The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

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May 1, 2016 to February 5, 2017 | Leir Gallery, Leir Atrium, Screening Room, Sculpture Garden

David Brooks: Continuous Service Altered Daily

Continuous Service Altered Daily is a site-engaged sculptural array, or, as David Brooks refers to it, an “asteroid field without a distinctive beginning or end.” Brooks has disemboweled a beacon of agricultural technology, a 1976 John Deere 3300 series combine harvester, into hundreds of individual components, ranging from the iconic and specific to the common and standard. He has arranged every part, with not a single piece excluded, in an ambling procession that begins in the Museum’s front plaza, winds through the Atrium, front first-floor galleries, the inner courtyard, and ends in the Sculpture Garden. The project is understood as one continuous action that is expressed in a myriad of sculptural moments. From the macro to the micro, Brooks’s installation concurrently zooms in and out of view, wedging us inside the far off and the up close.

Brooks’s method of presentation offers the machine’s shell and innards in varying degrees of material transformation: 1) in its weathered condition, but with its trademark John Deere green still visible; 2) sandblasted to remove all evidence of wear and tear, returning the object back to its material origin; 3) brass plated; 4) powder coated, elevating the individualized status of the pieces as precious objects. Brooks uses the distinctive form and function of the disassembled combine analogously, allowing it to mirror the philosophical impasse at which we find ourselves as our hyperkinetic era faces an escalating ecological crisis.

The installation stages a metaphor. A combine harvester provides a quantifiable service: it reaps crops like grain and corn. Its individual elements and multitudinous functions are impossible to observe underneath its heavy metal shell, defying any one person’s perceptual capacity. Through an elaborate mechanization of moving parts it produces a product. Similarly, an ecosystem, representing a complex set of organisms and their environment functioning together, serves a life-sustaining purpose (clean air, food, energy, and filtered water) and is mistakenly likened to a mechanized instrument. Its interconnection to its natural environs and the greater planet is not only invisible, but promulgates a mistaken perception that these functions can be reduced to mere “services” available in perpetuity. Brooks makes a compelling visual correspondence here. He has chosen to group the machine parts into nine zones that represent nine ecosystem services that occur continuously in our biosphere and upon which we rely daily: water purification, pollination, disease regulation, decomposition, air purification, habitat formation, photosynthesis (primary production), ornamental resources, and erosion and flood control.

Continuous Service Altered Daily ultimately attempts to channel evolutionary time. A 1976 John Deere combine is a symbol of nineteenth-century innovation updated in a twentieth-century model. Brooks captures this progression through four stages of presentation, and thus likens it to the processes of interconnected life forms themselves. The wear and tear over its forty-year existence is self-evident in a rusty green corn head (past). The machine is then stripped of its lived history as its age is sandblasted away (present). Shiny objects with a fetish finish are re-presented as ornaments or modernist tabletop sculptures (future). But this is a temporal arrangement, one that marks time and space by compressing it within a schematic system that is itself impermanent.

- Amy Smith-Stewart, curator

David Brooks was born in 1975 in Brazil, Indiana; he lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Generous support for David Brooks: Continuous Service Altered Daily is provided by Brad and Sunny Goldberg.