Everything must go — and you should too

Running through Thursday, April 26, Future Tenant’s Everything Must Go exhibit features the work of six second-year Master of Fine Arts candidates from Carnegie Mellon. Though the title might sound more like a closeout sale than a gallery exhibition, Everything Must Go is something else entirely. The translation is literal; everything must go (i.e. function), and the visitor is the one that has to make that happen.

For an installation called “Lost broadcast,” MFA student Eileen Maxson placed a podium full of microphones in one of the windows at the front of the gallery. Visitors are invited to step right up; when they speak, they are effectively addressing the street. This setup presents a contradiction: Though the speakers are in plain view of the public, they are silenced by the glass window.

Behind the speaker hangs a bright blue curtain, making the setup look real — almost. If you’re looking at the podium from any angle besides head-on, you can see past the curtain and into the gallery, and the artifice is revealed. The effect is intentional, Maxson explained, and in line with the Everything Must Go mentality that in order for things to go, you have to first see how they work.

Once inside the Future Tenant gallery, it’s hard to miss the open black umbrella — hopefully spinning, but that all depends on visitor involvement. The umbrella is part of a piece called “Stormy Weather: Nomadic Experiment #2” by MFA student Ally Reeves. “I try to make things that get me talking to people,” said Reeves. And that’s exactly what “Stormy Weather” does; throughout the opening, Reeves fielded questions from visitors: “What do I turn? Where do I look? Is that part from the inside of a music box?”

“Stormy Weather” is art on wheels, vaguely resembling a street cart — Reeves even built in a cup for donations. (A man with an accordion alongside a dancing monkey would not seem out of place.) Moreover, the piece is meant to travel, and Reeves plans to take it out to Schenley Park in the future. “So far, it’s only crossed the street,” she joked, explaining that “Stormy Weather” is only a couple of weeks old. At the front of Reeves’s piece are two eyeholes, which give access to a two-dimensional landscape inside of the cart. As the crank turns, the umbrella spins, the bells ring, and the interior landscape also animates, creating an effect akin to The Science of Sleep, a film Reeves cited as an inspiration for her work.

Over the chimes of Reeves’s “Stormy Weather,” you can hear thunder and rain — either that, or metal sheets and grains of rice. “A Storm At Sea,” by fellow MFA student Ben Kinsley, implores visitors to animate a scene and create its sound effects. “Come on, I need your help! You!” Kinsley shouted from behind a partially drawn curtain in the back of the room. Here, visitors turned cranks, sifted rice out of a colander, and flapped thunder sheets to create a tempestuous ocean scene, which was projected on a screen on the other side of the curtain.

“I was doing these live videos with little props ... and I really wanted to add sound to it,” Kinsley said. For “A Storm At Sea,” he researched the techniques used by old radio shows to create the same effect.

Slightly less demanding of the visitor was MFA student Michelle Fried’s “Ulceration,” a video project starring herself — and her stomach. “It’s about a reoccurring stomach problem,” Fried said. In its whimsical, exploratory style, “Ulceration” is something like a cross between Being John Malkovich and an episode of The Magic School Bus. Fried, suffering from an ulcer, ventures inside of her stomach, where she discovers — and destroys — the offending ulcer. Shots of “Ulceration” also include the stomach personified, which Fried constructed out of papier-mâché.

In its final moments, the ulcer blasts off the screen in the form of a comet, which Fried described as a personal symbol. On a deeper level, she said, “Ulceration” is about “finding the root of a problem.”

Everything Must Go had its official opening last Friday evening to coincide with a gallery crawl in the Cultural District. About 1800 Pittsburghers visited Future Tenant during its four-hour opening, according to co-director Abigail Santner. “We obviously love the crawls,” said Santner.

Santner is an arts management student, part of a interdisciplinary program between the Heinz School and CFA. Since 2002, arts management students from Carnegie Mellon have been running Future Tenant year-round. “[Future Tenant] is a really amazing place for our program as arts managers,” Santner said. “We’re a multi use space.”

The gallery has hosted installations, performance art, one-act plays, and even a hockey game (sans ice) back when the NHL was on strike. “For art students to put on a hockey game is pretty unusual, but people seemed to enjoy it,” said Jerry Coltin, director of the arts management program. Future Tenant has a distinctly unfinished interior (bare ceiling, concrete floor, and walls halfway between plaster and brick). “When we saw it, it was a lot worse than it is now,” Coltin said. “There aren’t too many spaces like it around.”

However, in a couple of weeks, 801 Liberty Avenue may soon begin to blend into its surroundings. According to Coltin, Future Tenant is in for a move. Coltin is unsure of the gallery’s upcoming location, though he suspects it will be within a few blocks of where it is now. A coffeehouse will most likely take Future Tenant’s place on Liberty, Coltin said. “It really is a pretty resilient space,” he said. “Over time, I think we grew to love it.” But, like the exhibit says, everything must go!