Things Past

(Sasha Tycko)

The past is a foreign country ripe for exploration in “On Making Things Matter,” the Southside Hub of Production’s last show in their Fenn House home. On four floors dedicated to the themes of memory and leaving, artists explore the pasts of their community and their families while examining their own often tumultuous histories.

At the show’s opening last Saturday, Mara Baker and Rafael E. Vera mixed old-fashioned cocktails as home videos showing their past selves were looped on screens behind them. Even if the bearded man pouring champagne in a crowded Maracaibo room in 2000 was, technically, the same Vera who now stood in a crowded Hyde Park room pouring himself a drink, he dismissed that past self entirely. “That was my Backstreet Boys phase!” he said. “I have better facial hair now.”

In one piece, “The Dream House Collection,” artist Teresa Pankratz embraces the difficulties of simultaneously leaving behind her most treasured memories and facing the challenge of creating a new world in its place. The work intersperses seemingly insignificant objects that her mother managed to save from the fire that burned down her childhood home in 2005, with images of a separate dream home seen through the eyes of the fictional Marissa Vorobia. Voribia, a fictional character created by Pankratz, shares similarities with the artist’s younger self while still remaining essentially different. Through what she calls a “scaffolding of facts,” the audience sees how a person’s past is a fundamental determinant of their present self, a ghostly apparition of what is, in effect, another person. By choosing to explore the emotional torment caused by the destruction of her childhood home–the site of her earliest memories–through a fictional lens, Pankratz sheds light on the complex relationship between past and present.

The idea that a large and diverse neighborhood might find commonalities in a shared past might seem far-fetched, but Alberto Aguilar’s “Object Reservation” attempts to demonstrate that a neighborhood, not just individuals, can also have memory. With a roomful of white objects donated by residents of Hyde Park, shelves of dusty cups, high school trophies, and old toys start to have a larger meaning. Represented in this way, the neighborhood begins to feel like a place that is utterly welcoming, an impression that is borne out by a looped tape of interviews conducted with nine local residents. Although their attitudes toward the place are not uniformly positive (there are some quiet expressions of fear), a certain pride toward their home still reigns.

Laura Shaeffer, co-curator of the exhibition and creative director of SHoP, gives voice to this same sense of loss entwined with hope. “On Making Things Matter” is likely to be the last exhibition at the space before its lease expires at the end of July, and this impending move, Shaeffer says, provided a large part of the impulse for the show. Pausing to reflect, Shaeffer takes great pains to emphasize how the immediate future of the cultural hub remains unclear. “Perhaps an investor decides to purchase the building,” she says, “and in so doing fosters the continuation of this community cultural center.”

Regardless of what ultimately happens to the space, Shaeffer is pleased by what’s happened there over these past eight months. Just as the exhibition shows that the very act of remembering things past is fraught with contradiction, Shaeffer stresses that any pain of finally having to leave Fenn House in July will be balanced by the enjoyment of new friends made and new artistic territories explored during the organization’s time in the space.

Southside Hub of Production, 5638 S. Woodlawn Ave. Through July 15. Wednesday, 11am-9pm; Saturday, 11am-6pm; Sunday, noon-9pm; also by appointment.