Moore has made a name for himself in Phoenix with art projects that address the urbanization of farmland in Phoenix's outskirts and the sustainability of urban life. Patey is an internationally renowned artist who activates vacant space and shuts down a bridge every year in London to put on a sustainable feast.
For the last year, the artists have combined forces, gathered stories, collected data, and envisioned an exhibition at ASU Art Museum that examines an endangered element on the periodic table -- copper.
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The two met a couple years ago when Patey was visiting ASU Art Museum to talk about her own definitions of art and the future of the industry as part of the "Re-Thinking the Museum" series in 2010.
Patey has since partnered with ASU Art Museum and plans to shut down Roosevelt Row in April for a "Feast on the Street" and a celebration of locally grown food (stay tuned to Chow Bella for more details). She says it was during visits back to Phoenix to plan the feast that she was introduced to Moore. They began talking about farming, food, and industry, as well as limited resources and the periodic table. They both became fixed on copper, and the rest is creative history.
On a Wednesday afternoon during installation, both artists say copper plays an integral role in our daily lives -- it's used in our plumbing, electronics, fancy kitchenware, musical instruments and envied cocktail mugs now kept under lock-and-key at local bars -- and has played a huge part in Arizona's history.
Patey and Moore's Cu²⁹: Copper Mining for You explores the idea of human ownership of the natural resource, mining practices, and our dependence on copper.
The exhibition occupies two gallery spaces within the museum. Moore says one space tells more of the narrative of copper -- how we've studied it through the periodic table, how we interact with it in everyday currency, how we surround ourselves with it as an artform and functional material, and the intimate connection with those who mine it and live in places where it's mined.
The space includes ASU Art Museum's collection of copper-made artwork, a display of copper items that community members have lent to the gallery (items, Patey says, will be accepted throughout the duration of the show), a large-scale periodic table, an interactive penny wall, and footage of interviews collected by Patey.
"These are absolutely amazing stories," says Patey. "I think the individual stories and the way people connect emotionally with copper is what touches people. This element has a human story -- and it's not simple."
In the second space, Moore and Patey have created a functioning office for their copper mining company, which has a plot of land in Buckeye with a mine shaft that will be opened and ultimately closed by the end of the exhibition.
"Much of the company's work has to do with the 1872 Mining Act, which allows Democratic citizens to legally go through a process and stake a claim in the land below them," says Moore. "Culturally speaking, for me, that was such a Wild West thing, and something that was so democratic and totally absurd at the same time."
ASU Art Museum's Deborah Sussman says the artists will be working both in and outside of the space. Moore will continue research and will be in the gallery working with a variety of ASU science and art departments as well as the Marcos de Niza high school and local galleries throughout the exhibition. Patey will eventually travel back to London, but will still participate in the exhibition's growth.
"Art is such a great tool to peel back this complicated onion of a topic," says Moore. "And the magic of being in a museum is that we can talk about mining and the politics, and yet still understand the beauty of the object."
Cu²⁹: Mining for You opens tonight at ASU Art Museum at 6:30 p.m. and will be on view through May 11. For more information and museum hours, check out the ASU Art Museum website.
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