February 16, 2018

Pallets as social commentary

Museum installation featuring pallet-based sculptures illustrates the declining role of physical labor.

By DC Velocity Staff

Liz Glynn pallet installation in Los Angeles This photo shows a 2010 installation of Glynn's work in Los Angeles, featuring a 27-foot tall pyramid of reclaimed forklift pallets.

A gigantic cave made of pallets plays a starring role in a new art exhibit about the transition from physical labor and production to robotics and the digital economy.

Los Angeles-based artist Liz Glynn's "The Archaeology of Another Possible Future" installation, now on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, Mass., stretches nearly a football field in length, according to the museum. The sculptures in the exhibit trace a path from physical labor and tactile objects associated with work and production to a digital future where humans are marginalized. The setting—a former Sprague Electric factory turned art museum—is an apt location to explore the many changes technology has wrought and the issues "progress" raises for individuals and society as a whole.

The enormous constructions "Sound Cave," "Touch Cave," and "Smell Cave," made of a veritable mountain of pallets, enclose exhibits that allow visitors to use all their senses. Another sculpture uses pallet slats to illustrate the distribution of wealth in the United States.

The installation also includes three 20-foot shipping containers. One encloses an exhibit about inventions, while another screens videos, including one of workers walking away and disappearing into fog. On weekends, the third container is inhabited by a former factory machinist, who works with his hands, playing music, building looms, and spinning wool, according to a review of the exhibition in The Boston Globe. (Warning: The article refers to pallets as "palettes" throughout. Try not to grind your teeth.)

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