PLAKOOKEE is a collaboration between designers Rachel Debuque and Justin Plakas (a recent project? Cosmic Modules, currently living at Hemphill's ground-floor-turned-gallery-space at 1700 L St NW), and we've had eyes on their work since spotting prep for Cosmic Modules in the #aCreativeDC feed a few months ago. Our interest p i q u e d again last week when we saw news about a residency-of-sorts with Community Forklift, and we were glad to touch base and get the full 411 on what turns out to be a full-fledged art project, in support of and in partnership with the nonprofit re-use center + salvage warehouse that's so close to our hearts as is.
Rachel and I have a studio just down Rhode Island Ave. in Mt. Rainier and I was going to Community Forklift to get materials for photographs and for mocking up sketches in our studio and it had occurred to us one day how awesome it would be if we could just go work in their warehouse! So we got in touch with some of the folks there that do education, outreach and programming and we put together a proposal and we pitched it to them. They were totally into it! Everyone there has been really great and super positive.
We figured that since they have a community outreach program where they help fix houses in the community - our end result would be a series of prints that would be for sale and would benefit their community outreach programming. We could help call attention to issues of waste and reuse as well as make some artwork and help folks in the community we live in!
It has been a pretty cool experience. They gave us their classroom in the back and we set up a little studio on the weekends with a camera and and lights with some very basic materials. The rest we leave up to things we find in the building. Sometimes we shoot small sculptures and installations and sometimes we shoot individual objects and textures we want to collage in the computer later.
How did the two of you start working together? We met in grad school at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at The University of Georgia. I graduated and started teaching - Rachel still had one more year left. So while she worked on her thesis show I taught and we lived in a trailer together. Nothing too fancy it was a single wide ;) Our buddy named us The Plakookees - a mash up of our last names. We have been working on projects together in one way or another ever since. We both work on our own projects but it just started to make sense that we do more together and the scope of things has grown a lot in the last year.
We did this video for The Institute for New Feeling based in LA. They have a project called FELT BOOK where you re-present a project as if it was an instruction manual. We took a shoot we did while we were artists in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska and turned it into this video. It got our heads moving on other projects.
How long have you been in the DC area? Two years! We just started to get to do some projects here because we were booked with things out of town for a while. It's fun to be working on stuff close to home. I grew up in Maryland but have been gone for over a decade and Rachel is from Pennsylvania - outside of Philly. We moved here for a lot of reasons. We had some illness in my family and we wanted to be closer to the east coast. So we moved from New Mexico and here we are!
What are the found objects/textures/etc used in these particular images, and how do you create them? For these images we used a lot of stuff found in the tile section! along with some found ceramic objects. They have some rad sample pieces of acrylic and ceramic tiles! the stock is always changing.... good stuff pops up all the time apparently. Really fun to play with. We have spent a good amount of time digging and collecting stuff. Then we shoot until we feel like we have exhausted our options and then we look for more stuff!. I think there will be some images that are really post heavy and some that will be exactly like we shot them in the space. We like to keep our process pretty fluid and work on intuition in situations like these. Between both of our skill sets we have a lot of ways we can go on any given project. I will say for this series we are kinda feeling the pastels so far! It may change a bit this weekend
see them this weekend during open hours at Community Forklift
4671 Tanglewood Rd, Edmondston, MD