Visual Arts

Portable-On-Demand Art at Discovery Green

What if all the museum directors and curators across the nation came to Houston for a weekend to talk shop? Would they take time to visit Houston's most idiosyncratic museums? When the American Association of Museums comes to Houston next week, will they take time out to see Houston's own Telephone History Museum, the Fire Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Museum of Printing History, the Weather Museum, or the Museum of Funeral History?

On the occasion of the AAM's annual meeting here next week, the Houston Arts Alliance has teamed up with PODS (Portable-on-Demand Storage) to supply a dozen shippable art spaces to a dozen local artists and arts groups to make their own magnificent public statements, called Portable-on-Demand Art (PODA). These works will be on public display at Discovery Green starting May 19, but then will make their way around the city in an attempt to turn museums inside out.

Gabriel Martinez has before now avoided private partnerships in art, instead planting his irregular bus-station benches without much municipal say-so in Brooklyn and Washington, D.C. His proposal to build two dozen benches out of one PODS container was met with enthusiasm by HAA, but the sponsoring company, PODS, wasn't initially as gung-ho. How were we to appreciate their brand if was going to be carved up? Martinez finally got to speak to an executive officer at the company who found the humor and simplicity in his project.

Let's none of us forget that Discovery Green is actually private property, whether or not the park pretends to be a public accommodation. All the public art there, as Martinez reminds us, makes a contest out of public expression and private space. Martinez' contribution is to explode at least one attempt to contain art.

The benches provide accommodations for the other PODS at the park. For example, visitors may sit comfortably before Lynne McCabe's immersive video experience, featuring interviews in the homes of recent immigrants to Houston. Each subject shows off and explains a personal object of sentimental or cultural value. In this project, McCabe is continuing a longstanding interest in the intersections between the public and the domestic, bringing all our hidden labors into the open. She is planning a swap-meet at her PODS in which you can bring the box of things you never unpacked from your last move - to be traded sight-unseen for another such box.

The Joanna, still emerging and as yet untested among this field of entrants, will host a PODS in which visitors may record their own "PODScasts", but more likely where they can attend a busy schedule of talks, receptions, concerts, and at least one crawfish boil.

Box 13 ArtSpace will treat their PODS as an righteous, contained museum exhibition space, as they tend to do with every small container they can find, be it a dumbwaiter, closet, or mini-fridge. For their "Box of Curiosities," they have built out their PODS with vitrines, specimen drawers and dioramas, all in dubious honor of our modern Texas heritage: Belt buckles, space exploration, medical advancements, and slime in the ice machine.

The artists' reception for the PODS show is Thursday, May 19, 6-8 p.m. at Maconda's Grove inDiscovery Green,1500 McKinney Street (with concessions by Saint Arnold and Fusion Taco), and will run through June 5. Thereafter, watch for the PODS to appear in your neighborhood.

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Hank Hancock
Contact: Hank Hancock