Years ago, I trekked to Paris on that specific pilgrimage that is unofficially mandatory for all art history geeks. I saw everything I could see, checking off master paintings from an itinerary culled from various introductory Western Art History textbooks. To my surprise, my favorite paintings were the unfinished ones. There was this one Delacroix in particular that depicted lions tumbling around in the desert. Somehow, the quick zips of yellow and red that were so impossibly mouth- like, so suggestive of cat jaws athrust in a guttural roar, were more captivating than any of the finished works.
Fast forward to the present. This is 2nd Floor Rear’s third season. I thought it was about time impose a curatorial scheme. I had grand plans to re-imagine the entire history of alternative creative practices in Chicago. Things didn’t quite work out that way, but really, it’s for the best. We’ve put together a solid lineup of performances, exhibitions, and creative miscellany—each with its own unique conceptual thrust.
So rather than reviving the ghosts of Chicago’s artistic past in any thematic sense, 2nd Floor Rear 2014 inflects this history in practice. We are pleased to bring you a festival that is, like all DIY creative production, scrappy yet self-aware—equal parts humor, conceptual complexity, neighborliness, relevance, and play.
If I had to choose an overall curatorial concept for our third season, it might be what one of my favorite cultural theorists calls “the messiness of lived experience.” *1 We have an exhibition about failed romances, performances that that come and go unannounced, homages to Chicago’s bohemian beginnings, and an exhibition about failed and emerging technologies, featuring Rob Hart, casualty of the Chicago Sun-Times’ mass firings. To this end, 2nd Floor Rear 2014 is less about Chicago then and now than it is about Chicago art practices here and now, inasmuch that the artistic tastes and interests of any given place and time are always an unfolding of the place’s entire creative history. Flux trumps permanence—this is the heart of DIY cultural production. To be scrappy, yet self-aware means embracing the ad hoc as a part of one’s practice; to infold improvisation and makeshift solutions as a means of navigating the complexities of lived experience.
To me, this is suits a city like Chicago. Here we are, experiencing the most brutal winter in three years, and everyone soldiers on, calling dibs on shoveled-out parking spaces, throwing on just one more sweater, and braving single-digit temperatures to go look at art in some goofy, unknown location. And this is precisely what we are inviting you to do. So join us today and tomorrow for the coldest, boldest, and in all likelihood, most unpredictable art hop around.
Director, 2nd Floor Rear
1 Sarah Ahmed, “The Cultural Politics of Emotion”