Zac Hacmon: Mia
September 10 through November 5, 2022
By JONATHAN OROZCO, October 2022
The clinical, almost banal aesthetic of Zac Hacmon conjures to mind a surrealist corporate fantasy that any landlord or workaholic boss can fall in love with.
Though, Hacmon’s visual choices don’t just come with the spiritual flatness of a for-profit company. In fact, what undergirds his choices are more sinister.
A resident of Brooklyn originally from Holon, Israel, Hacmon is having a solo exhibition at Locust Projects - a nonprofit space in Miami’s Design District. Titled Mia, this project is a culmination of a two-year collaboration, or more aptly put, ongoing workshop, with Alexa, an asylum-seeker living in New York City from Nicaragua.
“Mia is intended to portray imaginary, mental, political, and geographical boundaries that transform into intimate conversation that narrate Alexa’s life story,” reads the press release. “The viewer enters a dark atmosphere filled with massive sculptures resembling air ventilation shafts and the sound of voices emanating from speakers within the shafts.”
The material choices of these sculptures are clear and easy to comprehend if you ever worked in or visited a 20th century government building or modernist high rise. It’s a type of Duchampian ready-made, borrowing the language of institutional architecture, like mass produced tiles, glass, and pvc pipe, made into Tetris-like modular forms that viewers are encouraged to engage with. More than anything, this aesthetic monotony overtakes any hope for decorative or visual stimulation and punches you in the face with a sterile surface. It’s almost menacing, but at the same time, the strongest point in the show.
After returning to New York from Miami, Hacmon spoke to me about this show through a virtual interview, where he elaborated on the details on this project with Alexa. What may not be obvious is that there are attempts at empathy through these sculptures.
As a volunteer, Hacmon initiated classes at the RDJ refugee shelter in West Harlem, where he met and started to work with Alexa. Initially, he taught cabinetry classes to the residents. Through this, Hacmon witnessed firsthand the nervous conditions of migrants.
“The residents don’t get out of the shelter. They just stay there.” Hacmon said. “As a refugee there’s not much you can do and you always pray that someone won’t catch [you] and be deported, so you basically have a sense of claustrophobia. There's this sense of claustrophobia and entrapment even though you are allowed to go out.”
The connection with his practice and this project stems from Hacmon’s own history working as a security guard for the American embassy in Tel Aviv.
During an artist residency earlier this year in Omaha, Hacmon wove a narrative of the monotony of work to his current architectural-inspired work. I vividly recalled him offering me a glass of orange juice before jumping straight to the point and talking about the clausterphocially-small security post he worked in. (Though, it wasn’t that serious, and I remember crawling into one of his sculptures, and him doing the same with another).
“I used to work as a security guard, that’s what led to this concept of a one person living space,” he said.” You spend a lot of time [at your workplace]. It’s the same time you spend at home, but it’s not your home. But is it your home?
“I used to do night shifts, I would spend all nights in a booth. Philosophically, I was like, ‘why can’t it be considered a home?’ That’s why I call it a home although it looks like a corridor. It’s supposed to have this duality between freedom and entrapment.”
In a previous project, he recreated the security post he was stationed in, but made it slightly smaller and much more uncomfortable to be in. It had everything the original post had, from a CCTV camera and a fire alarm. It was totally functional. One can imagine that he was thinking of surveillance and security, as well as social control and wider systems of oppression at this point in his life.
From this, he used his body as a measurement, as something to work around. It’s not too dissimilar to Le Corbusier’s development of a universal measurement system based on the human body during the 20th century.
Take for example, Unit 6, a piece shaped like the letter “T.” Envisioned as a living space, visitors are encouraged to crawl into the artwork.
It’s still functional architecture, no matter how small. In fact, this probably reminds New Yorkers of a viral video of a 90-square foot apartment a woman managed to live in (She subsequently gave up and moved into a much larger space).
Though you can easily fit in if you tried, you’re restricted from really being able to move in any functional capacity, besides your head. In this way, one haunting aspect is enhanced - the sound of Alexa reading Nicaraguan poems in Spanish, which are both eerie, since her voice is omnipresent as you walk around the galleries, but are also equally poignant.
In the context of this exhibition, Hacmon’s goal was to weave the life of an immigrant into his sculptures that deal with entrapment and restriction - how people are able to move within those boundaries, be they actual barriers like lines, borders, or anti-tank Czech hedgehogs - made into a functionless, yet aesthetically perfect object, or metaphorical concepts that hover in the back of one’s mind. WM
Jonathan Orozco is an independent writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his art history BA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2020. Orozco runs an art blog called Art Discourses, which primarily covers Midwest artists and exhibitions.view all articles from this author