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We make much these days of the growing inability for the average person to see things that are plainly within sight (hello, incipient fascist dictatorship!) — and that makes it extra-special when an artist possesses the ability to see something that isn’t there at all.
“While it is not uncommon to look at a building plan or a page with areas highlighted, it was difficult to admit that this was how I saw the waking world,” says Corrie Baldauf. The Detroit-based conceptual artist possesses a kind of highlighter vision: fields of negative space will light up in her consciousness, drawing her attention to, for example, the empty spaces left in a lecture hall, rather than the occupied seats. She’s addressed the phenomenon through projects like her Optimism Filters, colorful plexiglass filters that she uses to tint or highlight photographs, replicating her mental experience. In her most recent, and largest-scale, public project, Baldauf has pushed through the sometimes isolating barrier of her own perception and triggered a massive, coordinated effort to make one of her visions reality.
“GOLD ZERO” is a painted intervention on an abandoned parking structure in London. It was mounted during Baldauf’s recent participation in the Griffin Gallery’s international residency. The program invites artists to work in conjunction with a chemistry lab that develops pigments for Liquitex and other art suppliers, such as Winsor and Newton.
“It is possible that color is the thing I see best,” says Baldauf, many of whose prior projects have heavily leveraged color as a medium. “Having three months to study color on the same floor as a chemistry lab gave me a chance to perceive London and now Detroit in a new ways.”
In the case of “GOLDEN ZERO,” Baldauf’s highlighter vision was activated by an encounter with a dilapidated parking structure slated for demolition, courtesy of Liz Ann Bennett and David Gunn of White Noise, which became another partner on the project.
“When Liz first showed me the parking lot that David had described to me,” Baldauf told Hyperallergic, “the zero form that we ultimately painted gold actually lit up in my mind within the first 30 seconds.” The project used gold paint to highlight the topmost roundabout level of the decommissioned lot at the Television Centre building.
“I’m very attracted to those kinds of spaces,” Baldauf said in an interview in White Noise. “There’s a lot of potential energy there. The piece asks people to think about their surroundings, and hopefully see that there is never nothing. There is potential in everything.”
She added to Hyperallergic: “What is amazing is that zero is between any particular positive number and any particular negative number.”
“GOLD ZERO” project took roughly two months from conception to execution — an astonishing turnaround, considering that factors included getting permission from Television Centre to use the structure. Baldauf counts 80-plus-hour workweeks, approximately 100 volunteers of all stripes, six homemade falafels for £1, and 200 liters of gold Liquitex paint as contributors to her success, as well as the collaborative effort made to realize her vision. She emphasizes the underlying sense of empowerment in transforming an art space outside a conventional, institutional setting.
“The roof we painted on is a long-time BBC parking garage,” she explains. “I wanted to work with White Noise City, Gallery Griffin, Liquitex, and local people to point out that we are able to frame things that are not in a museum. The history of our walks to and from work, and the conversations that we have next to our cars or on the London Underground, are wildly rich. As citizens, it is our job to be docents of our neighborhoods and exclaim how great it is to live where we live, to have the chance to visit the places we visit, and to frame the moments and locations that we hope become destinations.”
The Television Centre’s east tower, which affords a viewer the best look at “GOLD ZERO,” was slated for demolition five days after completion of the project last November, but as of now, still stands. The piece will remain until some time in the coming year, as demolition progresses. Given the Herculean effort made to realize the project, one wonders if its incipient destruction might be a letdown, but Baldauf’s highly cultivated and consciously practiced optimism fuels a different perspective.
“I feel really good about it,” she says. “We could use more marks that are temporary, I think.”
Corrie Baldauf’s “GOLD ZERO,” completed in partnership with Griffin Gallery, White Noise City, and Liquitex, remains on view at the Television Centre building (101 Wood Ln, White City, London) until it is demolished.