An artist known for conserving, collecting, recycling, or reclaiming materials and objects in his work, Theaster Gates (US, b. 1973) continued his investigations around questions of life and death, creation and destruction with Lumber Song (2017), a new moving image piece commissioned by the Walker. In April 2017, the Chicago-based artist created a video score in Loring Park, a site located across the street from the Walker and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with a long history of hosting performative artworks and events.
Working closely with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, the artist identified a diseased ash tree that had been marked for removal. For the performance, Gates felled the tree with an axe, while his collaborator Ben LaMar Gay (from the experimental ensemble Black Monks of Mississippi) played the trumpet in a musical eulogy. A procession followed, during which the artists crossed the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge to return to the Walker campus, the home of Gates’s Walker-commissioned outdoor sculpture Black Vessel for a Saint (2017). Emphasizing the transition from one performance space to another, the project underscored the shared history between the city’s parks and its cultural life and influenced a number of the artist’s later works, including Dance of Malaga (2019). The moving image work will be on view in the Bentson Mediatheque during the run of the Walker exhibition Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall (September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020).