project image
E. Aaron Ross

first performed on October 21, 2013
an abandoned factory, Chicago, IL
performed once in 2013


Chicago, IL


This piece follows a previous piece ( where I find a tool that seems out of place in its environment and use it to make a performance and sculpture in the environment in which it was found.

While the last piece was an urban tool in a rural setting, for this new piece, “204 Hits Illuminating, Exhausting,” I wanted the reverse. I purchased an ax from the Swap-O-Rama on Chicago’s South Side, and located a group of cement pillars only a few blocks away at an abandoned factory. In the pitch black and silent night, I swung the ax into the pillar until I was too physically exhausted to continue. The sound of the ax hitting the pillar created a sharp and metallic echo, triggering a pair of audio-sensitive flashes to fire, illuminating the scene for a brief moment for two video cameras and one still camera.

With each swing, dust and cement filled the air before audibly sprinkling the ground. Toward the end of my performance (approximately eight minutes), the battery life of the flashes also became exhausted, firing less frequently (sometimes only every few hits or out of sync with the hit, allowing sparks from the ax to be visible). Eventually, the flashes stopped firing all together, and I myself stopped soon after from physical exhaustion.

This work produced a 2-channel video installation, 23 photos from the still camera connected to flash (when the two fired in succession to create a lit image), and a three-piece photo installation using one photo of the performance, one photo of the pillar after the performance and the ax itself mounted in a light box.

My practice uses performance and process-driven object making, with themes of personal failure and sacrifice, as it relates to identity and societal norms—particularly with regard to being a white male. I’m not interested in subverting these things, however, as much as I am in finding a way to articulate their existence and rectify it with my own.

Through my work, I strive to embrace the parts of myself I might otherwise hide and create a space that is both familiar and unsettling for the viewer. “204 Hits Illuminating, Exhausting” seeks to embody a fruitless anger and masculinity that I find repulsive, but intrinsic in myself. This work is an exercise in futility and aggression and its necessary expression.