Thursday, October 10, 2013

Midnight at the House of Balls

Okay...so it wasn't really midnight. But it sounds a lot better than "8:15 at the House of Balls."

Before I start I want to address a few things.
Blog Post Pt. 1
I used to have a blog about art. Then I had a blog about...I don't even know. The petty and boring depression of a twenty-something who can't cope with the daunting task of trying to "figure out" her life after college. Do you blame me? I had to uproot myself from a perfectly happy life and start a new life based on gut feelings and financial capability. It wasn't the most exciting life, but it was mine.

Now, on a daily basis I feel slightly lost, generally exhausted, and sort of lame in comparison to others around me, like I never got an invitation to the "well-adjusted" club.

When I look ahead of me, all I see is hard work, for a very long time. Even if I love the work that I do, I was in love with the other kind of work. The papers and the research. The crits and the homework. I always loved school.

With little to no idea of how to cope with these graduation-inflicted blues, I ranted to Blogger, because Blogger was there. Blogger, which started as a school assignment and grew into something that I became slightly dependent on as a means of processing weekly events. Blogger, which is simultaneously a comfort and a blatant reminder of the failures and successes of the week. Blogger, which I would now like to try and utilize as a document to prove to myself I did something with my life, rather than just complained about my life.

This isn't me saying: "It's time to turn my life around." My life wasn't really that sad or depressing that I had to get to that point. I have an awesome internship that I love, and am surrounded by creative people all day long. It's great. I also have no problem with falling into a lull of depression from time to time. It gives me a reason to keep chocolate in my car. You know, car chocolate. For when you feel sad while driving.

What I am saying is that I would like to write something with provocative content like the blogs I admire [Museum 2.0 and Face Hunter, for example]. So I've been formulating this wacky idea about writing on unique art in a unique way. "Looking for Art in All the Wrong Places" is my attempt to stop feeling lost and confused by devoting my time to writing on all the art in the world that doesn't get as much attention as it should. I'm having a lot of trouble writing this paragraph, because the idea isn't fully formed yet. But the skeleton of the idea is that I will look for art that isn't boring, and then write about it.

Because the real world doesn't have homework assignments. Or spring break. Or reading period. It's just an endless expanse of time in which you have to give yourself exciting things to do.

So last night I went to the House of Balls.

Blog Post Pt. 2
I had originally tried to go to the House of Balls back in July when I wrote this astonishingly whiney post. I couldn't get in, but I just wasn't trying hard enough then.

Last week I contacted the owner, Allen Christian to see if I could do a studio visit. It was easy. He responded, and we set it up.

My curious friend and life-long partner in artistic adventure, Josh, wanted to tag along, so after some brief shopping and some awesome salmon, we made our way over to 3rd Avenue (not to be confused with 3rd Street, as we discovered). The same glow that made me feel a little bit like peeing my pants the first time I visited the studio was still emanating from the door, but this time the door was open.


With a little bit of pee in my bladder, I stepped inside. I think half of me was hoping that Josh and I were going to have a private meeting with Allen Christian in which he, in his infinite knowledge, suddenly revealed to me the meaning of art and cured my artistic existential crisis. So I was a bit disappointed to see other people wandering around the gallery like they were the ones who had called Allen Christian. No hard feelings. We all just ignored each other. 

True to his word, though, Allen was actually present. Perched in the center of all the clutter, he almost blended into his own creations. I greeted him in my typical awkward fashion (I keep telling myself I'm going to get over that someday) and indicated I would like to ask a few questions. However, I was prohibited from doing so because of the Talker that was presently attached to his right hand side. A "Talker" is the word I just made up for someone who comes to these unique art utopias looking for someone to listen to them talk about the kinds of things that they like to make. Because of the circles I surround myself with, I tend to encounter Talkers often. They should be approached with a certain caution. They may be the world's next visionary artist, but they also might just be another lunatic. 

Choosing to ignore the Talker and catch Allen later, Josh and I ventured downstairs, which is not as easy as it sounds. Each time you are done pondering one object in the House of Balls, another appears. I would estimate that I probably only pondered about 40% of what was actually living around the space. The key to success at the House of Balls is to open up your eyes to minute details like these:


On each surface there is the possibility of discovering a new and tiny world. Sometimes there are even actual worlds with tiny things on them.


My recommendation, if you do venture over to HOB: take your time. Or you will end up feeling like the whole experience was a blur.


It is a gallery worth taking slow. Each object is carefully crafted, by Allen himself, from the debris that comes as a result of being the city of Minneapolis. Bowling balls (the namesake of HOB). Old lamps. Toilet seats. Animal bones. Even a bubbler (oh shit, I forgot we're not in Wisconsin anymore).


I think this Bubbler Jesus is a good summation of the entire gallery. Electric. Hot. In a very literal sense. I was sweating [balls] as I moved throughout the space. If nothing else, this gallery forced my body to enact its functions, the antithesis of a sterile art gallery with artificial air conditioning that turns your body to a piece of well-preserved meat. I always say I would rather sweat than freeze.

Overall, do I think my experience at the House of Balls satisfied my appetite for a NO BULLSHIT art feast? I don't think so. I left feeling like I could probably eat some more. But I at least had a very nice snack. Something to munch on for a couple of days rather than barfing it right up like so much of the art I have seen in the past year. I think Allen is awesome for the following reasons:

1. Making art out of recycled material.
2. Being present at his own gallery. Being a human.
3. Talking to me, and reading a blog post that I sent him.
4. Having a gallery in Minneapolis for 19 years.
5. Dropping out of MCAD after one year.
6. Creating an intriguing environment that was alienating, and yet increasingly enticing for those who are curious enough to try and get into it. Yes, it's kind of creepy, and no, I couldn't get in the first time I tried. But the feeling of accomplishment I got by contacting Allen himself to get in was more satisfying than just walking in. What I didn't pay in money I paid in commitment.

My House of Balls visit was the first of many similar visits that I hope to have in the coming months. I have been reading some fascinating material given to me by some super awesome people that I am SO not cool enough to have in my life. How to Look at Outsider Art by Lyle Rexer, and The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon. Completely different subject matter, but somehow they seem to both be pointing me in the same direction.

Everything's connected, anyways.

"In the end, the best way to evaluate outsider art is to look at a great deal of it." -Lyle Rexer

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