A week from today, Walker staff will hold an annual ritual that, for some of us, can be quite scary: the annual staff pumpkin carving contest. The fear comes not from Halloween-related fright but from the competition. Those of us with desk jobs must face off with skilled crafters who daily construct walls, install electrical wiring, use video projectors, or have access to spray booths, digital cameras, photolabs, and spackle–not to mention those who are experts in the theoretical constructs that underpin the art we show.
In past years, concept has trumped carving. Pumpkins often take inspiration from art in our collection (a primer-gray smashed pumpkin that mimics Charles Ray’s wrecked Grand Am, Untitled, or photos of pumpkin-headed archivists posing for the outtakes from Cindy Sherman’s faux film stills) or exhibitions we’ve organized (imagine how Arte Povera translates into a pumpkin). Still others arise from our job functions (the Photo Studio’s stereoscopic pumpkin polaroid camera or an entry from Box Office staffers where an embedded speaker recited answers to the questions most often heard from visitors) or recent events at the Walker (construction-themed pumpkins, mini-golf-related pumpkins, pumpkins that echoed a marketing campaign where “Gourd” became the key word in the headline “Art goes everywhere“). Probably my favorite–sorry, I don’t have a good photo–is a video riffing on David Hammons’ Phat Free, in which the artist is a can-kicking flaneur, only in this version it’s a rapidly deteriorating pumpkin that’s being booted down the street.
In preparation for next Monday’s contest, I post favorites from the past few years, less as documentation for internet readers than as an ominous warning for this year’s participants: Beware, this is what you’ll be up against.
The Registration department’s Dance Floor Pumpkin, created by Dave Bartley, takes its inspiration from Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla’s Charcoal Dance Floor, a drawing of dancers whose images–and identies–blur as visitors pass over it (a critique of globalization, according to the artists).
Phil Docken in Program Services created a pumpkin that took its cue from Robert Gober, fusing the type of sink drain seen in this untitled 1999 photograph (also used in a wall piece in the Walker exhibition of the same year, Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing) with the Walker’s terrazzo gallery floors (as seen in this 1997 Gober piece from the collection, which depicts a chair, a box of Kleenex, and a steelplated drain).
The Design department’s Terra Pumpkin isn’t a Chia pumpkin but an homage to the Terra Chair, featured in the exhibition Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life. A frame of interlocking cardboard is filled with dirt, planted with seeds, and watered to make a chair–or, in this case, a grassy gourd.
Like Brett Smith of the Vistors Services department, who models a pumpkin hardhat (top of page), Docken addresses the Walker’s recently completed expansion through land art, a combination of Spiral Jetty and the excavation of the Walker site.
Coming soon: entries in the 2005 edition….
[Pumpkin photos: Cameron Wittig]