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Slow Dance, “/” : A Collaborative Project with EJ Hill and Matt Austin

Installation view of Slow Dance at ACRE Projects, 2012.

This article is a special guest contribution by Ally Hasche, founder and president of LAADS Magazine out of Davis, California.  We at Sixty have given her honorary Chicagoan status after she has called our city her home for the past several weeks and has shared her music and passion for art with anyone who crossed her path.  While here, she took the time to speak with Matt Austin and EJ Hill just before their ACRE exhibition, Slow Dance, travels to Los Angeles, Ally’s final destination after Chicago.

Stemming from Matt Austin and EJ Hill’s exhibition at ACRE Projects last March, the two friends have made a commitment to hold exhibitions in each city they reside in and produce a corresponding publication every year until one of them dies. They call the collaborative project, Slow Dance, titled after a Matthew Dickman poem that focuses on relationships of great love and how each unit may sway and step side to side, slowly, to better learn and understand each other. The poem talks of the confliction within the leading position of the dance, where one will inevitably go first, and the other one will stay behind. Hill and Austin have chosen to do a life long dance with one another, exploring their creative development, processes of thinking and their harmonious dynamic that can be seen when their work is displayed in a gathered space.

Austin and Hill officially made a connection when they were assigned as roommates during their ACRE residency in the summer of 2010. “There was one night at ACRE where I was feeling particularly tired, isolated, and insecure,” said Hill, “We were sitting around a table with a few people and I just didn’t know how to enter the conversation. I was just sort of sitting there with my thoughts. I finally said something and then just like in some movie, everyone looked at me, and the needle scratched the record, and it was this ‘womp womp’ moment where no one said anything for a few seconds (but it felt like a few hours). So then I felt even lower. And then Matt just looked at me and said ‘Hey dude, want to go play guitar?’ And I said ‘Yes. I really want to do that.’ It’s a vibe thing. A sense. It’s stuff like that. He just knows.”

Following their residency at ACRE, Hill and brothers, Matt and Jeff Austin, went on to start The Mountain Was a Gift, a traveling music project that practices the techniques of experimental pedagogy. Last year, Hill moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to participate as an MFA candidate in UCLA’s New Genres program. Since then, the two have maintained a strong relationship and have adopted the distance as an inspiring force to collaborate. “I think my most difficult part is not being able to play music with one another. That was (and will remain) a therapy that probably can’t be replaced with anything. Aside from that, we regularly discuss current stages of our art practices and ideas we’re working through via phone calls,” said Austin.

Bird Hanger & Basement Rug, Matt Austin. Archival Pigment Print, 2012.

Whether it be through their development in music, art or writing, both Hill and Austin have broken through the confines of being assigned to a specific artistic practice. “Not very many people know that Matt isn’t really a photographer. He’s an artist who makes photographs. He also writes. And he makes music. And his pedagogical philosophies are always in practice. And a lot of people call me a performance artist. Which I don’t really mind. But I much prefer just ‘artist.’ An artist who has a strong lean toward performative tendencies. And now photographic,” said Hill. The recently released publication, “/”, by Matt Avignone’s there’s just no telling publishing, is a 60 page, black and white book consisting of writing, photographs and drawings from Hill and Austin. The Slow Dance exhibition at ACRE projects was also comprised of work of various materials from charcoal wall drawings to archival pigment prints. “I think being scared or unsure is what fuels the excitement for me in venturing into anything, not only art making – consciously shifting my understanding of capability is important to me,” said Austin.

It is impossible to put a finger on what makes their work function so beautifully together. The collected black and white color scheme, the juxtaposing content that manifests a sense of affinity, whatever it may be, Slow Dance is a force of attraction. “We wanted to portray, achieve, denounce, discuss, advocate for, highlight, throw rocks at, blow kisses to balance,” said Hill when asked about the communication between the viewer and work in Slow Dance. “I can’t speak for EJ, but the visual work I exhibited in our ACRE show in March intended to communicate some ideas I’ve been working through about honesty and failure – trying new things and challenging myself to embrace situations that I’m not familiar with and trying to come up with a visual representation of those attempts. As for Slow Dance as an exhibition, I think the themes in our work stood individually but it also revealed that we had been thinking about many similar ideas within our works,” said Austin.

Landings, EJ Hill. Archival Pigment Prints, 2012.

Slow Dance will be making its way to RAID Projects in Los Angeles this upcoming November, along with another set of copies of “/.” “I’m not sure what the show at RAID Projects will look like yet. It’s a completely different space in a different city. We’ve continued to make new work. And we’re different people, “ said Hill on the adjustments from ACRE to RAID, “I mean, essentially we’re still the same but a lot has changed. Time has passed and our preoccupations may have altered a bit. It could very well be all the same work with no omissions or additions but because of all of the other conditions, it would still be a completely different exhibition.”

“I think our mutual appreciation for each other as artists, thinkers, friends, and so on, allow for us to learn so much from each other; and our openness allows for a kind of honesty that can produce something really beautiful when working together,” said Austin.

For more information about the show, visit: -works-by-matt-au…

For more information about the artists, visit:

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