around.
So it wasn’t quite Dennis Maher, but the place we were staying was super sweet. No joke, there was a pool table in our bedroom. A pool table! In the bedroom!
We squeezed a lot into two days. We went to the Warhol Museum. I had hoped that the Time Capsules would be up, but they’re still cataloging them. I’m not a Warhol fan, to be honest, but the Time Capsules capture my imagination. He used to collect all the stuff on his desk in boxes and would occasionally just sweep everything on the surface into the box (including, infamously, an apple core), tape them up, and date and sign them as “works of art.” There are hundreds of them, all at the Warhol Museum. They had one on display from the 80s when Warhol had befriended Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. The box was full of their sketches and small gifts to one another, as well as random birth certificates, a tonne of sycophantic Christmas cards, receipts, letters, notes etc. I would love to get my hands on those other boxes, but right now you can only see them through two windows, locked tightly in a visible archive. The rest of the museum, I could take or leave.
We took Lucy for a walk at Fort Pitt and ended up ducking into the little museum there because we were so cold. The museum itself wasn’t very memorable, but I did find a picture of my brother as an 18th century aristocratic baddie. And one of me as peasant girl possibly celebrating, possibly running away in terror.
We went up to the university for lunch because I’d read a lot about the Conflict Kitchen and wanted to try it out. It’s part art project, part social experiment. The idea is that they only serve food from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Last month it was Cuba and now it’s North Korea. They also organize discussions, teach-ins, talks etc. focussed on the countries in question and conflict in general. The food was delicious, and cheap.
Might have eaten in the car because it was so damn cold…. Nothing warms the belly like kimchi!
We also went to Alien She, which was fabulous and made me feel like a teenager/twenty-something. So good. The nineties were the best. Riot Grrrl was the best. Trying to remember the words to My My Metrocard in NYC, and then hearing it in a coffee shop in Toronto, and then seeing it in an exhibition in Pittsburgh was also the best. Zines forever, awesome girl bands forever, etc. etc.
Channeling Celebrating Girl from the Fort Pitt Museum to pose with Allyson Mitchell’s Ladies Sasquatch.
One more museum…. We were in Pittsburgh, so we had to go to the Centre for Postnatural history. I’m not sure there are many museums where you can go and talk to the director about how he drove to Utah with a van to pick up a taxidermied genetically engineered goat named Freckles. But, there is one, and it’s in Pittsburgh. Actually, this goat might be familiar to Canadians or textile peeps. Freckles is the Nexia Technology spider goat – the one with arachnid proteins in her milk that could be spun into high tech BioSteel. Here she is, beside a transgenic taxidermied fish (a theme in this blog) and other specimens. The museum was interesting and fun (it goes on – there’s another room behind that black curtain), and currently has several other parts that are touring around the world.
And then we ate dinner in a Church-Brewery (thanks for the recommendation, Christine!). Apparently Pittsburgh is the pierogi capital of North America, so we had to test that claim. The “church” also brews its own beer and has an altar to beer. Yep.
The next morning we took the public funicular up Mount Washington opposite the city of Pittsburgh. The views from the top were stunning.
We took Lucy for a walk through a canyon, and gave her extra pats for being such a trooper.
It was really cold, so we went to the Botanic Gardens to warm up. The gardens were really nice – very Victorian. And very warm.
There was one room that had a model railway in it, depicting a town that backed on to Jurassic Park. Some dinosaurs had escaped, which I only put in here because we seem to keep encountering dinosaurs in dioramas (more about that tomorrow).
Today we drove to Cincinnati. We stopped at the Creation Museum in Peterburg, Kentucky en route. Oh man…. I think that particular museum deserves its own post….