Spring 2003

Artist Project / Suburban Intervention #1

The presence of the provisional

Sergio Muñoz-Sarmiento

“Suburban Intervention” is a cryptic investigation of sculpture, architecture, and property. The main premise of this project is to locate homes in their intermediary stage of construction: the stage where the architectural armature is predominantly wooden studs, concrete foundation, and drywall. A structure is then constructed and installed within the premises (either inside the home or its immediate exterior environment) that to an innocent eye would not seem out of place. For the most part, the works fabricated are, or could become, functional.

The practice of finding suitable construction materials dates back to the mid-1970s when childhood friends and I would—to the chagrin of construction crews—remove both refuse and viable building materials from construction sites (wood, drywall, and insulation) in order to build our own forts and nomadic houses. There were also times (usually weekends) when we would build fragile structures on the sites. Minimal as they may have been, these were the precursors of this project. Secondly, while residing in New York I earned my livelihood by installing exhibitions for a Chelsea gallery. I noticed that much construction and physical alteration of the “permanent” space took place prior to most exhibitions, and that this same construction of faux (yet functional) walls, rooms, and dividers was as important, if not more so, as the actual artwork itself. This seemed quite peculiar in that the provisional armatures built radically changed not only the physical space but also the experience of the space and the experience of the exhibited artwork itself. Seemingly more complicated was the fact that a viewer might enter this space for the first time and never know that the walls, dividers, or rooms were not permanent structures. The viewer would thus retain the experience of the work and space as if it were permanently so. The spectral presence of these structures is the underlying premise of this investigation.

Suburban Intervention #1 was installed in El Paso, Texas, in the summer of 2001. After locating a suitable site under construction I proceeded to acquire building materials—from that same construction site—that would be suitable for “home additions/alteration,” in this case 2x4 wooden studs, plywood, and particle board. With some help, an arch and column structure measuring 60"x36"x64" was built and installed within the property of this site. The arch and column structure was then documented photographically and left in place. The fate of this installation is unknown.

Sergio Muñoz-Sarmiento is an artist and writer currently living in Los Angeles. He is an adjunct professor of art theory and criticism at the University of Southern California.

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