Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts

Matthew Dehaemers: (402) DisConnect/ReConnect | Gallery 1

Opening Reception: Friday, March 13 | 6:00 - 9:00pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, March 14 | 12 noon
March 13 - May 30, 2009

During his exhibition (402) DisConnect/ReConnect, Kansas City-based artist Matthew Dehaemers plans to make a phone call to every individual listed in the Omaha White Pages. Dehaemers' massively ambitious effort is founded in his desire to "create work that somehow interrupts or alters the average person's routine if only for a moment in time - in this case trying to transform a typically unpleasant experience into a positive one." A team of volunteers, including local high school students, participants in Urban League of Nebraska's Community Service Program, and many others will make the 100,000 calls to offer a brief question or affirming thought that relates to them and their community. As Dehaemers says, "The only thing I am selling is Omaha."

Matthew Dehaemers utilizes the social and cultural histories of a region to make unforeseen connections with diverse contemporary communities. To begin a project, the artist initiates substantial research into the historical context where his work will be presented, while simultaneously building collaborative relationships throughout the city. His work often retells forgotten histories or connects severed alliances - in forms that are at once surprising, poetic and create lasting images in the mind. His improvisatory process begins without preconceptions, which allows an open-ended relationship to materials and narrative. For the artist, the process and collaborative relationships developed along the way are as critical as the work itself. Through his work, holistic relationships emerge between history, memory, materials and communities.

For this project, Dehaemers delved into the intertwined histories of STRATCOM and the telecommunications and stockyards industries. At various points in the city's history, each held a primary place, and were developed with mutual dependence. To distill their complex interrelationships, the exhibition highlights various communications strategies, from a celebratory telethon to the surreal rigors of a parodied War Room, a la Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe. The Omaha White Pages serve as literal building blocks of this show, providing the information necessary to make the calls and the predominant sculptural material.

At its core, the project aims to illuminate what is taken for granted and leverage that surprise into new social connections. According to the artist, "I find myself wanting to link people back to their own history and their own community sometimes using a medium that is obvious but at the same time unexpected. This is a performative exhibition that the whole community can literally be a part of individually and collectively. This installation will use the digital pulse of the telephone to take the pulse of the Omaha community."

In 2006 Dehaemers was an artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center. Many in Omaha will remember his public performance on September 28, 2006, the 87th anniversary of the 1919 Omaha Race Riot resulting in the death of William Brown. Dehaemers used hundreds of white chalk pieces to write in a continuous line an account of the events leading to the lynching of Will Brown. The seven-hour performance began with the text wrapping around the courthouse where the mob first gathered, and Deheamers moved on his hands and knees nearly a mile in length winding through the downtown streets of Omaha to the location where Will Brown's body was set ablaze by a crowd of white individuals.

About the Artist
The artist received his BFA from Creighton University and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin. He has received major national public art commissions, including the recently completed work Seven Sentinels at the Vehicle Impound Facility in Kansas City and works commissioned by Los Angeles County and the Missouri Department of Transportation. He has been awarded the Kansas Arts Commission Fellowship Award, the Joan Mitchell Fellowship, four Public Art Network Recognitions, an NAACP Community Contribution Award as well as numerous residencies.

Omaha artist will attempt to call every Omaha phone number by Jeremy Buckley, courtesy of Daily Nebraskan, March 11, 2009
Hello, Omaha, Bemis Calling! by Michael Joe Krainak, courtesy of Omaha City Weekly, March 18, 2009
Artist will reach out and touch through phone calls by John Pitcher, courtesy of The Omaha World-Herald, March 13, 2009
Mixed Media: Matthew Dehamers by Sarah Baker, courtesy of The Reader, March 12, 2009
Telephone line by Sarah Baker, courtesy of The Reader, March 26, 2009

Exhibitions Presenting Sponsor: Omaha Steaks
Sponsors: The Nebraska Arts Council, Clark Creative Group, Upstream Brewing Co.
In-Kind Donors Sponsors: Dex, Council Bluffs Recycling Center, Home Depot, Century Converting, Kinko's FedEx, AAA
Volunteers and Collaborators:Urban League of Nebraska's Community Service Program and students from Kent Bellows Studio's Mentorship Program

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