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The POD People

Invasion of the PODS: Storage units are transformed into art in Discovery Green display

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Houston artists and art collectives have transformed eight PODS (Portable on Demand Storage) units as part of the American Association of Museums 2011 Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo. Exhibiting at Discovery Green through June 5, the Portable on Demand Arts (PODA) project will subsequently travel to a series of locations in the Houston metropolitan area.

PODA grew out of the AAM conference's intention to engage the public, an initiative spearheaded by the late Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Peter Marzio

Architects Joe Meppelink and Andrew Vrana of METALAB designed their entry alongside students in their University of Houston School of Architecture course, "Digital Fabrication." Conceived with a computational algorithm to determine the perforated pattern, the exterior spells, "PLAY." The child-size furniture is made of expanded polystyrene foam that has been hot-wire cut and sprayed with truck bed liner.
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"We worked with our students all semester on the project," says Metalab's Andrew Vrana. The piece is programmed around the word "play" taking into account the park siting where both children and adults would mingle. "We appoached this as architects rather than as an art project," say Vrana.

Inside, mallets are provided to play a gigantic xylophone made from powder-coated plasma-cut steel. "The space offers interaction on many different levels," he says.

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The East End artist-run Box 13 has titled their entry "Box of Curiosities." Inside, miniature semi-fictious exhibitions have been installed by the various artists that make up the collective. For example, the mariachi piñata is the likeness of Box 13 member David McClain.

The adventures of a Marvin Zindler impersonator, known as Zarvin Mindler, are on view on the south wall. Visitors can also get to know the collective's members via a looping video of interviews.

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Consider the Box 13 POD a time capsule of culturally significant artifacts drawn from Houston's links to history, science, geography, space exploration and medicine. Here, a collection of observation drawers by Box 13's Maria Smits lines the west wall. A crustacean-infused "Hybrid Barbie" is displayed like an artifact at a nature center.

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Visitors to the Box of Curiosities are invited to sign a museum-style guestbook.

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Artist Anthony Thompson Shumate makes it rain inside his POD as a cascade of lasers descend before a double-sided mirror and alternating sound effects and fog simulate a rainstorm.

"I'm interested in the experience of it being hot and wet and how that represents the Houston climate," he tells CultureMap. "It's contemplative. Speaking as somebody not originally from Houston, I think rain is such an integral part of living here."

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Sculptor Jillian Conrad has designed her POD to be observed from the outside via five viewing portals. Peeking through the peep holes reveals light bulbs, rocks and other everyday material. "It's about taking common materials and making them do uncommon things," she tells CultureMap.

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Referring to the POD as a large-scale diorama, Conrad has titled her piece, "Plan and Elevation." "It explores the relationship between 2D and 3D and the built environment," she says.

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Also among the represented creatives is street art collective Aerosol Warfare, which has enveloped the interior and exterior of their POD, entitled "Colorist," in vibrant graffiti and stencils.

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In the unit's interior, used spray paint cans have been amalgamated to create an environment reminiscent of a street artist's studio. Visitors can place a pin on the map to indicate where they come from or the location of favorite street art pieces in Houston.

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Glassell School of Art Core Fellow Gabriel Martinez has completely deconstructed a POD, rearranging the pieces into benches that emerge from the Discovery Green lawn. No foreign material was incorporated to build the outdoor furniture.

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The Joanna has made their POD container as an extension of the Montrose collective's home. Temporary exhibitions and a crawfish boil are part of the container's programming for the week ahead. Benches by Gabriel Martinez deck the viewing area.