by Juleana Enright
Forget what you think you know about Ken Hannigan. The DJ parties that may have left you blackout drunk and the ones you left with a freshly printed t-shirt of our beloved MPLS skyline, courtesy Anthem Heart. These days, Hannigan is back adopting the philosophy that sometimes you gotta drop the ego and get by with a little help from your (art) friends.
Enter: QX Collective. Dubbed an “evolving group of creatives, DIY & experience-based artists and designers,” QXC is the brainchild of Hannigan and fellow local visual art hounds Matt Kamilar and Keith Williams and is groomed to be the chassis for local art collaborations.
On my way to meet Hannigan, I check QXC’s address at least three times. A studio from Hannigan not in Northeast?! I’m flabbergasted. But its Eat Street location shouldn’t really be that surprising. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Whittier is changing. While it’s always been a nucleus for upcoming-and-coming artists and art inspiration, it has demanded attention recently with projects like Artists in Storefronts, the emergence of the very cool Light Grey Art Lab and a heavy street art presence. The creative energy of their neighbors doesn’t go unnoticed at QXC headquarters. MIA, MCAD, Spyhouse, Icehouse, Eat Street Social, Lost and Found, Light Grey and, of course, their flatmates, Thrifty Hipster, who they share everything from a suite number and floorspace to a foosball table and Red Bull cooler — unsurprising packed with PBR (aka hipster water).
“QX has been a project of mine for about a decade now,” Kamilar explains. “I was looking for a way to highlight luminaries of the art scene, of which there are plenty in Minneapolis, and curate collaborative work. The first iterations of the concept were purely web-based. Matt Dowgwillo contacted me about doing the space on Nicollet, which has turned out to be a great place to facilitate artistic endeavors. Since expanding the collective, the significance of the acronym (QX) has become malleable.”
Hannigan continues, interpreting the collective’s name for us, “To me, the ‘Q’ stands for quasi, or ‘having some resemblance to.’ The space and the collective is meant to be modular and will many take many forms. ‘X’ marks the spot as a map-point for projects and happenings in the Whittier/Eat Street area and beyond. Working backwards the ‘X’ functions as a ‘crossing out’ of the ‘Q’ or ‘status quo.’”
Hannigan drops hints about future projects involving 3D mapping projections with the Playatta crew and the concept of “street art bombing” — joining forces (either anonymous or non) with other street artists and collaborating to create murals, posters and other visual works, one artist working off another artist’s antecedent.
And while QXC isn’t out to discriminate against any prospective collaborators, they do have a DIY mindset, no doubt attributed to their artistic backgrounds. Hannigan, specifically, is an artist versed in DIY culture. From his wearable line, Anthem Heart, to his contributions to the local poster art scene, his focus has been on original designs, hand-crafted and self-produced – a focus he hopes to continue with QXC.
“People banding together through a DIY approach has become a survival skill for those who would be otherwise dependent on larger institutions to get things done,” Hannigan says.
On the gallery side of the collective, the QX crew have no plans to keep it primarily esoteric.
The line between the collective and outside artists will be blurry,” Hannigan says, “but the intent is to dissolve more barriers than we create. The gallery presents a curatorial opportunity but at the core it will be hub for producing collaborative projects. Look for a string of ‘under the radar’ art openings, street actions, film screenings and the like.”
Aside from being a collaborative hub, QXC sees itself as a shelter for artists unschooled on how to mass produce or market their work. This is where the “experienced artists/designers” part of QXC’s resumes shine. It will still act as curator, but not in the sense of artists coming in and explaining how they want their show or work to be displayed and shown. Instead, the collective hopes to have more of an invested say in how they think the artists’ show should be presented, playing an active role more closely resembling producing rather than curating.
But first, they needed to introduce the scene to their credentials, not just as art individuals, but as one united consciousness, which they accomplished with the recent visually explosive collaborative screen print collage show, Touch Party. The show featured low-brow art from the three QXC founders — Hannigan, Kamilar and Williams — and showcased the trio’s harmonious synthesis.
“The ‘touch’ is about the hands on nature of the work,” Kamilar explains, “and the ‘party’ is calling out the fun factor that we are chasing in this decidedly non-commercial work.”
Hannigan adds, “The idea called for submissions from the group and an overall mashup occurred through a series of hand screen printing posters in multiple combinations of overprints resulting in a myriad of mono-prints dominated by a combination of appropriated and hand-drawn graphics and patterns. We layered them in a street art paste-up style on panels, stressing a loose, quick process.”
Hannigan goes on to explain the idea behind “quick process,” how it in turn produces purer work by not allowing for too much over-thinking. It was from this frantic approach to creating art – working on a piece down to the wire, so much so that the work is literally “still wet” — that the moniker for their future art event (and the closing show for Touch Party) was born.
“We normally work late in the space and create the work and build the panels in the space in the day or two before the opening, so that’s why our next opening is called Touch Party: Still Wet*, in reference to the paste and the aesthetic being fresh,” Hannigan says. He describes the merging of himself, Kamilar and Williams for the artwork featured at Touch Party as a collaboration on par with a jam session-esque, each artist layering one style, one consciousness, one rumination atop another, propelling an organic outpour, a Dada-homage.
“I’ll be the first to say I’m inspired by Faile,” Hannigan admits. “I’m absolutely a fan boy of paste-up murals by Shepard Fairey as, well, who isn’t really? For Touch Party, we had the opportunity to create a process that will cover a lot of wall space and invite more of our friends to jump into this ‘graphic orgy’ created in a frenzied Dada-style as the paste-ups layer over each other and are torn and worn down. Much like an ‘Exquisite Corpse’ or an ever-evolving eco-system of art.”
There’s definitely something a’brewing here _ an aura, an effluence. Hell, maybe an apparition of collaborations past, or the DIY gatekeeper. Whatever it is, I can feel it as I sit around QX’s modest print table chatting with Kamilar and Hannigan: this town is ripe for collaboration. And if QXC succeeds, the harvest will be near.
*”Still Wet” will take place on February 9 and will be the closing show for “Touch Party.” There will be several new panels, some interactive elements, and a great lineup of DJs. “Like” QX Collective on Facebook for the latest details. Additional info on the event will be released next week.