“Chairs are not just chairs when they’re broken into components and reassembled,” Wes Janz tells me as we watch a group of students and faculty breaking down steel frame chairs to reassemble them into sculpture. Janz, a professor of architecture at Ball State University, is leading a found object workshop at the Herron School of Art & Design on this Friday morning. Later in the day, he'll opening the doors to Couched Constructions, a show he curated featuring artwork made of repurposed couches.
The name of the game this morning is to turn items purchased from Goodwill into structural objects. I sit down with a group of five working with a pile of furniture — steel frame office chairs, lawn chairs and wooden stools, not to mention a plentiful supply of twist ties.
This crew is largely from Ball State. There's Andrea Swartz, a professor of architecture; Michael Gastineau, a third-year student; Julie Musial, a career-change student in interior design, Paul Reynolds, in his sixth year. Sherry Gruber, a community artist, is the only one who didn't drive from Muncie.
With its stem made out of broken-down chair steel and aluminum frame components and a crown of lawn chairs, one structure takes on a flower-like structure. Alternate names for the structure are proposed: "Material Dialogue,” “Flower Dialogue,” and “Make it a Dialogue.” A Disney Princess chair is soon added to the mix, and “Princess Dialogue” becomes the working title.
Then the group starts in on the wood stools, assembling the leg structures into a sculpture that quickly comes to resemble half of an arched bridge. The steel-based and wood based sculptures are then brought into proximity with one another. The team puts an umbrella between the two, bridging the gap between the half-bridge and the "Princess Dialogue."
Presto — the two bridges are in dialogue, meta-dialogue, maybe. Not bad for the fruit of two and a half hours.