A Pillar for Whom

Solo Exhibition
Amplify Arts / The Union for Contemporary Art, Omaha , NE
November 2020

Immersive installation. Digital video projections, sound, sculpture, works on paper, found objects, negative transparencies, overhead projector, light.

The Trans-Mississippi Exposition (Omaha, Nebraska, 1898) was dubbed “The White City.”  This unofficial name was given to the site as it was one of the first World’s Fair to be lit entirely with electric bulbs, and all of the opulent buildings were constructed with plaster and lathe. The quick-setting material was ideal for these temporary buildings, as it could take on an elegant appearance while simultaneously remaining cost-effective and easy to demolish after the fair’s programmed six months. Hangen used this paradox as an entrance to explore the false public image of America. The American Dream, like the fair grounds, looks beautiful and abundant while in reality it is all flimsy, conceptually and in actuality. Natural resources, humans, and animals are exploited in the name of advances of technology and ultimately, money. 

The old fair grounds sit in the heart of current-day North Omaha, the predominantely Black neighborhood of this small Midwestern city. This area is full of systemically-neglected buildings, boarded-up businesses, forgotten parks, and poor infrastructure. The brutal irony of the temporary plaster buildings that once stood in a once “White City” in this historically-redlined and oppressed reality of North Omaha is something that Hangen feels is completely American.

A Pillar For Whom was an installation in constant change. During her fellowship at the Union for Contemporary Art in which this exhibition was conceived, Hangen collaborated with the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. She explored their archive which includes photos and information about the TME. In the exhibition, the audience was invited to interact with printed transparencies of these archival images by placing them on an overhead projector, filling the space with their own compositions and discoveries of this little-known local history.

On the opposite wall was a video projection that fell on details of the plaster and mirror sculptures, fragmenting and morphing. The room was filled with a deep hum and the score of the two videos overlapping.

Videos below play automatically, please unmute both videos for audio.