MBG Issue #136: Okay Mountain receives 2009 PULSE Prize

Issue # 136

Okay Mountain receives 2009 PULSE Prize

December 7, 2009

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Okay Mountain, Corner Store, 2009. Presented by Arthouse at Pulse Miami. Courtesy Arthouse.

from the editor

Fluent~Collaborative congratulates Austin-based collective Okay Mountain, the winner of the 2009 Pulse Prize for best emerging artist at the fair, where they showed Corner Store, an installation presented by Arthouse at the Jones Center.

Don’t mistake that sculpture outside Okay Mountain’s Corner Store for a garbage can. “We were emptying that sculpture of [Pulse Miami] fairgoers’ trash 30 or 40 times a day,” says Sterling Allen, a member of the Okay Mountain collective. “People kept coming in and trying to purchase bottled water, too. At one point, two women wanted to buy some lottery tickets, until they found out they weren’t really scratch-offs.” The goods in question were art objects. Okay Mountain made or repurposed everything in the store, from canned “Green Things” to “howthefuckyousaythat” chocolate bars.

Despite some confusion about the types of products carried at the store, curator Elizabeth Dunbar of Arthouse, the nonprofit that presented the project, describes Corner Store sales as “brisk”—not an adjective many gallerists can attribute to sales at last week’s Miami art fairs. Corner Store fetched plenty of publicity, too. It made Miami Herald’s “must-see” list and received high praise from such art blogs as Art Fag City and Daily Serving. Dunbar sums up their success this way, “They put 100% into the project, and I’m so pleased and proud to see them receive the recognition they deserve.”

According to Dunbar, Okay Mountain put thousands of man-and-woman-hours into creating Corner Store over the past six months. They used the upstairs space at Arthouse to build walls, a drop ceiling and a linoleum floor for the booth. They produced a soundtrack for the installation, with tracks by each member of the collective and including a rap about the guy who runs the corner store near Okay Mountain headquarters in Austin. They created an animation for the surveillance camera. They built a cash register and ATM machine.

In other words, Okay Mountain knows convenience stores. When Okay Mountain was working on the project, every trip to the corner store for beer was a journey of inspiration. Every product on its shelves, every display technique, every advertisement offered new possibilities for their own.

No one missed Corner Store’s clever jab at the consumer culture of art fairs. Yet to be noted, however, is the project’s ingenious relationship to today’s economy. Corner Store highlights the state of the market: demand for luxury goods, such as art, is low and demand for "inferior goods," such as canned beans, is high. With unemployment rates high and incomes low, Okay Mountain cashes in on the high demand for cheap goods. At home, instead of making coq a vin, I buy Ramen at 7Eleven; in Miami, instead of purchasing a mediocre drawing, I buy canned “Shit with Beans” at Corner Store.

Despite the country’s economic woes, a few collectors realized good art when they saw it and inquired about purchasing Corner Store's entire installation. But they were too late. Okay Mountain had already put the snack counter sculptures (including a “floppy dogs” hot dog machine with hot dogs fashioned from red condoms and soda fountain dispensing pickle and diet pickle juice) on reserve for another collector. During the run of the fair, Okay Mountain also received about a dozen inquiries from curators interested in organizing future projects with the collective. For the time being, they already have a number of shows lined up, including science-fair inspired Big Strange Mystery opening January 19, 2010 at Texas State in San Marcos and a project at the Austin Museum of Art next August.

For more on Corner Store, see Dan Boehl's feature in our last issue.

Claire Ruud is the Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.

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