The Illuminated Underground Micro-Gallery (video)

It’s somewhat disjointed, but I shot a few snippets of video on Friday as I was putting the Illuminated Underground Micro-Gallery into the ground at the Water Street Sculpture Park, and I wanted to share it with those of you who weren’t able to make it out and see it in person this past weekend.

As for what’s inside the box, I wasn’t going to share it online, thinking that maybe people would be more inclined to go and look for themselves if they didn’t know what awaited them, but, now that a few days have passed, and some readers from out-of-state have inquired, I thought that I’d go ahead and share a few photos.


As I explained it the other day to someone who came out to see it, “It’s a locally sourced robin’s nest, lined with artisanally grizzled beard hair, and filled to the brim with enough heirloom apple seeds to either take the life of a full grown man or start a small community.”


It’s hard to tell from these photos, but it kind of hovers a foot or so from the floor of the gallery, in the middle of the box.

As a rule, I don’t like artist statements. I don’t recall ever having read one that made me appreciate a piece of art any more than I did already. Conversely, though, I’ve found myself liking pieces quite a bit less after having read what artists had to say about their work. So, I’ll spare you the “message” behind my piece. What I will say, however, is that apple seeds have been interesting to me for a long time, as they hold within them such immense promise, while, at the same time, being so deadly. I’ve always appreciated that duality. On one hand you have these beautiful, compact seeds that contain the world within them, the blueprint for life. They’re explosive. They’re magical. They hold the promise of sustenance, both food and drink. And, on the other, they’re these tiny hydrogen cyanide pills. Granted, I exaggerated a bit when I said earlier that my work contained enough to kill a person. As I understand it, it would take about half a cup of dried, ground seeds to do the job, and my piece doesn’t contain nearly that many, but I wasn’t trying to be literal. I just liked the idea of a little, glowing “break glass in case of emergency” capsule in the middle of nowhere that would present you with a choice… either consume the contents and die, escaping all of the bad that is around us, or plant them and set about the difficult work of building a sustainable community. That’s as far as I’m going to go with the explanation. I’m sure, however, if you spend a few minutes thinking about the state of the world in general, and the state of Ypsilanti specifically, you’ll begin to see where I’m coming from.

Also, I should add that I’m already in the process of planning another, which I think will be even better… So keep looking down.

[If you’d like to see how the piece came together, you’ll find photos documenting the construction here… And, again, I’d like to thank Dale Grover, Rob Todd, and the folks at Maker Works, without whom this never would have happened. They’re awesome folks.]

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  1. dragon
    Posted October 13, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    So, let me get this straight.

    You cut a hole in a box.
    You put your junk in that box.
    You encourage us to look in that box.

    You hint that this is a real special gift
    And we should take off the lid and look inside because
    It’s in a box

  2. Posted October 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?

  3. Tim
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Was the beard hair just for bonus hipster points?

  4. C.
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    This answers the question as to what the people in the background of this shot were staring at.

  5. anon
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    i did not know steve buscemi used orange ball

  6. Rick Cronn
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Good execution.

    Anyone providing an explanation or rationale is an enabler for the thoughtless. The concept is obvious.

    Anyone looking for an explanation is an idiot. DIY.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how obvious the work is, Rick. I imagine that many looking at the piece wouldn’t think about apple seeds containing cyanide. I don’t know that it matters, as it’s still interesting, but I don’t think that your average viewer would walk away with a complete understanding. I don’t think that makes them idiots.

  8. Lynne
    Posted October 15, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I actually like artist’s explanations of their work although I like to make a point of first forming my own interpretation. It is always interesting to me to see where my mind is in relation to the artist. Plus sometimes you learn something. I swear I had no idea that apple seeds were poison.

  9. Laura Bien
    Posted October 16, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Eh, I don’t mean to be that guy but due to my interest in plants just wanted to say that apples aren’t grown from seed. Apples unlike many plants don’t grow true from seed–you would wind up with a random apple that may or may not be edible. Also, you would need one additional variety for cross-pollination; almost all apple trees grown from one variety of seed wouldn’t be self-pollinating. Apples are grown from grafting. The settlers who bought the seed-raised trees from Johnny Appleseed’s nurseries weren’t interested in (and knew they wouldn’t get) a nice Winesap–the sour apples they got were just what they wanted to make alcoholic cider. As long as I’m blabbing along I will add that Luther Burbank’s astounding gifts and career are mesmerizingly described in this wonderful book: First Amazon customer comment on that page: “Who knew the history of plant breeding was so exciting?! I couldn’t put this book down. I felt like I was sitting front and center in watching our history unfold.” FWIW! :)

  10. Posted October 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Yup. I know about grafting, Laura. Like I said, I didn’t want to get too much into the details. But, yes, you get better apples from grafting. Still, though, apple trees do grow from seeds, etc. And the seeds were from multiple Michigan varieties. Thanks for the comment, though. I was waiting for someone to bring it up.

  11. intervention
    Posted October 20, 2014 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Inside is a video showing a live feed from inside the Dollar Store.

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