Bradley Collins mixes paintings and performance art to comment on process and finding the fun in menial labor.
Collins has had a variety of jobs over the years and now works as a pinsetter at Moodright’s. The idea for his latest show, “Work Order,” came about when he was working in the printmaking shop at SCAD and would draw lines for hours to escape the monotony of the job.
The work he makes is meticulous and very process-oriented, mirroring the way Collins thinks. His exhibition will be on display at Moodright’s, bringing his vision full-circle.
We caught up with Collins last week.
1. How did you come to Savannah?
I’m from Greenville, South Carolina. I graduated high school and moved around a lot—I left like a week after high school and moved to Las Vegas. I never wanted to go to school. I lived with some friends in San Francisco and they were like, “You’ve got to go to school.” Someone had told me about SCAD way long ago and I was like, “Okay, I’ll sign up.”
I was going to go for production design, but I could never get into the classes. I ended up taking a printmaking class and fell in love with printmaking.
2. How did this show come about?
I’m a pinsetter at Moodright’s. I worked at SCAD for four years with the print shop, but I was like, “Man, I’d love to sit back there and pick up pins.” It’s where my work is, this weird labor. That’s where the idea for “Work Order” came from: finding enjoyment in these jobs, doing meaningless tasks. There’s something that you’re not getting anything out of it, but finishing a project of any sort is really nice. Pins always get knocked down, but it’s just the repetitiveness, and that’s what I bring into my work.
The other work I have other than paintings, which I’m going to move into after this show, is all about bowling. It’s about work, about labor, but using bowling and like Sisyphus picking up pins. That’s kind of where the work is, and having weird jobs helps out. No one has their dream job all the time. It’s finding something fun in whatever you’re doing.
3. How did you begin this body of work?
This is a one-year mark of something that I’d started and said, “I’m going to see this through.” I don’t have any plans to be done with it, but I don’t really have any plans to continue it, either. It’s more just the idea.
The whole idea was to try and make a process that I could figure out everything and try to make a rule for it, trying to put myself as far away from it. The lines started by me working in the print shop and just drawing lines for two hours in silence whenever I worked. From there it was like, “I wonder if I can do this in CMYK,” so that’s where all the paintings came from. I made a book for 46 days, and from there the paintings started, and that’s what you’ll see in the show.
The show is set up from beginning to end, so everything goes in a circle—or a square, I guess! It’s from the beginning, so some paintings change, and there are points where you can see it got a little weird or it went a direction and then pulled back into something that had previously been done.
If I had sold something, that’s where the work order is coming in. There will be clipboards for everything that you can take off the wall; even the pieces that are gone are still represented in this timeline. I set up those rules, but now I’m the worker that fulfills them.
I think the idea is different. Before I had ever shown, I was into the idea of having more going on than the paintings on the wall. Who knows, I could mess it all up and there could just be paintings on the wall!
With the idea of process, there’s a funny side to it and there’s also a serious side to it. I like both of those ideas of the guy being in this room having to make these paintings, but he also kind of enjoys it.
That’s kind of where this bowling stuff, making videos or performance stuff ... no one has seen this new work. It’s hard to set out to do something different. No one’s sitting there racking their brain like, “I gotta look at everyone and do the opposite.” I think it just flows out at some point. You find something you enjoy and you’ve got to keep going until you don’t enjoy it anymore.
To show up with a box of bowling pins and try and pick them up for as long as you can and people are like, “The line guy is doing some bowling shit now?” It’s drastic change to some, but it’s in the same idea. At some point it’ll speak to each other. It’ll all come back around, and everything you do stick with you.
I don’t think people understand why I draw lines. I think I’m figuring it out.
4. Why are you drawing the lines?
To me, it’s not about drawing lines. It’s about fulfilling this thing, and the lines just have to be the easiest route. The lines didn’t really matter, the outcome didn’t really matter. It all just started as meditation, but I’ll say anti-meditation because you’re sitting there in silence for two hours drawing lines, like you think about some bad shit sometimes. That was where the lines started—something to do. And from there it was like, “What can I change or what can I add?”
That’s where it’s gotten to painting. The whole beginning was on paper, and it was in a book, and now it’s these paintings and sculptural pieces. I think it all evolves and you figure it out.
For me, a lot of this is just my head. This is just how I feel about the world or about work. Even if I wasn’t here and I had no idea about art, this is just something I do because it’s enjoyable.
The best thing I’ve heard working at Moodright’s, one night we got off and walked up to the bar and there were two guys sitting there, and they didn’t see me—I don’t think people even know we’re back there. I heard him say to his buddy, “That’s the worst thing. I feel so bad for those guys; that’s the shittiest job I’ve ever seen .These guys are just getting hit by bowling balls all day.” And it is. You’re in harm’s way at all times. People do not care.
But tonight, right after this, I will go into the pin box for six hours and pick up pins by myself. And I really enjoy it. There’s a weird system to it, and that’s how my mind works.
My grandmother is from Taylor, South Carolina, and she’s 92 and still goes to church like every day. She’s always like, “Everything you do, do it as well as you can.” I think that’s what keeps you going and keeps you sane, because no one’s telling you you’re picking up pins or drawing lines good.
5. What else would you want to explore in the future?
I’m really interested in process or visual performance and just doing something because I like to see if I can do it. “Can I do this for this long? How long can I do it?” And that’s really interesting.
Who knows? In school you go in and they’re like, “Today I want you to talk about your five, 10, 20 year plan.” I’m always bad at that. Nothing I’ve ever planned has gone that way.