The Making of Derek Fordjour: SHELTER
The Making of Derek Fordjour: SHELTER

I’m impressed with that, I was like okay, alright. . . I created these conditions I have to work against, there is some degree of struggle. I’m kind of working on a bumpy terrain that constantly presents challenges that I
have to invent in a moment a solution to. So as I work I can draw, I can paint, I
can tear, working that way is very rooted in the process of, you know, being a
marginalized person in this country. You don’t start off with a clean
slate, you know, you gotta make it something in spite of. I now work in newspaper on canvas and there’s corrugated materials, but I really started that when I was broke. I wanted to work large, I wanted to scale. That moment of resourcefulness, my moment of not having enough, was really
emblematic for a lot of the communities that I hope to represent in my work. The Players project are really a collection of 100 portraits that point to
identification of black and brown male bodies within systems. So I can take maybe a mug shot, a sportsman’s portrait, or a wanted poster, and all
those things can synthesize in my imaginative process of drawing. Each portrait is the exact same size which really invoke trading cards, so these are
works that are very aware that they will move through markets. I wanted to point to auction systems, the commodification of bodies, and how that has functioned
throughout time and contemporaneously as well. And there will be 24 on display at the SHELTER show, this is the largest subset that
we’ve seen publicly yet. So SHELTER, which is a title I’m really excited about,
I wanted to embed the viewer in a narrative and what we’ve been able to do
at the CAM show is to build on that concept and to make a full environment
that’s immersive. I’m really interested in moving bodies through space. My name is Paul Rice, Derek’s friend, I’ve known Derek since 16, we went to high school
together I sort of swim through a lot of waters
of TV and entertainment set design production design, art direction, and now
here we are working together. What I want to try, and let’s just see what we could get away with, is a hanging tarp that partially hangs down. . . I come up with the idea, Paul and I have a conversation, we speak conceptually and then in LA they take it
to a kind of engineering conversation. I like the closeness. See this has that shed feel this right here feels. . . comfy. I knew for SHELTER we wanted to create a rain storm, we wanted to create these conditions that were kind of tenuous and
I wanted you to feel the presence of rain and not merely hear it. This gets more bass, I would go with the tinnier sound. Poor Zack, busted your ass, now we
get to like. . .pick at it. The basic idea is pretty simple, you know, you just want
something to tap the top of it to kind of sound like drops of water. Corrugated steel mounted on a modular steel frame, and we create the noise with all the
solenoids, different sizes, we have some that make like the pitter patter we have others that sort of jiggle these bags of ball bearings and it’s all controlled
with these little microcontrollers and relays. Well so I was thinking maybe like
a jiggling Yeah that’s nice, How do you get that? How do
you make that? But this is the constant right here this is, this is perfect. Oh yeah, it can move throughout? Wow so subtle It just the bags That’s it. That’s it. Alright man this is good, I think we’re there. Well we landed last night, right now
they’re finished with the walls putting up the OSB or the chipboard but then the
corrugated steel on top. So I mean really it’s still at that kind of raw stage,
within, I mean it’s amazing, within three days that space will feel like we’ve
transformed it. That’s cool His work looks so different in real life, so different My name’s Wassan Al-Khudhairi, I’m the chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum st. Louis and the curator who has been working with
Derek Fordjour on the exhibition SHELTER. So when you first gave me all the
latitude and I took it all and asked for more, how did you find this worthy of the risk involved in
executing SHELTER? That’s our job is to like bring it every time, you know every time people come in here I want them to be like, wow oh my god, my mind is blown, what am I experiencing and you are leading that vision and it’s our job to
kind of make it happen. I think we’re gonna do spacers and some lining between this and the painting, and look. . . Did you see? Which is cool but — actually I fabricated that last night — did you really? All of your sense are going to be illuminated, your smell, your body, your movement through the space Parts of the ceiling will be lower, parts will be higher, so you will kind of really feel like you’re enclosed
in a space. So the installation serves as a work of art and then there are
individual works of art that are in the installation, so it’s sort of multiple
layers. These guys are putting together the first
panel, it’s pretty exciting, it’s our biggest ones we’re trying to get as much
as we can in before the dirt comes in. We’ll get it up there with the chain hoist and get it in position and then once we like the way it looks generally, we’ll be
able to set it with the aircraft cable then the chain hoist comes down and we’ll move it on to the next piece. It’s 22,000 pounds of dirt. It’s such a phenomenal change, you’re transported outside of what you would expect a normal art show to be. We are in the final moments, we’ve got to give this gallery over to hanging some paintings. Today, end of the day, everything’s gonna
be up. We got our little water feature going here, sounds starting to happen, you can hear it. Tomorrow by 4 o’clock, come hell or
high water, we’re out of here and it’ll be beautiful. When I had the opportunity to make a
place, thinking about all of the strife that we have right now, about the
movement of people, which people have access and power to move, for which
people is it a problem should they move, SHELTER was at the heart of that notion. I wanted you to enter a space that had some looming uncertainty. And when you take away all the white of the canvas, you can go into some other dimension and that was a space in which I wanted you to experience my paintings and my work.

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