“Freecaching” follows Troemel’s practice of developing conceptual bodies of work that take on new forms of fabrication, often while humorously taking inspiration from online platforms, like DIY tutorials on Pinterest or contraband purchased on the Silk Road, an online black market. With fellow artist
, he set up an Etsy shop called Ultra Violet Production House
, where they sell kits to create ironic, theoretical objects and installations, such as a tornado shelter that doubles as a ball pit.
“I usually allow for some type of customization, some manner by which the work can change over time,” Troemel explains. “It’s not static.” In the past he has embedded wall-hanging works with psychedelic mushrooms that can be revealed or concealed with sliding frames. And for his last show at Tomorrow, he presented clear panels filled with technicolored synthetic soil (developed by NASA) in which tunneling ants made their home.
Back in the park, I was relieved to find Troemel striding up a dirt path toward me, not far from where we had parted ways. He had found the hidden artwork, but a group of schoolchildren had chosen a spot right next to it as a stop on their field trip. “They’re what the geocachers refer to as ‘muggles,’” Troemel said, gesturing to the kids. He was hesitant to reveal the artwork in the chance they might see it and claim it for themselves, and thus unknowingly disturb the exhibition.
As we waited for the invaders to scatter, Troemel explained his thinking behind the show. “It’s meant to make use of the abundance of space in New York, which otherwise feels like it’s kind of closing in on you, between the price of rent and the constant shuffle of neighborhoods and transportation,” he said. “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, because for a single exhibition it’s arguably as much if not more labor to do all of this than it is to live amidst the clutter.”
Were this artistic hide-and-seek done on a larger scale, he says, the benefits could potentially outweigh the legwork. “You could definitely hide stuff everywhere, if you’re willing to saddle up that risk. But you gain all the space in the world,” he said. “It’s an interesting risk-reward calculation for me. Of course, in this case I’m passing that off to the collector or the visitor to the gallery.”