A new-ish interview with James Barry about The Mt. Baldy Expedition
July 6, 2011 · Print This Article
On the first floor of Chicago’s MDWY Fair, Hui-min and James Barry installed the boat they’d made together for The Mt. Baldy Expedition. The boat was the result of seven years of collaborative work. It was the first time I saw it, though I remember numerous conversations with both Hui-min Tsen and James Barry over the course of its construction. Suddenly it was tangible, out of water, clean, complete and upright. It sat on a large stand in the sparse warehouse room under high-ceilings, its mast still tied up: the ceilings were not high enough.
On The Mt. Baldy Expedition website, their statement of purpose is as follows:
The Mt. Baldy Expedition is a 21st century voyage of exploration. Inspired by predecessors such as Ferdinand Magellan and Enrique de Malacca, James Barry and Hui-min Tsen have begun a journey of quixotic proportions across the third largest lake of The Great Lakes. Over the course of 2004 to 2006, Mr. Barry and Ms. Tsen are building a sailing dinghy, sailing from Chicago, Illinois, to Mt. Baldy, a sand dune in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore– “the once largest live sand mountain in the world.” Mr. Barry and Ms. Tsen are also conducting a series of educational and performative events throughout 2004 to 2006 culminating in a traveling exhibit and lecture tour to share the findings of the Mt. Baldy Expedition with the world.
And suddenly the boat was real, placed not in a lake or a boat show, but in the middle of an art fair. The project began as a pipe-dream and from its inception, through a countless slog of hours, repetition, collaboration and patience, James and Hui-min managed to—actually—build a functioning boat. To me the project contains in it, the celebtration of amateurs (aslovers), visionaries, and pioneers: traits I see among artists’ biggest contribution. Our world is increasingly and self-knowingly specialized. There are well-trodden roads that define the way things ought to be done. Houses are to be bought, not made. Roads are to be traveled on, not deviated from. Similarly, if you want to be published, you ought to find a publishing house. Under the eaves of those admittedly useful establishments, expectations are defined. It nevertheless useful to remember how things are built, in order to recall how we are in each capable of building our own worlds that can contain their own unique expectations and standards. At least in my artistic community, I am constantly aware of people creating for themselves, building their own communities around spaces and practices—even Bad at Sports, as a site of artistic writing, thought and discussion is a kind of self-generated and generating boat. Very often those projects begin with an amateur’s spirit. The practice of research is integrated with the end result.