By Lauren Gilger
Following is a full transcript of the piece:
Lauren Gilger: Imagine Arizona’s dystopian future. In it, you can wander through gardens of mutant cacti, visit Trash Mountain National Park and gaze at a beautiful plastic sunset. That’s the sharp take artists Sarah Hurwitz and Daniel Funkhouser adopt in their new exhibition, “Futureland, Arizona: An Art Show,” which opens today at Chandler’s Vision Gallery. I went to the gallery yesterday to get a sneak peek at the show and the two artists walked me through Arizona’s sci-fi future. We begin at a neon sign that marks the entrance. “Welcome to Futureland, Arizona,” it reads.
Daniel Funkhouser: We both discussed having some kind of big light-up sign, something that was reminiscent of Las Vegas and Sarah made that neon, ordered it, and I added this arrow around it.
Sarah Hurwitz: And I think we were both sort of thinking of the giant Chevrolet sign on Camelback sort of, you know, bringing it to the past of future. There’s definitely some flashing lights involved that I can see [are] reminiscent. And it says “Welcome to Futureland, Arizona,” and that’s the name of the show, obviously.
LG: So how did the two of you, collaborating for the first time here, come up with this idea?
DF: So I wanted to do something science fiction based, something kind of post-apocalyptic, and Sarah was completely on-board, and so our basic understanding was some kind of future Arizona, and Sarah wanted to have this “Trash Mountain” idea which I loved. And we came together and made all of these beautiful cacti.
LG: Alright, so let’s keep on going. So that’s the first piece, where do we head next?
DF: So we’ve got this kind of toxic waste garden right here with, like, weird flowers and these like fluorescent dayglow cacti. A bunch of different materials, that’s something that Sarah and I both work really well together with. We like to use as many different materials, trash or found objects, as possible.
LG: Yeah, it looks like it, so tell us a little sampling of what’s involved in this part of the exhibition right here. I can see – are those pipe cleaners?
SH: (laughs) Those are my son’s pipe cleaners, I also cut up some- my brother went to Japan and he bought some fancy Kit-Kats, so I cut up some Japanese Kit-Kat packaging, Daniel has some recycled plastic.
DF: So that’s like core plastics mostly used for sign material, but I laser cut it into those cacti forms. And I use the laser cutter a lot, so that’s a lot of … acrylic or plexiglass that’s been cut into those flowers, into the stars.
LG: You both tackled a lot of these pieces it sounds like and there are so many pieces of just this one part of this. How do you envision something like this ahead of time? Did you draw it out- did you sketch it out, or does this sort of organically come together?
DF: The latter, so organically, so we maybe have a general idea of where we want everything, like we took a look at the gallery layout, but we both really liked to let the process guide where we go, so we made a whole bunch of stuff we bounced ideas off each other and then we came into the space and started arranging together.
LG: And then there’s also a field guide over here – as you go through you can follow the field guide?
SH: Yeah, you can find the cactuses and learn more about them and their uses and how they mutated into what they are today.
DF: Sarah did all of these drawings of all the stuff that we made and – for instance these weird flowers she called the Mirrored Snake Plant became “Birdkiller.”
SH: Yeah, Birdkiller is right. (Laughs)
LG: So birds run into them, and they die? (Laughs) What else is on here?
SH: The melty cactuses here –
LG: “Red Melted Prickly Pear,” it says.
SH: – Oozing from, you know, toxic waste exposure. There’s another one that’s called the “Phoenix Cactus,” its spines are made with matches, so it’s hard to spot in the cactus garden, because it bursts into flames occasionally and then turns to ashes and then regrows.
LG: (Laughing) Alright so we have to see this Trash Mountain then. And so it looks like you’ve got the large Trash Mountain itself, but there’s also a national park sign for it? It’s Trash Mountain National Recreation area?
SH: It wasn’t meant to coincide with the current shutdown of park maintenance, but it just happened to do that, so –
LG: It says “The US Waste Department, enter at your own risk.”
SH: I mean, that was kind of the idea that our natural habitats would either be beautiful plants or the rest of our garbage, and maybe a little bit of both, I guess.
DF: I added these clouds, Sarah did most of Trash Mountain, but I added these clouds and, like, labeled them clouds, just – a lot of my work in particular looks like toys, (laughs) I like labeling things or making things simple.
LG: What’s on this wall?
SH: I’m calling it “A Plastic Sunset,” so basically it’s sort of like an abstracted sunset made entirely out of single-use plastics, or my representation I guess of single-use plastics, they’re printed transparencies.
LG: Looks like grocery bags and water bottles and take-out cartons. So, where in the work that you’re both doing here, and in this particular exhibition especially, do you see the humor kind of melding with the real, kind of serious message that you’re getting at?
SH: I mean, I think we need to do more than just be aware of it, I’m not, like, lecturing other people about it but we definitely want them to take sort of responsibility to our contribution of single-use plastics, or how many toothbrushes we use, because I think I stuck, like, thirty on Trash Mountain, so.
DF: I mean, Sarah is right, we’re aware of how much we use, ourselves, and so being kind of cognizant about it is important.
SH: We’re not trying to shame anyone, but it’s just definitely something I guess that’s part of my everyday life now, like how much trash I make, and how much trash other people make, and I just have to be aware of that.
LG: Why humor? Why go about it this way that does make you chuckle and that’s super extreme and a little bit silly?
DF: I mean, like for both of us we love fun, like for me I don’t understand the point unless it’s fun. Especially with art, so our art’s always been humorous, which is another reason that we wanted to come together to make something.
SH: But I mean it’s still beautiful in its own way, and I didn’t want it to be like it is just really depressing, like there’s still things to see and do.
DF: And a positive take is life goes on, like these are all things that are living within whatever’s happened.
LG: So a little less Mad Max and a little more Beetlejuice? More fun?
DF: Yeah, definitely! Absolutely.
LG: Alright, thank you both for having me on, I appreciate it.
SH: Thank you!
DF: Thank you very much.
LG: That’s my conversation with artists Sarah Hurwitz and Daniel Funkhouser of Chandler’s Vision Gallery. Their new exhibition “Futureland, Arizona: An Art Show” opens today.
Listen to the full piece at KJZZ.org