Visitors to the Northfield Arts Guild will find it transformed into a new space for modern art exploration. What was once an art gallery is now a visitors’ bureau, complete with artifacts, maps, and information panels illustrating the history and culture of Nirthfolde, a Northfield-like town located in a parallel universe.
It’s all part of a new installation by Carleton art professor David Lefkowitz and web content specialist Doug Bratland entitled, “NRTHFLD: The Nirthfolde Visitors’ Bureau.”
The installation, which runs through Feb. 8, offers visitors a rare look not only at the fictional town of Nirthfolde, but also their town of Northfield, too.
Among the exhibits is a series of topographical maps of Nirthfolde from a few inches off the ground. One focuses on a patch of asphalt, another on a patch of snow. Across the room, a series of Masonite panels tells of the Nirthfolde Progressive Aquarium. Visitors to the aquarium board a submarine-shaped bus, which takes them to stops around Nirthfolde.
Names of stops on the route include “The great oceans/Early 20th century Bungalow,” “Calcite and Calcium: Coral reefs/Modern dentist’s office,” and “Goldfish Hands on Learning Center/One Bedroom Apartment.”
While talking about his pieces, Lefkowitz chuckles at his own jokes. “I don’t feel that there’s a conflict between being serious and making work that is funny,” he says.
Although he admits that he adds humor partly for his own amusement, he also says it’s a tool to draw people in. Once they’re drawn in, he hopes they’ll catch on to a deeper thread.
The goal of the installation, Lefkowitz says, is to make people see their town differently. “The idea is taking something that’s familiar and re-contextualizing it, sort of reframing it, so it seems sort of peculiar.”
He not only presents goldfish bowls as aquarium exhibits, but also smashed pennies as ancient artifacts, electrical cable boxes as “mysterious monoliths,” and beaver dams as home to vast networks of beavers with roles like C.E.O., oral hygienist, and press secretary.
Since graduating from Carleton himself, Lefkowitz has shown work at the Walker, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and other well-known institutions. He often uses painting and sculpture from found materials to express ideas about nature, technology, and human culture.
“NRTHFLD: The Nirthfolde Visitors’ Bureau” is his first show using graphic design extensively, due to his collaborator, Bratland. It’s also unique in that it focuses on the Northfield community specifically.
Lefkowitz will give a talk entitled “Quasi-Fictional Places: The Nirthfolde Visitors’ Bureau and other Original Fascimiles” on Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Weitz center cinema.