The Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Glenn Kaino is compelled by the provisional ecosystems that pop up in the midst of political activity, for instance in Tahrir Square, which he visited before the Egyptian revolution, and, more recently, in Ferguson, where he stood with protesters. Over the past few years, he has also been studying a different sort of self-forming community, one found in the ocean. Today these two threads of inquiry converge at the third edition of the Prospect New Orleans biennial (aka P3), where Kaino has debuted Tank (2014), a series of gurgling, blue-lit aquariums containing colorful coral polyps—which Kaino notes look like the country outlines on a map—clustered across reproduced fragments of a military tank. It’s just the sort of delightful confection of seemingly unrelated materials and ideas characteristic of the artist whose work often joins politics and poetics.
Kaino refers to the process behind his combines as “kit-bashing,” a term used by model-makers to describe the act of disregarding a set's instructions in order to achieve different, improvisatory ends. In his early work, Kaino took this approach literally, using specimen pins to display the different pieces from kits in shallow, tub-like containers. Recently, however, he’s been uniting more abstract cultural flotsam in his work.
Artspace conducted an email interview with the artist—who was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and who by day works as the director of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s digital team—about his busy year, and the possible meetings of politics and art.