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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Installations With Purpose

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Justin Tyler Tate’s work combines sculpture, installation, media, performance, and social art. He's exhibited more than 80 projects in more than 20 countries on four continents, most recently in Taiwan.

Tate's work also merges architecture, carpentry, botany, cooking, electronics, chemistry, new-media, and more. He's currently the Prairie Ronde artist-in-residence at the former Lee Paper Company paper mill in Vicksburg.

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A conversation with Justin Tyler Tate

“I used to have an art studio practice where I made work and sent it away,” Tate says. “I felt like this was really limiting, and I decided that learning how to make work that dealt with the place I was in would be better for me, better for the work, and better for anyone experiencing the work.”

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An art installation by Justin Tyler Tate

Just a few examples of Tate’s work include a "Cube Farm" that he built as a traveling exhibit in the Baltic States, showing his audience how to use readily available materials and tools to create cubes in which to plant gardens. Another example of his work was a tiki bar on the frozen Yukon River in Canada, mixing drinks for a surprisingly large group of people during temperatures that reached -32° Fahrenheit. He's also built a lemonade stand in the deserts of interior Australia; three large turtle-shaped installations on “legs” like stilts using repurposed materials in Taiwan; and a do-it-yourself cardboard coffin with instructions after his grandmother passed away.

“It got me thinking how wasteful death is,” he says. “We put all these materials and all this money goes into it, and then all the different forms of energy that gets used to put someone in the ground. I just thought there must be some design solutions and technology solutions to this, so I started designing this cardboard coffin which gets cut out on a laser cutter.”

During his residency in Vicksburg, Tate says he hopes to explore the space in and outside of the old paper mill and install two projects.

"One will be a semi-permanent installation. It will be a large post-Anthropocene architectural structure which will be made for growing various kinds of edible mushrooms. It will be made of wood reclaimed from the mill and also pieces of natural hardwood from the property."

Tate says he'll put up a series of temporary installations inside the mill.

"They're kind of learning exercises or experiments where I have a four-hour time frame to build them, add lighting, photograph them, disassemble them and put everything back where I found it."

Tate's residency will extend through December 2020.

Justin Tyler Tate was born in Canada, grew up in the United States, and now works internationally. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from NSCAD University and a Master of Fine Arts from Helsinki Academy of Fine Arts. His practice draws knowledge from various fields and combines them in order to find solutions to contemporary problems.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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