The Austin Chronicle

WEST 2014: Ink Tank

Artists host a yard sale of their work, offer soothing tunes from a vending machine

By Seth Orion Schwaiger, May 16, 2014, Arts

It can be a bit daunting, more than 200 open studios and exhibits, but artists and collectives like Ink Tank have me excited about returning for more during the second and final weekend of this year's West Austin Studio Tour. Last weekend, Ink Tank hosted a yard sale where it hocked wares from previous shows, projects, and art parties. Prices were cheap, unmarked in most instances, and that was all part of the show, putting potential patrons in the awkward position of devaluing the art and making offers befitting a yard sale. Ink Tank also invited other participants, who had free rein to sell whatever they wanted, be it bric-a-brac from their garage, old clothing, or artwork. Normally, I'd be put off by this intentional cheapening of the arts, but I couldn't help but think this was a jocular reflection of some of the peculiarities of the mega-studio tours. Don't get me wrong, WEST and EAST offer plenty of good stuff to see, but at times one does get the sense of being surrounded by bargain hunters, and the lack of curation necessitates sifting through items/events of lesser interest to find the real gems. The Ink Tank members don't seem like cynical types, but I'd gamble there's a bit of mockery to go with their embrace of the tours' quirks, if only in friendly jest.

The yard sale's over, but Ink Tank has another project touching on consumerism and contemporary art: a repurposed vending machine that, instead of dispensing sugared beverages, plays audio based on the "customer's" selection. The work is made to be modular, so audio can be replaced without too much difficulty and the machine can have a life beyond WEST, with different sound works selected by the collective and guest curators. For WEST, Ink Tank has created a series of relaxation clips, so if you're too broke to pay for therapy or premium yoga, or you just like to laugh at those who do, this should be your first stop. Art Alliance Austin will host a reception celebrating the Ink Tank Vending Machine Saturday, May 17, 3-5pm, at Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe.

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