A guestbook in the University of Indianapolis’ Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Gallery, lets people sign and leave comments when they come to visit the latest exhibit. There are two pages of names and comments for “Deconstructions,” the exhibit that opened on Aug. 29 and will close on Sept. 30. A recent comment in that guestbook says, “What does it all mean?”
“Deconstructions: New Work by Michal Lile,” features 12 objects that have all been taken apart by UIndy alumnus Michal Lile. For example, one object is a typewriter that has been broken down to the keys and gears and the casing. There is also a shirt that has had the sleeves, collar, buttons and other sections of it pulled apart and put into bags, that are mounted on the wall. To the human eye, the exhibit is a room full of objects that have been taken apart.
“But what does it all mean?” the guestbook asks.
“This body of work is … first and foremost, about loss,” Lile said. “How can it not be? Because the object is being destroyed, essentially…. They are being dismantled, destroyed–I prefer the word deconstructed–but all of that is happening, and it is fundamentally about loss.”
The titles of the 12 pieces reveal the story behind the project. Lile said that while the titles give the impression of a “teenage
relationship gone bad,” the work is not based on a personal relationship that he had, or even just a romantic relationship. The work has a social and political message as well and also represents any relationship that anyone has with something, Lile said.
“We have relationships with our government, with society, with our jobs, with our pets,” Lile said. “Not that you break up with your pet, but you can lose one. And so I would say that the series explores loss in general more than a relationship in particular.”
The deconstructed shirt is titled “There Are Days When I Don’t Even Think About You” while the paintbrush is titled “And If I Could Draw I Would Capture It for You.” Along the wall of the gallery, the next piece is hangers, pulled apart and flattened to a metal line. This piece is titled “At Least We (Sorta) Tried.” The piece after that is the typewriter, which is titled “They Don’t Make Relationships Like They Used To.”
A Schwinn Traveler bicycle is the next deconstructed object, titled “Your Full Speed/No Brakes Autobiography Is Pure Fiction.” This is followed by a deconstructed toolbox titled “I Hope I Was Your Favorite Project.” The next piece on the wall is not a physical object, but a poem.
Words are pasted to the wall while others are scattered on the floor in a pile. This deconstructed poem is titled “She Loves Me.” A deconstructed clarinet, the next piece on the wall is titled “The Sound of You Slamming the Door.” The last piece is another deconstructed poem, titled “She Loves Me Not.”
In the middle of the gallery is a deconstructed bed, which includes the bed frame, the mattress cover, staples and other parts of a bed. This piece is titled “If I Ever Told You I Missed You, I Was Lying.” Next to it is a deconstructed ladder and jar titled “That Time We Walked Through IKEA Backwards.” The final piece in the middle of the gallery is a vintage copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions.” It is placed on a podium, open, and several pages have been torn out and dropped to the floor. This piece is titled “The Cheerio Kid Strikes Again” and comes with instructions. The instructions say that visitors can rip out a page of the book and can do it as often as they want. They also can take the pages home, hang them up and post pictures of that to Instagram with the hashtag #lilehqbooks.
Each of the 12 pieces also has a QR code with it, which according to the accompanying description would “allow you to connect to a series of images related to the deconstructed piece you are viewing.” Lile said that the QR codes lead to his website, which documents the steps by which the works were deconstructed.
“His work was really cool,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Design James Viewegh. “I think it offers a really interesting viewpoint to our students. It’s different from things we normally have, so anytime we can showcase artwork that brings a different point of
view, a different way of looking, to the students, [that] is really great.”
According to Viewegh, Lile is a UIndy alumn and was a student of Viewegh’s. Viewegh said that Gallery Coordinator Mark Ruschman proposed the idea to show Lile’s work, and Viewegh thought it was a “natural fit.”
Lile said that the bed was the first object he took apart, and when choosing pieces for this exhibit he had a set of criteria each had to meet. Ideally, the object could be taken apart in nine to 15 steps, and it had to be something that he cared about. For example, the dress shirt was his favorite, and the typewriter was the typewriter he used from his freshman year to his senior year at Purdue University when pursuing his undergraduate degree.
“First and foremost, they were objects that were actually mine, that were important to me. So I wanted to take things apart that felt wrong to take apart, because it’s not loss if you don’t really care,” Lile said. “A relationship that you don’t want, that’s not even loss…. Or if you don’t like your job, and you just got fired, that’s not actually loss. It’s loss if you actually loved your job. … You love your country, and things seem to not be going well.”
Not only did the objects have to have importance to Lile, but he said they also had to be visually appealing once they were destroyed. He then got the idea of sharing photos of the objects as they were being deconstructed on Instagram.
Viewegh said that he hopes visitors see that there was careful preparation in Lile’s artwork and that that kind of thinking is necessary in all art, no matter the medium.
“It’s not just like he [Lile] sat there and took a hammer to the typewriter and smashed it all to pieces, threw it on the floor and said, ‘Oh, there’s my art!’” Viewegh said. “He thought about the process because he recorded the process of how they came about. And he was very deliberate about how he laid out those pieces. It wasn’t just like he had some kind of angst and destroyed the pieces and just threw it [all] on the floor…. He thought methodically about what he was going to do and how he was going to do it.”
Lile said that he hopes visitors will connect to the pieces and that their experiences will make them interpret the work in their own way.
“I would certainly hope they will enjoy it,” Lile said. “I hope they are challenged by it, at least a little bit or at first…. [I hope] they can connect with it in a way that feels profound and in a way that feels like an intellectual hug.”
The next exhibit in the gallery will be “The Breaks: Lobyn Hamilton,” which according to Viewegh will be concept art as well. The exhibit opens on Oct. 10. The reception will be at 4 p.m., and the exhibit will be open to visitors free of charge from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.