Kipp Gallery, part of the IUP Art Department, will present a highly unique exhibit as visiting artist Justin Shull stops at IUP during his national tour with his award-winning traveling art piece, “The Porta-Hedge: Mobile Observation Lab.” The work will be on display on the Oak Grove on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Thursday, December 3, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Shull will present a talk on December 2 at 5:00 p.m. in room G-43, Delaney Hall.
My projects investigate our representation of nature, our cognitive construction of ecologies, and the functional life cycle of material culture, with an expectation that the intersection of these three subjects provides insight into our basic understanding of our place in the world and our actions. Humor and provocation are central to my projects, and public participation in public spaces is often necessary to spark these qualities in the work.
Several recent projects are predicated on the reuse of synthetic plants in the landscape. Within these projects, an evolution develops, beginning with the utilization of the discarded material (i.e., artificial tree, flower, etc.) directly in the landscape, to an upcycling of the material to provide new social functions as a mobile park or a concealed observation laboratory. The trees, parks, lawns, hedges, and bushes that I introduce to the landscape purport to alter the ecology of the space; but the target in these projects could also be described as the social ecologies into which the objects insert themselves.
Like all hedges, the Porta Hedge is a physical barrier that provides a certain amount of privacy in the guise of greenery. Unlike most hedges, the Porta Hedge is mobile, artificial, and accommodates people in its interior Mobile Observation Lab, offering insiders an opportunity to observe what is going on around the Hedge. Built within the “green” paradigm, the Porta Hedge features several eco-conscious design features, including solar power, a small physical footprint (two tires and a swivel jack), recycled Christmas trees on the exterior, living plants and wood finishing on the interior, and the relaxing sound of birdsong audio on the interior and exterior.
This past July and August, a team traveled the country with the Porta Hedge, siting it in landscapes as diverse as Cape Cod and Las Vegas, introducing it to the public, and field testing it. Along the way, the team broke a hedge land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats (90 mph), explored the possibilities of airlifting the Hedge into the Grand Canyon, documented branch thinning, observed Wal-Mart parking lots overnight, and even staked out a Kansas City neighborhood for reported gangs.
Video, photos, and written documentation on the trip can be found at the Porta Hedge website.