18 SEPTEMBER - 26 OCTOBER 2003
Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua talk about the installation:
How would you describe Fort Discomfort?
Jesse: The piece operates on many levels; it is a fiction that can be experienced with a sense of nostalgia, historical relevance, independence, and immediacy. It is an opportunity to play the revolutionary, the freedom fighter, the pioneer, a place where hierarchies shift as do time periods and realities.
Matt: Behind these walls the outside world fades. You’re the Maker and Defender. If people who pass by think the fort looks like junk, never suspecting the treasures concealed inside the walls, your fort has succeeded.
Where was the “original” Fort Discomfort located?
Jesse: Every fortress, barricade, gated community, metal detector is Fort Discomfort. Strains of xenophobia - from the INS to the Branch Davidians; from the “Christian patriots” to the art world; from project housing to the Patriot Act - this is Fort Discomfort.
Matt: Fort Discomfort is created over and over; the exact same reasons were given for the last Iraq invasion as for this one.
Do you find and use material off the street?
Jesse: We don’t limit ourselves to found objects. We like to use whatever works or doesn’t work, whatever is available at the moment. We manipulate all the materials we find, buy, or borrow.
Matt: We admire a chef who can shop at the cheapest grocery store yet still make a tasty dish. Materials off the street carry with them much more history and energy.
Does The Re-creation of Fort Discomfort comment on contemporary American culture?
Jesse: Sure. America and Americans seem to enjoy re-creating cities, wars, historical moments, fashion trends. We re-create so we don’t forget, but in this process we distort, manipulate, drastically alter, and redesign. It could be interesting if we as individuals re-created ourselves more often. Instead we just forget. We look to postcards, photo albums, corporations and the media. We are like tourists with Alzheimer’s …
Matt: Building a fort is a more universal experience than just America. As with American history, people move onto land, take it over, and then build up a protective structure in the hope that those whose land it was are too severely weakened to try and reclaim it.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Jesse Bercowetz was raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Matt Bua was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina. In 1997, Bercowetz and Bua began their professional collaboration while employed at a fine arts trucking company. Their collaborative projects/performances often involve teams of artists or rely on the participation of volunteers including Clubhouse, 2003, Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, New York; Truck Drawing in Street Selections, 2003, The Drawing Center, New York; and Sweatshop in Exit Biennial: The Reconstruction, 2003, Exit Art, New York. Bercowetz and Bua were selected for the Artists Studio Program at Smack Mellon Studios, Brooklyn, New York, where currently they are in residence.