This show began one day when a very rare space opened up while I was cleaning my house. I was using a shitty old green vacuum and noticed it wasn’t picking anything up and, out of banal frustration, I instinctively blurted out “this vacuum sucks!” I then stopped for a moment to reconsider this statement: if it didn’t suck, it wouldn’t be a vacuum. In other words, performing the function of ‘sucking’ is precisely what creates its identity, yet if it doesn’t work properly, it still possesses and maintains this same identity – it sucks! There is (apparently) only one way it can be.
As one negotiates the presence of a vacuum, therefore, one is up against a dictatorial feedback loop in which, by intrinsically logical necessity, there is but one possible outcome, one way of being and feeling the presence of ‘it’. This somehow seems inordinately unsatisfactory. For the purposes of this exhibition, I wanted to understand why this is the case, and determine if, perhaps, there might be another way out of this state of affairs – a different way in which the vacuum could ‘work’ and be experienced.
That being said half an inch above, it seemed the best way to ‘figure’ this out was to set up a situation in which a figure enters the vacuum, is sucked-in, so to speak, and in being so also contractually accepts the terms necessitated by the feedback loop that her or his body also literally be sucked-out. By depicting a figure that is both in the vacuum – as a hole, a shadow, a warped reflection, or an abstraction – yet also literally and entirely removed from ‘it’, one might have an appropriate model by which to represent life in this previously unknown space, one in which ‘space’ (its self [sic]) has literally been ‘taken out’. In this process of producing simultaneous presence and absence, maybe it could be possible to inhabit a newly space-less ground zero of sorts, wherein the vacuum’s categorically enforced, sadistically singular rule of being is momentarily suspended, so that something else could happen… and everyone has a vacuum, which they routinely use to prepare and maintain the ground below.
Your Vacuum Sucks is an ever-expanding vacuum of paintings, drawings, and a single channel video produced in collaboration with Alexandra Lerman, which was inaugurally plugged in at What Pipeline in Detroit (September 2014), then moved on to New Delhi, India, at GallerySKE (October 2014), before landing in New York at Miguel Abreu Gallery. With each iteration the vacuum has accumulated more and more material inside its (body) – an eminently space-less place – which, whether it ‘works’ or not, most certainly sucks… because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a vacuum.
— Pieter Schoolwerth