jessica charlesworth

ADHOCISM @ MCA Chicago July 19 – 24

, ,


Tim Parsons and I present ADHOCISM, an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago from 19th – 24th July.

The title refers to the 1972 book Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation by Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver which treats the activity of solving problems directly using materials at hand as a liberating, inclusive and sustainable philosophy.

Parsons and Charlesworth present a series of interventions that meditate upon the continuing relevance of an ad hoc approach and demonstrate its ability to generate fresh opportunities in the design of objects. The show is part of We Are Here – Art & Design Out of Context, a month-long series of art and design situations with Chicago-based participants curated by MCA Design Director James Goggin.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 12×12 Gallery
July 19th: 10am-8pm (Free)
July 20th – July 24th: 10am-5pm
Gallery Talk: Tuesday, July 19th, 6 pm

More about the installation

The impetus behind choosing the subject of Adhocism came from the fact that many of the ideas and issues presented in Jencks’ and Silver’s book are still relevant today. Despite the rise of the internet (which Jencks predicts in the book),  the power of global marketing and production often narrows rather than widens opportunity. The supposedly liberating multitude of choice offered by consumerism hides a reality of restricted and directed options. Adhocism enables individuals to fulfill certain needs or desires quickly without recourse to corporate or government bodies. By encouraging not just professional creatives but everyone to consider involving themselves in the making process, Parsons and Charlesworth hope to awaken or enhance an appreciation of our available resources and the latent possibilities they hold.

Open source hacking, crafting, and making cultures are getting stronger, thanks in no small part to the networking power of the internet and to newly available computer controlled making resources. However, despite the formal freedom of these technologies (known as rapid prototyping), by focusing upon printing new objects with raw materials, they are analogous to industrial production processes and have none of the latent possibilities of an ad hoc approach. The essential advantage of the ad hoc to an affluent western society is not simply that it allows a problem to be solved, but that it does so in a stimulating way. If used intelligently, the results are greater than the sum of their parts.


About the Interventions

ArtPin,is a pin-badge that demonstrates the ad hoc principle, both in its construction and its use. Made by combining a Bulldog clip and a brooch pin, it enables any image or small object to be clipped into it and worn. Visitors are invited to take a free Artpin and make their own badge from the collected source material.

Instructions for visitors to create their own artpin using a handpunch & vintage Boys World & Popular Science magazines

ArtPin creation by MCA visitor

End of first day at the ArtPin table with Artpins pinned to board

American Adhoc Series

The American Ad Hoc tables is an ongoing series of objects designed by Tim Parsons that adapt classic American products, re appropriating them for interior domestic use. On show at the MCA will be three objects, a Radio Flyer wagon, a red steel wheelbarrow and a Weber grill that have been converted into tables via the addition of tops made from Carrara marble. All three source objects have a particular place in American consciousness, are robust due to their pressed metal construction, but are at the same time, generally overlooked as things of value. Bringing them into the home under the auspices of their use as furniture foregrounds their role as triggers of memories and offers them a dignified ‘retirement’ from their previous duties. The juxtaposition of old and new (all the source objects are second-hand and show signs of age, while the marble is freshly cut) and of the mass produced with the rarified, encourages the visitor to re-think conventional attitudes to what constitutes appropriate domestic furniture.

American AdHoc Series of tables

Radio Flyer with Cararra Marble tabletop

Weber Grill with marble top.

Exhibition Furniture

The exhibition furniture for Adhocism is made entirely from materials and tools borrowed from the MCA, including some left over from previous exhibitions. We followed a rule whereby everything used had to be returnable at the end of the show in the state we found it, hence gluing and screwing was replaced with clamping and strapping, and painting and cutting were avoided. The process led to enjoyable discoveries such as the way in which a beam made to “sight” Andreas Gursky photographs made a perfect bench, and the surprising beauty of moving blankets.

Some adhoc benches using moving blankets, ratchet straps and low trestles made by the proprietors from previous exhibitions


Noticeboard made using leftover over corkroll

Leave a Reply