Artist returns to Columbus for installation/video exhibition

“Be A Hero” is an experimental installation/performance art/video piece that brings New York City-based artist Taylor Hawkins home. And not just home in the sense of the 2012 CCAD graduate returning to Columbus. No Place Gallery is Hawkins' former residence, a post-CCAD studio space and haven for a handful of new artists.

“[When a] school gives you a studio … you're privileged to have a space and make the work you want to make,” Hawkins said. “Those of us who had been working near each other … were having lots of conversations [about how] we kind of wanted that to continue. [No Place] let us mobilize and keep that conversation going.”

Eventually, Hawkins left No Place to pursue studies at Columbia University. He's been based in New York for several years now and recently completed his Master of Fine Arts thesis project. Hawkins felt there was much more work he wanted to do that he was unable to complete while finishing his MFA — something that came up in conversation with his friend James McDevitt-Stredney, also one of the early No Place-ers who still lives in the Merion Village space, which he converted into a gallery in 2015-2016.

“I had made a small gallery space back in 2013, but it was short-lived,” McDevitt-Stredney said. “Once people started moving away, pursuing other work or school, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a gallery, and I really wanted to bring good stuff to Columbus from places like L.A., New York, Pittsburgh, Detroit — to be part of a larger conversation nationally and internationally.”

And while he purposefully expanded the scope of the gallery, McDevitt-Stredney had in the back of his mind the possibility that some of his former classmates/studio mates might return to show work.

“I didn't want it to be an exclusive thing for former residents,” McDevitt-Stredney said, “but Taylor is doing phenomenal things. He's part of the current conversation as far as installation and [virtual reality] culture that's coming out, not just through gaming but also automation and technology.”

During the April 14 opening, the gallery was painted in chroma-key green, with three costumed performers and additional mannequins and available objects “not typically seen as useful in a gallery setting,” Hawkins said. The event was streamed on Twitch, and internet users and live patrons were invited to, with Hawkins as a conduit, determine the actions and movements of the characters.

“The idea is that these figures are in space, not technically in a space like a gallery, with objects and ephemera you would not associate with a gallery setting, all coming together to see if we could make something you could possibly, ultimately, see in a gallery or institution,” Hawkins said.

The space has also taken on a new form post-opening. In addition to footage of the space Hawkins shot during the April 14 opening, performers also captured first-person video using GoPro cameras. Hawkins then keyed out the green and replaced it with other environments to create a new video work.

“Maybe you're not quite sure what happened [in the space]. It's just this [dystopic] installation,” Hawkins said. “But then, hopefully, you would watch the projection, and you would see this is residue from an action that was performed at the opening.”

McDevitt-Stredney said the video will be played on an iPad in the space through the exhibition's close on May 11.