Note from the Editor: For this issue we are highlighting Indianapolis artists who are working unbound by traditional art mediums and display spaces. This segment of The Indianapolis Review specifically focuses on artists working in the context of this city’s art scene. A few months ago, the Central Indiana Foundation in partnership with the Simon Family Foundation put out a call of proposals for their creative risk grant, to encourage artists to take risks and experiment with their creative practice. Right now, Indianapolis seems hungry for projects that expect much of the viewer-so this issue is timely. I hope you enjoy reading, seeing, and listening to Bryn and Brent as they dive deep into their divergent artistic practices through Eastside Indy’s ephemeral art, 2 pancakes and coffee, Brooklyn’s dance music scene, and sites of anti-colonial resistance.
–Nasreen Khan, Art Editor
Brent Aldrich has worked in the arts, education, and community development in Indianapolis for the last decade, with an emphasis on projects that are place-based and relational. A practicing artist, Aldrich holds an MFA from the Herron School of Art and Design, and his work has recently appeared in Art Shanty Projects in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and Installation Nation at the Indianapolis Art Center.Aldrich’s art practice includes projects that are place-based and relational, such as recreating the full menu from a defunct neighborhood diner, hosting a sci-fi book club and podcast set 900 years in the future, or hosting a bicycle-based talk show.
Interview by, Nasreen Khan: I sat down with Brent Aldrich at a picnic table outside Tlaoli restaurant on E. Washington street and devoured some vegan birria tacos while we talked about site-specific installations, garden observations ; whether snakes spring fully formed from the earth, are cloacaed out, or hatched from shells; speculations on quantum theory; and how to explain the condition of being human through ephemeral art. The full audio interview is below, and time stamped questions are under the embedded video.
Brent Aldrich Interview:
NK-Tell me your name a little bit about your history and how you would describe the art that you make.
NK-Who is participating? How do you choose the sites?
NK-Give me an example of a participatory site specific installation that you have made or feel deeply about.
NK-This is specific commission. With your kind of installations they are just things that are on your heart and mind and then you create it. Oftentimes people think of art as “I create this thing for an audience to consume. With your kind of installations you don’t have a gallery show or printer or… so who consumes what you create? And if no one consumes it….
BK-Does it exist?
NK–yeah (laughter) can you talk about that relationship
NK-are you the main consumer of your work?
NK-So if you are the main consumer of your work and you’re talking to someone in an elevator about why they should care about your artistic practice, what do you say to them?
BA- it’s a hard sell….
NK-as you’re talking, what comes to mind is that the spaces where I see the most ephemeral art or kind of experiential art seems to be religious spaces– like sand mandalas or griefs that are burned collectively—but what you are talking about is separate from organized religion but trying to get at the same thing which is “how do you explain the condition of being human?”
NK- For me the language of the sacred is kind of second nature but when you’re trying to talk about your experience of being human, how does that help you understand the experience of other people’s humanity?
BA-this was a problem in my grad program, everything I was doing was temporary and in public places
NK—how do they grade that?
BA-at that point in time I was going every single Wednesday to the steer inn for breakfast…. And at one point they had a wall of plaques and I noticed that there was one open nail there with nothing on it so I made a plaque that had my breakfast usual order on it that said “2 pancakes and coffee is a pretty good breakfast” and hung it.
NK-That is such a speculative climax because the best part of that installation for me is imagining the person who had to take that down and in your words “reckon with this receipt” and so the experience of me hearing this from you secondhand is joyful because I get to speculate about this person taking it down and what they might have thought because every time I think about it its going to be a different thing. Did someone take it down and go “wow that’s really cool”, did they take it down and throw it immediately in the trash , did it get taken to goodwill? And then imaging the plaque on its journey in the world or in the landfill…
BA—yeah its just part of the world at this point
NK—I can see how explaining that to someone in an elevator is really hard
NK-So kind of the million dollar question is how does one make money off this kind of art?
NK-so we are in Indianapolis, obviously this is the Indy Review, so I am interested in how this city impacts your work
BA—I really do think my work would be really different if I was from somewhere else….
NK-It sounds like you just kind of live your life and opportunities for art present themselves, but are there some themes that really mean something to you or seem to be recurring in your work?
Brent and I walked and talked in the alleys near his apartment and he introduced me to some of his art directly surrounding his home. ⬇️