Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Forts Are Works of Art

by Chelsey Perkins 


Tags: Arts, The Believer, 2008 Arts Issue, Morgan Meis, forts, Flux Factory,

Kid's Fort“I am, unabashedly, pro-fort,” writes Morgan Meis. Meis is a founding member of the New York City-based arts collective Flux Factory and a contributor to the 2008 Art Issue of the Believer, out this month. In his essay “Classified Report from ‘The Secret Clubhouse’ ” (excerpt available online) Meis opines on the artistic value of forts, be they minimalist sheet-and-pillow shelters or the decidedly luxurious structure built by his friend, which included indoor plumbing and electricity.

Who can forget the whimsy of entering a fort you’ve built from found materials around the house, transforming daily activities into clandestine operations of the highest degree? Meis and Flux Factory recapture that magic with their own creations, having famously occupied a room in the Queens Museum of Art for several months in 2002, building and rebuilding a gigantic fort.

Meis’ essay seeks to explain what creates this special connection to our forts: “Take two identical objects, one built to be a toolshed and the other built as a fort. They look exactly the same. But once you know that one is a fort, it transforms. You approach it with diffidence, with the respect of someone entering a sacred space….It is the same with works of art. You don’t treat them as mere objects even if, strictly speaking, there is nothing in their material makeup to differentiate them from mere objects.” Meis offers Andy Warhol's Brillo Box and Marcel Duchamp’s Prelude to a Broken Arm, which is simply a snow shovel, as examples of everyday objects we view as art.

Forts are not the only artwork covered in the newest issue of the Believer. You can also read articles about—among other things—passport photography, a bad-luck painting, imposing public art, and interviews with Global Seed Vault artist Dyveke Sanne, painter and printmaker Frank Stella, author Lynda Barry, mechanical-pencil artist Robyn O’Neil (full text online) and cartoonist Keith Knight.

Image by tastybit, licensed under Creative Commons.