Monday, May 24, 2010

Wayne Rooney’s Love of Abstraction

Adam Brooks and
Mathew Wilson
Industry of the Ordinary

In April, 2004 we found the idea of drawing a line down the sidewalk on State Street in Chicago an entertaining one. We called the gesture A Line in the Sand, (a reference to something a politician had said while referencing a war). The line was to be drawn along the length of a city block and recorded as it approached our camera. 

At the end of the block I was exhausted and surprised by the pain in my knees and in my back. I was, as usual, relieved it was over. I’m never happy about having to actually do the thing. I like having an idea but would be happier if someone else actually did it.

It was here, at the end of the line, that I was arrested. It appeared that a call had been made to the police by one of the store owners who felt that we might distract shoppers.

I was taken, handcuffed, to one of three squad cars that had pulled up next to the commotion. I was again taken aback by the fact that I hadn’t noticed them. I lit a cigarette.

‘Get that out of your mouth!’ It was the first thing that either of the cops said directly to me. One then turned to the photographer and asked if he was involved.

’I’m just taking pictures.’ He was allowed to leave.

At the station I was searched and a box of Crayola was offered as evidence to a tall, white officer with a flat-top. ‘So, we’ve finally arrested a white guy. What did you do?’

I answered.

‘You’re fucking kidding me.’ Flat-Top said to the suddenly servile arresting officer.


Who takes responsibility when we are out on the street? If both members of a collaboration are in the clink, who bails them out? How does public practice like this still need the studio? Is it anything more than a place to store the ephemera of public actions? Could we set up our studio in a storage locker facility? Does the embellishment of this story in its re-telling multiple times become an analogue for the re-skinning over of a pigment-encrusted surface? Can a collaborative practice exist only in the digital trail that reflects the back-and-forth of idea shaping? Years ago, a hack professor told me that if I had a paucity of ideas, I should go into the studio and clean my brushes; is sitting in a bar and throwing ideas into the air while downing Guinness any equivalent? Is that in itself a hackneyed hewing to the Cedar Tavern stereotype?


I am hand-cuffed to a table and questioned. I am asked what I was doing. I answer that I was making performance art. Then I am asked to define it. I say what I always say. The cops ask me what I am going to work on next, and I ramble amiably on until Flat-Top breaks his silence.

“What do you drink?”

“I like Guinness”

“Where’s the best Guinness you’ve had in Chicago?”

I tell him and he offers to buy me a better one the next time I’m in his neighborhood.
Is one of the primary mechanisms of the studio its ability to act as a bridge to the rest of the world, rather than functioning as a mystical, reverent place for the production of precious objects? Is a holding cell at an urban police station a suitable re-positioning of that “creative space”? Does the imprint of a pair of handcuffs on the flesh of the wrist equal the evocative aroma of turpentine? Which is more heroic?

Industry of the Ordinary are Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson. Through sculpture, text, photography, video and performance, Industry of the Ordinary are dedicated to an exploration and celebration of the customary, the everyday, and the usual. Their emphasis is on challenging pejorative notions of the ordinary and, in doing so, moving beyond the quotidian.

Image captions:
1: Industry of the Ordinary at work
2: A Line in the Sand   (Industry of the Ordinary purchase a flesh colored Crayola and draw a line along State Street in Chicago until the Crayola is sharpened out of existence), 2004, performance, duration 27 minutes
3: In the wake of the piece A Line in the Sand, a bicycle-mounted policeman follows the line that has been drawn along the block of State Street and arrives to arrest one member of Industry of the Ordinary 
4: Exterior of Chicago Police Department District One Headquarters


  1. Um ... gee, I was hoping it actually might be ABOUT Wayne Rooney's thoughts on abstraction, but I am very literal that way. I was expecting a full breakdown from Number 10 about his recognition of the similarities between abstraction's malleability as it has passed through both Modernist and now Postmodernist epochs, and his own repositioning within formations for both Manchester United and the England national side (complete with Greenbergian/Habermasmian references.) Or at least a analogy between his own "irascibility" and the description of the Ab Ex'ers of the 1950s as "the Irascibles" ... Although maybe Wayne has a broader view of this all.