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Sabot Cruft (Nine Quilts for MOVE)

This work was created during my artist fellowship at The Hacktory which is part of the Department of Making + Doing in Philadelphia. Upon my arrival I began to think about the places and things in Philadelphia that I was familar such as Independence Hall, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell.

Due to a fortuitus change in accommodations I soon found myself driving daily through West Philadelphia. Like other large cities such as New York and Chicago, Philadelphia was reminding me that one only needs to turn a corner to find that one street separating neighborhoods of affluence and those of poverty. Each day I imagined passing through the thin membranes separating these neighborhoods, trying to sense the pressures pushing from both sides. These nine quilts are created using breaking news images gathered from Philadelphia's 6abc Action News - WPVI website.

Thanks to everyone at The Hacktory and the Department of Making + Doing for the opportunity and support to make this work.

MOVE

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
MOVE or the MOVE Organization is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by John Africa. MOVE was described by CNN as "a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a 'back-to-nature' lifestyle and preached against technology". The group lived communally and frequently engaged in public demonstrations related to issues they deemed important.

Since their founding in 1972, MOVE has been in frequent conflict with the Philadelphia Police Department. A major incident occurred in 1978, when the police raided their Powelton Village home. This raid resulted in the imprisonment of nine group members, now known as the "MOVE 9." After this, the group relocated farther west to a house at 6221 Osage Avenue.

In 1985 the group made national news when police dropped a bomb on the Osage house from a helicopter in an attempt to end an armed standoff. The explosion and ensuing fire killed 11 people, including five children and the group's leader, John Africa. Only two occupants survived—Ramona, an adult, and Birdie, a child. In addition, approximately 60 other (non MOVE-affiliated) homes were destroyed as the entire block burned. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE]

Quilts of the Underground Railroad

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The slave quilt code is the idea that African American slaves used quilts to communicate information about how to escape to freedom. The idea was introduced and popularized throughout the 1990s. Most quilt scholars and historians consider the "code" to be completely lacking any basis in fact. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilts_of_the_Underground_Railroad]


CRUFT: Art from Digital Leftovers

The relentless flow of information on the Internet that quickly becomes digital leftovers is examined by my art practice to reveal a relationship in which we don't simply consume media, but are also consumed by it. I explore the Internet as source material to be appropriated, taken apart, juxtaposed, and recycled by writing computer code that is automated and runs on a 24/7 schedule producing a form of collage I call Cruft. The resulting artwork allows me to investigate broader issues of originality, authorship, reproduction and temporality.

In response to the intense pace and constant change happening online, my art practice includes a slower and thoughtful method of applying traditional media such as charcoal, paint, wax and ink, to prints of selected Cruft images. These analog images are created over longer periods of time resulting in a meditative process that subverts the goals of speed, spectacle and distraction, offering an opportunity for slower looking and deeper thinking compared to the crushing overload of an endless stream of Cruft produced by automated computer processes.

The Internet has the ability to provide freedom by connecting us at great distances, democratizing the world's knowledge, and facilitating disruption and resistance to systems of power. It can also simultaneously provide control by restricting and regulating our thoughts and actions while propagating fear, divisiveness, surveillance and repression. My art practice delves into the very nature of the Internet, pulling at it’s strengths and exposing the flaws, producing what has been coined Post-Internet art, that by definition references the "network" that we all inhabit, and ultimately, it's effects on our society and culture.

Robert Spahr
Carbondale, IL
August 2018