Two of the three mixed-media sculptures at The EN, a month-to-month gallery in the heart of Columbia City, are new. The process behind these pieces, together called Baby Giants, has long established Marita Dingus as one of Seattle’s most recognizable and prominent artists.
Dingus’ process involves repurposing found materials, and it has a political significance that harkens back to the rebellious robots in the third act of Pixar’s masterpiece Wall-E. The film’s robots are a bricolage of computer components, robotic limbs, and detritus like umbrellas or lipstick discarded by consumers in a cruise ship-like spacecraft, the Axiom.
The connection between Pixar’s rebel robots and the revolutionary charge of Dingus’ sculptures is due to a sense of diversity or heterogeneity found within a circularity system whose components (production, transportation, realization, consumption) reproduce a form of accumulation that must expand if it is to exist. Dingus’ sculptures are made entirely from materials no one else wants, and their political power is found in this economic devaluation. The pieces have been discarded, they have been found, and they have been transformed into striking expressions of the Black imagination.
There is something post-human in the Baby Giants sculptures. One even has an insect-like quality. In this sense, the radical heterogeneity of Dingus’ found materials not only reimagines Blackness but humanness itself. In this respect, the cultural becomes biological, and the biological, cultural. And this brings me to another science fiction film, Claire Denis’ underappreciated High Life.
The film contains a scene in which a character loses their grip on a tool while repairing the exterior of a spacecraft (which is also a youth jail) in the emptiness of deep space. The tool falls into nothingness forever. And it is at this moment you realize that in space all matter really matters. No other science fiction film has expressed this fact. But you can’t even afford to lose a fingernail clipping or the remains of lipstick or rivets. In space, stuff is just too rare. This sensibility echoes in Dingus’ earthly work. Nothing, no matter how trivial, should be lost. Why? Because who decides what’s trivial and what is not?
Baby Giants will be at The En, 4860 Rainier Ave S, from August 24 to October 1. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 pm.