If It Ain’t Broke – Katherine’s Table, 2010

If It Ain’t Broke_web1If It Ain’t Broke – Katherine’s Table, 2010
Igloo Gallery, Portland, OR and Tufts University Gallery, Boston, MA

In May, 2010 we conducted the first round of conversations introducing the now ongoing project entitled, “If It Ain’t Broke.” This phase of the project was to consult with three owners of “broken” things. Together, with the object’s owner, we considered the object’s function, social and physical context, history, intention, material qualities, etc. This in order to diagnose its condition and work to determine the appropriate “repairs.” If It Ain’t Broke undertakes a kind of watchfulness, that in a moment of rupture and vulnerability, an object might reveal itself and the world around it in a new light.

Katherine Ball was the owner of a broken table. In the spring of 2010, the Social Practice program at Portland State University invited Mark Dion as a faculty/artist-in-residence. Katherine volunteered a couple of tables from her gallery, SEA change, for a welcome meal and in their haste, the students failed to adequately secure them and the table in question was thrown out of the back of a moving pickup truck suffering heavy damages. The table’s act of flying out of the truck immediately altered its status from purely functional, to metaphoric and artifactual. The table has become, because we have all chosen to make it so, a central figure in a web of associations. We are interested in the way that Mark Dion’s work coincidentally approaches material culture, as a repository of varied social histories, forms of classification and taxonomy, and means of social stratification, not-to-mention the coincidence of his presence being the motivating force behind the table’s use and subsequent retirement.

It came to our attention that J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion were producing an installation entitled “Renovating Walden,” and the need for a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s writing desk that is currently collected by the Concord Museum. We were struck by the visual relationship between these two pieces of furniture, and the recognition of how easily it might be that this table be transformed into our coveted desk. In exchange for his replica, made entirely from the material of Katherine’s Table, Puett and Dion gifted Katherine a summer’s residency at Mildred’s Lane.