Mint Gallery spaces on the Intergalactic Strongthang Competition
Fantasy in art is often bridled by the need to point out flaws in the human condition, absurdities of modern culture, or the destruction left in the wake of human pursuits. Given that there are so many targets out there, the near absence of a political message may be the most enticing element of the Intergalactic Strongthang Competition. For the lastest work from young Atlanta art collective Plastic Aztecs, wild imaginations fuel a made-up outer-space competition for pure artistic fun.
On July 11 at MINT Gallery, the Aztecs — Andrea Sanders, Dorothy Stucki and Becky Furey — will roll out the Intergalactic Strongthang Competition, “an event occurring every century organized to celebrate strength and unity by the Intergalactic Federation of Amateur Strongthangs.” In an arena/museum setup complete with repurposed exercise equipment, announcer audio, and slowed-down, cut-up jock rock, competition will ensue in alien costumes constructed of gold-painted football pads, full-body skin-tight Zentai suits, strategically placed fur, antlers and more.
The Aztecs' humor might be distracting at first, but the show is as deep as it is out there. The lengths the Aztecs go to to create an alternate reality with which outsiders can interact and experience as part of a collective imagination are impressive. The group's respect for its art, fantasy, altered states and the unknown are no joke, either.
“We are inviting people to experience and define something … it’s an invitation for people to play with us, for the audience to be playful, strong and engaged,” says Sanders.
She says diving into ideas about Strongthangs has been empowering, and the show will attempt to impart those feelings to the audience. To that effect, the Aztecs even built a Strongthang machine for attendees to ride.
“It’s just going to be outlandish, and I think that’s a big risk to take,” says Sanders.
Obviously, the Plastic Aztecs aren't afraid to take risks. The group's first show was held at Eyedrum a year after Sanders, Stucki and Furey graduated from Georgia State University’s fine arts program. Titled The Neon Apocalypse, it also created an alternate reality. The futuristic theme of shared consciousness was portrayed through post-apocalyptic relics of plastic-resin skulls accented with bones, teeth, moss and colored sand. It seems to have set the stage for the artistic shared consciousness they're now fully exploring as a group.
“Working with other people helps you expand your mind and what you’re capable of," says Stucki. "When Andrea and I work together, she’ll have an idea that she won’t work on but I’ll create something from her idea or she’ll make something that I’ll think of.”
The Intergalactic Strongthang Competition marks Furey’s debut as a Plastic Aztec. “I want people to remember being at the show, even if the way they are interacting with it is to have to move out of the way of the art.”
The work isn't completely without pokes at strange cultural practices, as references to Strong Man and the Olympics are obvious. “In some ways, we’re really making fun of this subculture but also harnessing the wonderful things about it,” says Sanders.
But, as Stucki points out, being the microcosm that it is, Intergalactic Strongthang Competition, like those earthly competitions, is designed to offer relief from the everyday intensity. “The Olympics are this international symbol of peace where we all stop fighting and come together to have this fun competition that we can all enjoy. This is like being on the next galactic level — there’s space star wars and stuff and we’ll all take time out to have a nice competition.”