Into the ground @ Socrates Sculpture Park (2018-19)

Joe Riley & Audrey Snyder’s collaborative sculpture, Into the ground, reflects on how urban ecologies uptake and transform contaminants, and how collective bodies realize agency through ground-up organizing. A rust-dyed cover, created through participatory workshops over the summer, shrouds a car-shaped steel armature, engaging with Socrates Sculpture Park’s history of transformation from landfill to public park. Into the ground calls on visibility and invisibility of discarded objecthood: is it an abandoned vehicle or a public monument? A rusted relic or a deliberate composition? A landfill or a park?

Against the backdrop of rising sea levels and political turmoil, our proposal Into the ground registers the complexity of recognizing and responding to ecological and geopolitical shifts around us. The work poses traces of waste, rendered invisible to the eye and conscience by dislocation, as negative commons. If we can hold land, shared resources, and public services in common, then we must also simultaneously hold shared contradictions and violence. Ecological ruin, waste disposal, and toxic debt are examples of money-losing residues which can be re-framed as common strategy for undermining the logic and relations of capitalism.

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Into the ground is part of the 2018-19 Socrates Annual. Each year Socrates presents an exhibition of new commissions made by artists awarded the Park’s Emerging Artist Fellowship. Conceived for the landscape and produced on-site in our outdoor studio over the course of the summer, these pieces respond to the Park’s unique history, landscape, and community. The Socrates Annual, 2018 exhibition does not adhere to a specific theme but rather presents the diversity of processes, material approaches, and subjects that comprise the most compelling public art practice today.

The installation consists of the likeness of a parked, covered car. The shape of the car is formed steel tubing frame covered with fitted canvas, somewhere between a tent and discarded structure. The steel tube frame is welded, joined with custom hardware, and anchored to the ground with poured concrete footings. The materials are durable and meant to withstand summer heat, curious visitors, and inclement weather.

The armature is covered with a canvas exterior sewn and dyed by the artists. This “cover” is a permeable canvas membrane dyed with a saltwater solution of materials recovered during the fieldwork component of the project. Fieldwork consists of collecting onsite metal scrap & soil from Socrates, nearby scrap yards, waste transfer stations, and displaced automotive repair shops around Long Island City and Queens, and other nearby sites rendered toxic or invisible by development, landfill, or industrial waste.