Much of contemporary art is motivated by the relational–a position-cum-buzz-word that has grown to frame nearly every studio and post-studio practice. From performance to installation to sculpture to craft, art is reaching its hand out to the viewer in an attempt to create relationships, at once an attempt at articulating a use-value while also making a bid for social relevancy. Peppering these practices is much debate about labor and art, with practices designed to both visualize labor or to celebrate a kind of anti-capitalist leisure. In either case, art is struggling to find its place within the demands of a capitalist market, ostensibly cut off from the promise of other origins via the institutions of the market and the museum.
Zachary Cahill proffers a solution to use-value by his creation of an Orphanage here in Chicago. The Orphanage Project, out of which Cahill’s fall SOLO exhibition arises, looks to examine the position of the ultimate “other”–the mythic Orphan, torn from any root or history and presumably set free to self-author. Cahill’s Orphans are models, “modes of being” that The Orphanage Project wishes to make relatable through its study in human capital and the condition that awaits all. Cahill’s attempt–whether a failure or temporarily on hold–is documented through a series of sketches and a few published conversations. For this exhibition at Threewalls, Cahill reproduces a few elements of this project, granting access to his long-term study.
Circumnavigating the relational through both the formation of the Orphanage and the work done therein, Cahill challenges the idea of relatedness or the lack thereof through perhaps the ideal red herring: the creation of an institution that both houses potential and has the potential to house everything and all.
Zachary Cahill is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been exhibited at the Center for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany (ZKM); Aarhus Kunstbygning in Aarhus, Denmark; DeVos Museum of Art, Marquette, MI; and Gallery 400, Chicago,IL, amongst other. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Visual Culture, the journal RETHINKING MARXISM, Proximity Magazine, and Artforum.com. Currently he is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts & serves as the Open Practice Committee coordinator at the University of Chicago.