Ink Tank Lab
The art collective takes the gloom out of doomsday in 'Armageddon Outta Here'
The end is nigh, and Ink Tank Lab is ready. The artist collective, comprised of 13 floating members, returns to its birthplace at Co-Lab Projects for its doomsday-centric exhibition "Armageddon Outta Here" on Friday, Dec. 21.
Ink Tank began its group endeavors with "Future: Diorama!" in September of 2011, turning the Co-Lab space into a wall-to-wall display of knickknacks and intricate visual vignettes. It followed that debut with "Last New Year," a huge installation piece complete with life-size asteroid, time capsules, and a massive wooden tsunami wave tumbling out onto Rosewood Street.
To say the group is extreme is an understatement. It tends to focus on themes of time juxtaposed against reality. If our time is curtailed, how does that change our space physically and creatively? Its exhibitions are full of nuanced visuals and overwhelmingly thoughtful presentation. Its collaboration with UP Collective, "More Awkward Than Heavy," included an inflatable Winnie-the-Pooh bounce house stuffed in UP's main gallery with a large, multicolor fort built on the building's roof. PARmageddon, the hole Ink Tank created for AMOA-Arthouse's "Art on the Green" exhibition at Laguna Gloria, depicted a dystopian putt-putt golf course, complete with toxic chemical dump moat. Within its first year, Ink Tank has taken on three additional members, bringing new mediums and creativity to the group's dynamic, and expanded its mission: The group now seeks to provide both a visual experience and a performance piece tied together for its exhibitions. The performances serve as an opportunity to extend the themes of the exhibitions and provide audiences with a more interactive showcase.
At the forefront of its process is the idea of testing out exhibitions on each other. Emily Cayton, one of Ink Tank's founding members, recounts burying the time capsules during "Last New Year": "We didn't expect it to be so dramatic. It was surprising to me how moving it was, and I think we all wanted it to be moving. I think that was fun, that shared experience that was performative. We're participants, but we are also an audience."
Casey Polacheck, another member, speaks to entertaining the Ink Tank group as much as outside audiences: "There were things hidden in the walls of 'Last New Year' that no one else ever saw." Polacheck laughs as fellow Ink Tank collaborator Austin Nelsen chimes in: "We do this usually just because we think it's funny, and we don't care if anyone else is going to see it or not."
Polacheck continues: "We are our most immediate audience, and I think that's the first step in trying to empathize with our [viewers]."
"Armageddon Outta Here" represents the aftermath of "Last New Year." The apocalypse has arrived, and the party is over. Now is the time to hunker down and bear through the end of days. This includes food rationing as well as a community garden, and Ink Tank will build out the Co-Lab space to represent an apocalypse-resistant bunker. The group even returned to the "Last New Year" location to retrieve its time capsules as relics to help influence its latest exhibition. "I think this [exhibition] is both fear and comfort simultaneously," says Co-Lab's Sean Gaulager. "Everything out there is scary, and the world is ending, but if you're here with us, you'll be okay."
Ink Tank's members unanimously agree that their work will continue, assuming the world doesn't collapse upon itself, but they have no concept of what their next project will be. When forced to consider what everyone's last words would be, the artists burst into loud conversation. "I love you" is shouted as an option, and laughs erupt from the group as suggestions are blurted out. Some verge on the nostalgic, and many seem to be further inside jokes that Ink Tank thrives off of. Gaulager ventures, "You should have been here," and Julia Clark quickly edits his remark: "You should be here."
And she's right. As Ink Tank Lab continues to grow, it will undoubtedly move outside of the art scene and receive the attention these ambitious and impressive exhibitions deserve. For now, 2013 will be met with great enthusiasm, not only as a sign of a continued human existence, but also as an opportunity to see the new world Ink Tank has to occupy.