Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts

Sean R. Ward: A Pre-Conscious Space

Opening Reception:
Artist Talk:
July 24, 2009 - July 25, 2010

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is proud to announce the arrival of A Pre-Conscious Space, a site specific architectural installation by the Oregon-based artist Sean R. Ward. A Pre-Conscious Space is a multi-functional art space built within the Okada sculpture facility, directly to the east of the Bemis Center. The commission establishes a new cultural destination and social space, and expands the Bemis Center’s physical campus. A Pre-Conscious Space has been funded in part by Mutual of Omaha and premiered on July 24 during Mutual of Omaha’s Wild About Omaha celebration.

Conceptually focused on the era prior to the thinking layer that enveloped the earth, Ward’s pre-conscious wattle and cob space is "meant to shed the self and all its irreparable damages." Ward is keenly interested in the cooperative structure of the Bemis Center and the potential inherent in its supportive network of Omaha-based artists, musicians, volunteers and interns, funders, business sponsors and community partners. A Pre-Conscious Space will exclusively serve live yeast, cask-conditioned ale brewed by Upstream Brewery.

Ward’s holistic vision for this highly idiosyncratic and singular artwork required an extensive design/build process achieved through closed-loop construction with zero waste and no forest offence. The space is built with wattle and cob, including mass quantities of salvaged or recycled materials such as crushed glass, linseed oil and indigenous timber rounds donated by the Council Bluffs Recycling Center.

The architectural form — a red clay, glassy cave that shimmers by candlelight — is driven by Ward’s desire for an ethical use of resources and a connection to pre-conscious materials and primitive forms of building. The space astoundingly out-performs conventional construction: the cob is fire-retardant, controls humidity, extracts dust and soot from the air, conducts ambient/radiant heating and cooling, and maintains an extraordinarily high negative ion rate, which induces happiness.

Throughout the three and a half month construction process, Ward is working at the Bemis Center as a visiting artist leading many interns, work-study students and volunteers to produce the space. The Bemis Center hopes this project poses a lasting impact on the organization and our community. We view this project as a gift to the city, the full possibilities of which can only be determined by the myriad ways the public takes ownership of it.

Artist’s Statement
A Pre-Conscious Space is a "Back to the Land" effort, imagined by a contemporary Self, such as myself, trying to build a bar NOW in the spirit of those individuals having not yet the notion of self. For lack of a time machine and the added burden of a few millennia of developed self-ness, I imagine such a place as being one dark in all manners. Or perhaps the pre-conscious body was incredibly blessed, idyllic and Eden-like in all regards, but my big bully of a contemporary Self begs to differ. I, in the now, imagine a place where for thousands upon thousands of years, humans slowly but surely separated themselves from both plant and animal and perhaps had the first instances of guilt for doing so. Through acts such as cave painting, the making of fetish objects, rituals of dance, orchestrations of masquerade, influx of varying tribes and subsequent "separations of labor/class," the idea of self came into the fore. And now I, here in the present, am convinced, perhaps through tons of ignorance, that a life lived without the blessed technology of self is one dark, creepy, damp and full of fear. Yet a pre-conscious individual may argue that the price of having a self is expensive, for it requires tremendous amounts of security. That self-awareness costs much and appears equally insatiable, ironically frail and profoundly successful, having enveloped the world into one thinking membrane.

About the Artist
Sean R. Ward was born in Eastern Long Island and now lives in Eugene, Oregon. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2000. In 2005 he was awarded the Charlotte Street Foundation grant, a major award in Kansas City. In 2006 he mounted an acclaimed solo exhibition, New 65" Paintings, at RARE in New York City. His current work employs closed-loop green construction processes to build socially transformative environments and highly idiosyncratic public spaces.

Past events in A Pre-Conscious Space
Jack Rose | 9.23.09
Mountains + Tape with special guest Fathr^ | 1.29.10
Chicago Underground Duo | 2.17.10

Artist Disdains Wasteful Ways | John Pitcher, Omaha World Herald | 7.29.09
Purely Primitive Pub | Sally Deskins, The Reader | 7.16.09
Cave-In | Will Simons, Omaha City Weekly | 7.15.09

Exhibitions Presenting Sponsor: Omaha Steaks
Event Sponsors: Aqua Systems, CampariUSA, Cubby's in the Old Market, Grand Marnier, The Boiler Room, Upstream Brewing Co., Warren Distribution
Sponsors: Mutual of Omaha, The Betiana and Todd Simon Foundation, Karen and Robert Duncan, Council Bluffs Recycling Center, Davis Erection, Dapose, Callyann Casteel, Larry Gawel, Nebraska Arts Council, Rainbow Music Center, Regal Plastic Supply Co., Rybin Plumbing and Heating, Schnackel Engineers, Inc., Tree Amigos, Upstream Brewing Co.

Click in the box below for a 360° view of the cave.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 South 12th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Admission and Parking: FREE
Phone:: 402.341.7130