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"Visitors"

Documentation of nighttime graffiti-related activities took a very usual collaborative turn in September of 2023, when Richmond and Mazrim encountered one of the artists who had been visiting the site as he exited a building on an early Wednesday morning. Typically, such encounters involve trespassers stealing salvageable metals and end with police involvement. But in this instance, a careful conversation between staff and the visitor (the Minneapolis-based artist known as Shock) lead to a much more constructive outcome - an invitation to work there with permission as artist in residence. 

The culmination of this unusual and intensive collaboration was a massive exhibit and gathering assembled on-site in one the abandoned buildings known as “C-Mill.” Shock and his collaborator Static, together with Mazrim, transformed a 15,000-square foot space into a multimedia exhibit and two-night celebration. The event - “Visitors” -  made local and national news, with over 1300 in attendance. It is believed that this unusual collaboration is the first of its kind in brownfield redevelopment projects in the US.

Over a two-month period, the collaborative efforts between paint writers, muralists, and multi-media artists sharpened the focus on themes relevant to the complicated and unfortunate history of the Pillsbury site. Traditional graffiti tags were replaced by murals or relevant words such as Revere, Remember, and Redeem (from Static’s trademark “Three-Es” vocabulary). Elaborately painted and lit murals became larger and charged with both site specific and personal narratives. Themes of the various works include the consideration of potential repopulation of neglected places; the reanimation of “obsolete” devices and practices; the physically vivid consequences of corporate failure and neglect; the subversion of corporate imagery and language; and the excavation of former human presence in an abandoned industrial facility.

Ultimately, the “Visitors” exhibit was considered by its makers as a eulogy – to an important part of a city’s economic and social wellbeing during the 20th century, and to 20 years of neglect and betrayal following its closure. Empty, even contaminated places, can still preserve a dignity that can be celebrated even as the physical environment falls to the ground.

 

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