Gone to Pot: Fort Greene art exhibit looks at democracy

rudin gallery
New gallery: The Brooklyn Academy of Music celebrated its new gallery with a show about nature and renewal.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Talk about dirty politics!

A new art exhibit uses five hot tubs-worth of soil to reflect on democracy, renewal, and the natural world. “When A Pot Finds Its Purpose,” a two-part exhibition now on display at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s first dedicated arts space, features two enormous metal pots modeled on the Liberty Bell, with dirt heaped around them, to represent the state of national politics, according to its creator. 

“It struck me that some of the systems in our democracy need to be repotted,” said Glenn Kaino, whose work will be on display until Dec. 15. “That was the inspiration to create these vessels.”

The “Spill” part of the exhibit, at the Rudin Family Gallery in the Bam Strong building, uses a new, environmentally-friendly type of soil that uses compost for the five-and-a-half cubic yards of dirt surrounding the giant pots — which Taino considers a symbol of hope and renewal. 

“They call it a regenerative soil, it’s a soil that has been created using composting in a new and reusable way without chemicals,” he said. “It’s time to rethink the tools we use that are frankly out of date.”

Kaino was inspired to create the piece when he heard pastor and author Bishop T.D. Jakes speak about the figurative importance of pots. 

“He was talking a lot about the metaphor of potting and this notion of how plants need to be repotted to be healthy and grow,” Kaino said. “He was talking about creativity and wisdom and the need to expand intellectual spaces.” 

The other half of the exhibit is a literally  moving installation depicting tiny waves flowing back and forth. “Blue” includes 22 small wave machines — miniature clear plexiglass boxes filled with blue water that tilt from side to side, creating small wave formations. The movement of the boxes appears to be synchronized, but they are actually moving at slightly different speeds and have slightly different shapes, which creates a mesmerizing, meditative effect. 

glenn kaino
New wave: Artist Glenn Kaino’s new exhibit, “When A Pot Finds Its Purpose,” features 22 small wave machines rocking back and forth. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Kaino said that both installations evoke the natural world, and inspire viewers to think about the collective — a theme present in much of his artistic practice. 

“They’re both different types of meditations about ideas that are bigger than an individual,” Kaino noted. “The practice aspires to ask big questions about the nature of our humanity.”  

“When A Pot Finds Its Purpose” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rudin Family Gallery [651 Fulton St. between Ashland and Rockwell places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100, www.bam.org]. Open Wed—Sun, noon–6 pm, and one hour prior to every performance in the Harvey Theater, through Dec. 15. Free.