1xRUN Through Interview
Sunday Mass by Jim Darling & Revok
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about how you started making these installation pieces?
Jim Darling: Well, my wife Tina and I were living here in Los Angeles, but were looking for the next place to live. We didn’t know where we wanted to go next so we pretty much got rid of everything except for a small storage unit. Our plan was to go wherever for six months, which ended up being just over a year. We toured in our Volkswagen Jetta with a little cargo trailer on the back which was full of art supplies and what not. If we were in a town where we didn’t have anybody to stay with, then we looked on Craigslist or whatever for a furnished place. We started on the Oregon coast then came back down for a show I had here in LA. We went back up to Oregon and Tina and I finished our work for a two person show in New York and kept it going. The installations just started happening depending on what I found looking around in each city.
1xRUN: What was the genesis like for these sculptural installations to be a medium to work with?
Jim Darling: I did a few installations in New York, smaller ones on the Oregon coast and made some things in Texas. We went and stayed in Milwaukee for a bit and I got the chance to collaborate with one of my best buddies Eugene Good. Him and I put together a massive drunk robot in an abandoned coal refinery. Then Tina and I worked together on a big sculpture at Primary Flight for a show they had at Basel. Originally I’d just explore or maybe paint something like a big face or whatever, which is fun, but there is also a ton of cool shit laying around. Lots of it I wanted to take but we didn’t have a home so it was cool to do something with it. More than anything, I like it because it’s the same fun I had making random shit at the creek when I was a kid. An additional bonus was that the installations got more of a response than the other work I was doing at the time. It’s exhausting but I usually bring in a few beers which helps.
1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit how you met each other and what that experience was like?
Revok: I first met Jim & his wife, Tina in Miami a few years ago. We both were participating in a group exhibition where Jim and his wife collaborated on a really amazing piece together. I was super blown away and we met and hit it off. We loosely kept in contact over the years, I believe the two of them had spent a year traveling the states making stuff together here and there and Tina had given birth to their first child on the road. When Jim hit me up saying he was interested in visiting Detroit and working on something together I was stoked since I was really into what he had already been doing in abandoned spaces and places during his travels.
Jim Darling: My wife and I were going to work together on the flying pig sculpture “Anything is Possible” for Primary Flight in Miami during Art Basel. The Primary crew asked us get there a few days early. They didn’t know us and had just been introduced to our work, so it was a bit of a gamble on their part. We told them we could make it a day or two before the opening, but that we’d have to work down to the wire. We had our Jetta and cargo trailer full of scrap wood and saws and shit. For the most part, everyone else’s work was being uncreated. We met Revok and a few others real briefly each night we were trying to finish. We talked with him at the opening and after party and he was into the piece. We had always liked his work, so it was great getting feedback from him.
The next year that we went back to Miami and he was pretty much the first person I saw. He was working on his initial piece in the style he works in today. My wife Tina, Eugene Good and I and were working together that year and ended up doing that big head spewing the wave and pink boat. While taking a break I showed him pictures of our robot and he said if I ever did one in LA to give him a shout and that it looked fun.
1xRUN: When did you come to Detroit and was there a plan for what you guys wanted to do?
Jim Darling: I came to Detroit in 2012. There wasn’t a plan at all. I just asked if he would be in town and he said yes so I bought a ticket. When I flew out I think he had just gotten back from somewhere. I was just going to stay in a motel but he let me crash which was nice. We drove around for a few days just looking at everything. He took me everywhere in Detroit. The church we picked was one of the buildings we looked at on the first or second day. There were a lot of great elements to work with and the building was amazing. It took us about two and a half exhausting days to complete. Kept meaning to go out and paint but ended up crashing every night.
1xRUN: This piece took quite a bit if time to complete, was it a bit different than a mural or studio piece?
Revok: It actually came together much faster than a typical “mural wall” or a piece I create in the studio, however it was much more physically laborious, which was really good! I remember carrying a giant organ and a piano up two narrow flights of stairs from the basement. Jim and I decided it would be most satisfying to create the installation only from objects and materials we could scavenge from the site itself. The church is massive so we carried all kinds of big heavy shit and swept 2 inches of dirt from the entire floor where the installation was created.
1xRUN: Did you guys have any issues going in and out of that building?
Jim Darling: Yeah. Well, the first day we went in through a basement window. When we came back the next day, it was freshly boarded up. So, we made it in another way. On the second day we had already put in bit of work when heard a photographer make his way in. We chatted with him real quick and he was just there to shoot this amazing flat file system in the corner room of the building. I had actually taken the drawers out of it for the piece. It was so beautiful that I didn’t want to screw it up, so I put them back before he got there. We got back to work and after a while we decided to go up into the balcony area to get a grander view and see what we needed to do next. We heard a door from a different area close pretty hard. It was obviously the front door, which was locked and chained. Already being upstairs we went to the top and went behind some walls and looked down. A guy with a pistol strolled through the middle of the church, walking past our shit. It was dead silent except the sound of crunching under his feet. Eventually he made his way to the corner room where the photographer was and although you couldn’t hear what they were saying it didn’t sound friendly. Eventually the arguing stopped and shortly after that the main doors closed We caught up with the photographer and he said it was the building owner or watcher. He said the owner wasn’t too happy with what we were doing in there. He had gotten a business card from the owner and gave it to us. So Revok just called the guy and told him his name was Mike and that we were the artists who had been making the big pile of shit and that we weren’t taking anything. So he said that was fine and asked how long and when we planned to work on it again. We told him and then took a chance and finished it. So yeah, it was hairy for a bit.
Revok: About midway through, Jim and I were upstairs having a look from an upper balcony when we heard the front door open. It was obvious whomever entered the building had a key as we could hear the chains removed from the door. We fell back to see who was going to pop up in the space. There was another guy hanging out in the building shooting photos in a back room where these incredible circular flat files were custom built into the wall. I was under the impression this particular church was totally abandoned as it was in serious neglect but apparently that wasn’t the case as we watched a large older guy come strolling into the room with a pistol in his hand. The poor dude in the back probably shit himself when the big guy cornered him in the rear room. We heard some commotion from the upper balcony then the two walked out casually chatting together before the man with the pistol split. We came down and asked the photographer what had happened. He explained to us that the guy with the pistol looks after the place and was alerted by someone in the neighborhood that somebody was in the building. He wasn’t upset about him being in there taking photos, but was concerned with “Scrappers” stripping the building of valuable metal. Apparently, “pistol guy” asked the photographer about the mounting pile of shit in the center of the room, but the photographer didn’t have any info to offer. Pistol guy left the photographer his card so I felt if we were going to proceed without possibly getting shot then it would be best to *69 my number and give pistol guy a ring. Luckily he answered my blocked call and I explained I just watched what happened inside the building but was reluctant to introduce myself considering he had a pistol in his hand. He asked what we were doing and I gave him my best art pitch. Pistol guy was stoked and asked that we do not take anything from the church and requested that upon completion to share an image of the final product with him. So here it is.
1xRun: Describe this piece in one gut reaction word.
Jim Darling: Infinity.
1xRUN: You’ve been a conduit for traveling artists coming to Detroit over the past few years, how was the experience different hosting and working with Jim?
Revok: It was rad getting away from the typical spraystraveganza and doing something more in tune with my current studio work. Also working with another artist not submerged in the graffiti world is very refreshing.
1xRUN: As an outsider, what was it like being here in Detroit?
Jim Darling: It was awesome. I’d never been to Detroit. For years, I’d seen pictures of the abandonedness and a video about Project Orange there. I had my eye on all the explorers’ pictures on the web. It was exactly what I thought it would be, just a hundred times more… Shit falling apart, some left perfectly in place. We were driving around for a couple days and I had to apologize for not saying more. I kept wanting to have conversations, but all I was saying was ‘holy shit, look at that,’ and ‘man, that’s messed up’, ‘that’s amazing looking,’ or whatever. I’d never been anywhere like it. If I didn’t have what I do out here I think I would be there in a heart beat. It’s like a giant artist’s studio, the whole city. I usually try and work with reclaimed stuff, and materials and canvas are endless, not to mention that it’s cheap, and all the people were rad, great food and great music. Amazing hustling vibe. Young hungry artists should relocate to Detroit and go nuts!
1xRUN: Have you done prints of any of your other sculptural installations?
Jim Darling: No, I haven’t. I’m really excited about it. When I was out there, Revok had just signed all of his prints from the piece (Sacrilege below) in the other church. I definitely like the way those came out.
1xRUN: How do you feel about people being able to take these images home with them?
Jim Darling: I’m really into it. I love that the pieces have a limited life and some are destroyed quickly while others do their best to stand up to different elements. When it is all said and done you only have digital pictures of it. I spend enough time on the computer day to day and invite any opportunity to look at work analog. Looking at the test prints for this piece was truly awesome because since the time we made this piece I’ve only seen the details while zooming into the digital image. It’s great to have the room to look at all the stuff we gathered, all the details while keeping the whole picture. It makes me want to build more.
1xRUN: Your recent art pulls from similar aspects of assemblage of found objects as in Sunday Mass. How are these two mediums similar but different?
Revok: They are one in the same.
1xRUN: What do you have going on now besides agency stuff?
Jim Darling: Major changes… Tina and I just added our baby girl Faine to the family. We already have our long haired three year old son Micah and so now our family is complete. Day job stuff is in changing now as well… I am in a major transition period for the next few months… Re organizing the studio and getting ready for what comes next. In contrast to the change I am focusing on revisiting the “Windows” series. I usually don’t revisit things I’ve already done as I like moving on, but they are something I can pick up and put down quickly. Most of my sculptural works have a longer process to them, which isn’t easy on a newborn’s schedule. Also, I have big plans of transitioning from the windows into another series that I am dying to work on.
1xRUN: Are the airplane window pieces for a specific show or just on your own?
Jim Darling: I’m doing a bunch as commissions, as well as some for CAVE Gallery here in Venice and for Scope in Miami. I’m also doing one for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, which will be cool to hand them. I think I have about ten of them right now that I’m either finishing or starting up. I plan to do a lot until it’s time to make a transition. They landed on a few mommy blogs a few years ago, and they keep being passed around. They have given me the most feedback and press out of any of my work thus far and so I’m excited about pushing them further.