Welcome to Your Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatus

Art on wheels. You in art. Careening through the night, smashing into other art (don’t do that).

Adam Wohlwend has worked really hard on his Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses. He has burned the midnight bulbs in the Mattox Sculpture Center for months now – sawing, piecing, bolting, riveting, pinning, glossing, fitting, stretching, joining, testing (I’m guessing at some of these), and you can tell.

Adam Wohlwend basks in the phantom glow of a phantom lamp outside of the Mattox-  double exposure by Seth Lunde

Because look at these beauties. Dainty, sturdy, spindle-legged, fake latex and metal carapaces in pop-art colors, decoratively fenestrated.


The idea (one of them) is that you can view art (and be art) via your own moveable stall / pod / wagon / ark/ apparatus. They aren’t death traps. Step inside!


The point is, you’re supposed to step inside, and this Friday, August 19, from 5-8 p.m., you’ll have your last chance to do just that at UNM’s CFA Downtown Studio. Note that unlike Adam’s Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses, these pieces are meant to stay in place.

If you wanted to run amok at full speed in one of Adam’s pieces dressed as a giant clam, you should have been at the Civic Plaza (Creative 505) or Santa Fe Railyard (AHA Festival of Progressive Arts), or Taos (Paseo 2015). (Someone did that.)

Those were Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses; these are Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses, which means they’re tethered down. But you can still insert yourself, cast your eyes around, and look at stationary “place-holder” art (also created by Adam), or other gallery visitors.


What will that bearded guy with the horn-rimmed glasses be eating? Rugelach? Rice crackers? Will he have a third, fourth, fifth glass of wine? You can see! Through the portholes of the exhibit viewing apparatus. Will that small child obey her mother’s instructions not to touch the contemporary art? What are those people doing on their phones? Texting? Googling? WHAT? You can watch them all from the viewing apparatus, and they won’t know.

The thing is that everything is more magnificent, more significant, when viewed through a frame – eyelet, porthole, or window, your attention is forcibly constricted. And it is mere, glorious attention that can transform objects/scenes from blah to art.

One of Adam’s Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses

Now, let’s turn to Adam for more insight into his mysterious, multi-hued spying machines (he doesn’t call them that). SH= Spartan Holiday, AW= Adam Wohlwend

SH: So Adam, how do you explain your work to others?

AW: I think a lot of people view contemporary art as inaccessible and elitist. My goal is to create a body of work that can be literally and physically accessible to all people whether they understand the finer points of art history or not. I’m creating interactive sculpture that allows people to become a part of the work through the same investigative senses that get them through their daily lives.

Some common children enjoying contemporary art

SH: (This sounds good to me, and I vow again to get through my daily life with greater use of my investigative senses, noticing, for instance that, while camping, I just tossed my box of matches into a puddle). Adam, how is your current show related to what you’ve done in the past?

AW: Gallery Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses is directly related to my most recent series of works called Mobile Event Viewing Apparatuses. I’m certainly not trying to trick anyone with the titles.

SH: (It’s true. Adam, wouldn’t do that; he is a nice guy).

AW: Both of these series are pieces of sculpture meant for looking at other works of art. They act as viewing windows, or extensions of the art goer’s body, in order to draw attention to how beautiful and essential the act of viewing art is to the art world. They also take into consideration the social aspect of being at art shows or art events. M.E.V.A.s are for viewing public art events, while G.E.V.A.s are meant specifically for looking at art in a traditional gallery setting.

These are MEVAs

SH: (MEVAs, GEVAs, MEVAs, GEVAs- It’s good to practice so you can say these acronyms over and over at the show- MEVAs, GEVAs. But out loud I say:) How did you learn to build shit?

AW: My father was an union electrician at an aluminum mill, and my mother, before staying at home with my brother and I, was an apprenticing artist, and designed clothes for the family and local theatrical performances. Because of both of them, I always felt comfortable around materials and tools. I remember watching my family do work on houses, build cars, sod lawns, etc. There was usually a family gathering around these events to help each other out. I learned a lot about materials and processes in college, but I also worked years of low level construction labor jobs where I noted how things were made. Mostly, making objects just seems to make sense to me. I close my eyes and start visualizing how things work. Most of my designs start with my eyes closed. I find simple, obvious, and overlooked interactions to be beautiful, so it fits that these pieces are made through simple, honest means.

Adam is simply and honestly spray-painting some wire frames

SH: (I am so impressed by Adam’s resume of hard-won skills, including, but not limited to, sodding lawns, that I don’t know what to say, and clam up, and blurt something about materials).

What materials are you even working with?

AW: Steel rod, faux latex fabric, bendy plywood, plywood, chrome hardware, casters, linear bearings, cotter pins, water-based high gloss finish.

SH: (Faux-latex?? I wonder, where do I get THAT? And what would I do with it? If I’m honest with myself, I’d probably give it to Adam…)

Adam, what are you going to do next?

Adam’s “Transit Apparatus (for the Derelict Soul),” not at this show.

AW: I plan on proposing Exhibit Viewing Apparatuses specifically made for existing pieces of art work in a museums permanent collection. Also, I’m considering public apparatuses that can be taken on commutes to work or other city locations. These would be made for specific public interactions like grocery shopping, running errands, simply walking on sidewalks, tandem apparatuses promoting social interaction etc.

Here we stop, because basically what Adam is saying is that you could take a viewing apparatus grocery shopping, and that means everything you see could snap into focus, from banal stacks of colored paperboard and plastic and foil, to art. That box of crackers, that carton of milk…

Meanwhile you would also be art, and fellow shoppers would be like, “Who’s that weirdo inside that exquisite contraption?”

Unless maybe you were at Whole Foods and then they’d say: “Look at that artistic shopper.” Or possibly: “You have to leave our store because you are wrecking our sense of upper-middle-class safety.” Depends on the day, I guess.

The point is, think how your life could be enhanced encountering everything through the window of an Everything Viewing Apparatus.

But for now, let’s just stick to Friday night, August 19. I will be making chocolate raspberry rugelach. You should probably come, so people can enjoy watching you eat it.

And you should probably like Adam’s Facebook page for information on more upcoming fantastical events.




Test Your Knowledge: Quiz 1

It’s time to test your knowledge.

You suspect you have some knowledge, but feel uncertain that it has not just been twisting and turning in your brain, warping to some other kind of different knowledge, without your knowledge.

It’s creepy, that this could happen, but it will eventually leads to more abstract thought or surprise expertise. So, don’t worry– that’s good!

Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge. It’s not a standardized test. Do your best to answer. Don’t just give up after the first one or two–what if this is a test of the perseverence of the human spirit? Or a test to see if you’re a non-test-taker. Remember, sometimes tests that you think are about one thing are actually about something else.

Good luck.

Can you answer the following questions correctly?

Q. 1 It’s 1940 and you’ve just parachuted into rural England. Maybe there’s hay around or mown grass. Whatever it is, the landing went badly and you broke your ankle. You crawl into a nearby ditch and take a concussion-related, pretty disappointed nap. This is when you’re discovered by a farmhand who sees your feet poking out of the hedge. Why didn’t you tuck your feet in the hedge? On your person: 200 pounds, a loaded pistol, and a radio transmitter. Also a thick-as-paint Swedish accent. Oops. You are taken to jail. WHO ARE YOU?

Answer: Gosta Caroli, A WWII era spy

Q. 2 You are in jail, but that’s okay because your guard is bored and playing solitaire with his back towards you. As he moves eights under nines and jacks under queens, you find some rope. While he’s moving tens under jacks and threes under fours, you tie him to a chair. When he’s all tied up, you apologize and escape with a pineapple, a canoe, and a can of sardines. What an unexpected assortment of things to find in a police station, but you can’t complain. Better also steal a motorcycle and motor to the coast with the canoe on your head so you can row to Holland. You fall off your motorcycle and ask a passing motorist to help you toss the canoe over the hedge. Oops. The motorist calls the police and you’re imprisoned again. WHO ARE YOU?

Answer: Gosta Caroli, A WWII era spy (the same one)

Q. You are best friends in the prime of life and you’re also Norwegian. How great it is to be best friends and Norwegian to boot. There’s so much snow, and the flag is so red, blue, and white (mostly red). You, the both of you, have just been deposited via German seaplane in the foggy waters off the Scottish coast. Along with: a rubber dinghy full of things like: wireless transmitter, a couple of bicycles, and sabotage tools/devices. As soon as you land, you turn yourself in to British police because you WANT to be double agents. WHO ARE YOU?

Answer: John Moe and Tor Glad, WWII era spies.

Q. You also just parachuted into the English countryside and landed badly. You sprained your ankle, but the saving grace is you have packed a fashionable, to-the-nines-nothing-suspicious-here suit. Oops, but also a super thick Danish accent. Like plaster. You limp into the town of Willingham (Cambridgeshire), open your mouth, and are seen in your suit. You are arrested on the spot. WHO ARE YOU?

Wulf Schmidt, WWII era spy

How did you do? Not sure? Here’s a scale.

4/4 Excellent

3/4 Pretty Good

2/4 Satisfactory

1/4 Poor

Remember, there will always be another Spartan Holiday Test Your Knowledge Quiz and a chance to improve your score. Now I need to go pack for a trip.

Smartphone Asshole, or Efficient Gatherer of Crowd-Pleasing Facts?

Up until May, I enjoyed straining my personal and business relationships by conducting all of my affairs from a flip phone. I made this choice for several reasons: I wanted to keep the Internet off my back when I was in the real world; I liked the non-stop flipping action; I was locked into the world’s shittiest phone contract; and I could use my phone to shock people, particularly fresh-off-the-boat millennials, like my English language students.

“Welcome to America.” I could say and then pause and pretend to painstakingly text someone.

Some dumplings I made before I had a smartphone.

There was nothing “addictive” about my flip phone, other than the satisfying coconut shell sound of it snapping shut, and I knew no one would ever rough me up on campus to rip it out of my hand (unless as a hate crime against flip phones).

Texting took an eternity and bred lavish errors/misunderstandings as I didn’t know where to find the exclamation points or emoticons. But that was okay, because this allowed me to always shift the blame to my flip phone if I said something socially awkward or disturbing or weird. Such as:

I hv all beef France at my house, Do you hv any buns

Whats the guys name again, Justin Beaver?

Using technlgy 2 edit human genome re: heart disease = a really gd idea

In more convoluted situations, instead of texting back, I would call, which really threw people into a tailspin.

Some people acted as if in not keeping pace with human tools, I was crimping the forward momentum style of civilization, breaking some kind of social contract that none of us ever really signed on for. Others simply objected to the musical “ding ding DING ding” tones of my texting, because it was hard to turn off the keyboard sounds. They asked, what was I doing over there, playing a game? And I said that I wished my phone had a game. And then we’d both kind of laugh. (But my laugh was more hearty.)

My coworkers enjoy listening to me text

That’s how I liked it. My texting sounded musical and magical. I was free from the shackles of instant information and overly-porous boundaries between my thoughts and other people’s need to ask me for muffin recipes while I’m having those thoughts. I could discover things for myself, and regale people about an awful restaurant I stumbled upon, instead of always looking for the top-rated “best experience.”

I basked in my ignorance of the overly-mapped, overly-analyzed world like it was the Corsican sun and announced to roomfuls of smartphone users that I was sorry I was late, but I had gotten lost, AGAIN. “This is how we do,” I told my friends, trying (and succeeding?) to sound hip.

Suffice it to say, that no one was as besotted by my flip phone, and everything it stood for (freedom, ignorance, self-reliance, contract entrapment), more than me.

My friend Paul understood because he acquired his first smartphone the same time I got mine. In the beginning, we joked about smudging our new phones (with smudge sticks that neither of us actually had) and he said how he hoped that we weren’t going to become “smartphone assholes.”

“That will NEVER happen to me,” I said.

Paul held out for a really long time, and he’s rewarding himself with a seltzer water

I ensured it wouldn’t happen to me by refusing to download the Facebook app or my gmail notifications. I vowed to never look at the GPS while driving, only before I left the house. I even considered downloading this make-your-keyboard-function-like-a-typewriter app to make typing even more difficult than it was on my flip phone (Over-The-Top is not touchscreen compatible).

I was doing pretty good at being a happy-go-lucky, smartphone dolt until mid-June when I found myself on an island in the Puget Sound without a car, trying to beat the crowds to a sheepdog show. (I think you see where this is going.)

Google Maps pulled up a walking route, the BEST, most crow-flying-est route, a good mile shorter than the second best route. The satellite view allowed me to see where exactly I should cut left on a dirt path (around a rectangular barn thingy).

It’s true, Maps threw up a few barely noticeable hazard signs that I would be crossing private property, but the signs were minuscule, and why would friendly, helpful Google lead me into peril, so I was like, “Who cares? Let’s see some mother’n sheepherding, motherf’rs!” And I followed that map exactly where it took me.

Some time later, as I was being hemmed against a fence by murderous angus cattle, after I had escaped the barking dogs, and given up on finding an open gate through the security walls of the mega-estate of  Misty Isle Farms, I decided I actually did care.

It was while I was planning an escape route over the fence and cow-whispering for my life, and thinking about all of the tall, ginger-haired people who were going to beat me to the sheepdog show and set up their lawn chairs right in front of me if I survived – it was then that I thought: “I AM a smartphone asshole.”

But when I had backed away without incident from the cattle, the panic subsided, and it was not shame I felt, but chilling, successive waves of great and unspeakable power. I had never gotten lost with such technological élan before.

A picture I took on my smartphone

I filed this away and reverted to temperate and responsible smartphone use until last week when it happened again. I was talking with some friends about the draconian atmosphere of working at Disney World, as relayed by my cousin, a former intern at the Animal Kingdom. But I couldn’t remember any of the rules.

This made me feel dull and distraught, so I texted my cousin. By the time she responded, I had ignored half the conversation bumbling around on my phone (at Disney you can only point with two fingers or your whole hand, not one finger. At Disney you are not allowed to tell anyone that anything at Disney is “not real”).

“I’m a smartphone asshole,” I thought later. But then I wondered: Was I a “smartphone asshole” or “an efficient gatherer of crowd-pleasing facts?”

I’m still not sure. It seems like the more knowledge my smartphone feeds me, the less I actually understand of myself and the world around me. The wider the spray of information, the less anything gels. It seems like while my smartphone has saved me from some scrapes, it has air-dropped me right in the thick of others. Which brings me back to that classic quote from Tristram Shandy:

“Intricate are the troubles which the pursuit of this bewitching phantom KNOWLEDGE will bring upon thee.”

And what about Paul? Had he escaped being made into a total d-bag by his smartphone? He is a professional contemplative after all.

“I really enjoy the convenience it offers,” is all he said.

l thought that would be a good campaign slogan for the Smartphone Asshole Resistance movement. We Are Enjoying the Convenience It Offers. Or maybe just: Enjoy the Convenience. Or: Try to Enjoy the Convenience a Little Bit.  

If you have tricks to guard against enjoying the convenience too much, please let me know.