Other Investigations: Ian Addison Hall

Ian Addison Hall, born and raised in Weston, West Virginia, has live in New York City since 2005. He was previously featured on Make Space back in September! Check out this post to learn about his practice and process!

On process and collecting:

Each project changes greatly while I’m working on it. As my understanding of a concept evolves, my work will evolve along with it. When I’m knee-deep in a project I look at life through a certain filter, so everything ends up relating back to what I’m working on. I am always taking pictures, collecting books, or researching old photo albums while I’m working on a project. I love looking back through the years of random pictures that I’ve taken, waiting for one to jump out at me with new meaning. When I find a group of images that I like, I’ll normally sync them to my phone so that I can review them when I’m riding on the subway or waiting in line at the store.

When I’m tired of working with my own photos, I’ll turn to either vintage catalog imagery or old photographs that my parents took in the 1970s. I get most of the catalogs that I use from a place called Main Street Antiques in Buckhannon, WV. I look for catalogs that date from the mid 70s to the mid 80s, and have had a lot of luck with Spiegel, JCPenney, Sears, or Montgomery Ward.

As for the old family photos, when I go back home I try to look through photo albums at either my aunt and uncle’s house or at my grandmother’s house. While I’ve looked at most of their photos 100’s of times already, depending on the project that I’m working on new ones will jump out at me. It’s kind of funny to see how so many of their old pictures look like they belong in an Urban Outfitters catalog.

I’m always working on a couple of different projects at a time. When I walk around the city I’m always searching for certain specific things to take pictures of (sort of like a scavenger hunt). For years I used to always take pictures of old mattresses left on the sidewalk. Then I moved on to photographing heaping piles of trash. From there it turned to strangers sleeping in public. While I might have been actively focusing only one project at a time, various other projects were also in the works.

On medium and materials:

As I mentioned, my collages are mostly made up of either photos that I’ve taken or older photos that my parents (or my girlfriend’s parents) took in the 1970s. I love looking back through the thousands of photos that I’ve shot over the years and coming up with new ways to combine them. I’ll think to myself, “I wonder what I can do with these 200 pictures that I took of garbage?”. While originally the trash pictures were for my series “all that trash goes somewhere”, they eventually developed into a different project called “future trash”.

Sometimes people would give me some strange looks when they’d see me photographing trash. In fact, my Grandmother Bobbie’s neighbors called the cops when they saw me taking a picture of her trash late one night. They woke her up at around midnight so that they could look through her garbage to make sure she wasn’t a terrorist (I’m guessing).

As for the older pictures, when I was a kid I would look through my parent’s faux wood photo albums for hours at a time. It’s been great for me to include them in my work, as I’ve been so drawn to them over the years. Recently my girlfriend’s mom asked me to scan an old box of slide film that she had from her days living in California in the ’70s. She had taken so many amazing pictures that I had to include them in a project.

On research:

I love internet art culture. The internet is a source of constant inspiration for me. I like looking at sites like ffffound.combutdoesitfloat.combumbumbum.metodayandtomorrow.nethaw-lin.comreform.ltbooooooom.com, and of course make-space.net!

As far as artists that I enjoy, lately I’ve been inspired by work by people like Brea Souders, Anne De Vries, Charlie Engman, and Elizabeth Hoeckel (to name just a few).

On space and site:

I grew up in rural West Virginia (population: 4,289), and now I live in Brooklyn, New York. Both places have greatly influenced not only what, but how I make. For example, in the series’ “brooklyn, wv” and  “y/our streets” (which was featured on Make Space), I take photographs from both places and alter then to disguise their original location.

I love traveling back home. When I’m back I reload and refresh my creativity. I  take a lot of pictures, listen to local radio, take notes, and just drive around my hometown looking for inspiration. I’m always asking my family to pull the car over so that I can take a picture of something on the side of the road that catches my eye. They almost always reply, “Why in the world would you want a picture of that?!?”. Back home you see a lot of stuff that you’d never see in the city.

I don’t need a lot of space to create my work. I’ve always lived in small city apartments, so in a lot of ways my process has had to adapt to my limited space. All that I need is a big table and a big computer screen (plus a scanner, printer, exacto knives, scissors, glue, and all of that). For convenience I scan all of my photos, then I use my computer to sort through them. Then, if I need a hi-res version of an image, I’ll dig either the photo or the negative it out of storage.

I’ve been lucky to exhibit my work with a few really amazing art organizations here in New York. For example, with Recession Art I’ve exhibited work at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. The Invisible Dog is located in a beautiful converted factory building. The last factory, which made belts, had a hit in the 1960s with the “invisible dog” party trick (which is how the art center got its name).

Another organization, Ugly Art Room, is a roving curatorial group that creates exhibits in unusual and unique spaces around the city. With their help I’ve shown work in a hair salon (as part of the L Magazine’s NorthSide Festival), and also using View-Masters in a make-shift box in the middle of the street (as part of Nuit Blanche’s Bring to Light festival in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). Spaces like these can really make the work come alive.