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Swampwalls Dark matter & the Lumpen Army of Art
By Gregory Sholette
For more than thirty years, a close relation of mine has worked in the shipping and receiving department of a non-unionized factory in Pennsylvania. Early on in his employment, this relative and several of his co-workers spent their work breaks attaching newspaper clippings, snapshots, spent soda cans, industrial debris, trashed food containers and similar bits and pieces to one wall of the plant. After a few years, the accumulated clutter expanded to include the entire wall. They christened this impromptu collage “Swampwall.” The owner of the factory, an aging sole-proprietor in a world of mergers and multinationals, tolerated this workplace diversion until a global corporation bought up the company. Swampwall was swiftly expunged.
This family relation and his fellow workers are high school graduates. They did not attend college; they had never visited an art museum. Notwithstanding the recent popularity of de-skilled slack art and “cluttefuck”—randomly distributed cartoons, sketches, and doodles pinned to white walls; idly piled clumps of ephemera; or manufactured goods spread over gallery floors—their messy, collaborative frieze was not meant to be “art.” It was instead a silent expression of non-productivity that was visible only to those with business in that particular wing of the factory: an uninviting, sweat-soaked warehouse ruled by packing crates, forklifts, and tiers of loading pallets, set far from the tidy cubicles or product showrooms of plant managers.
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