September 20 – December 7, 2024

For over a century, scientists, engineers, and government officials have been working to protect the Texas Gulf Coast from superstorm events that have damaged local ecosystems, displaced and killed coastal residents, and immobilized the region’s energy, shipping, and military operations. In the wake of catastrophic storms and hurricanes, including Katrina, Ike, and Harvey, the US Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the construction of a $57 billion floodgate and dike system in Galveston Bay called the Texas Coastal Barrier Project, or “Ike Dike” for short. One of the largest proposed projects in the corps’ history, the Ike Dike has been vaunted not only as essential to protecting the Houston Ship Channel but also under the banner of environmental and community protection. Fred Schmidt–Arenales’s exhibition, IT IS A GOOD PROJECT AND SHOULD BE BUILT, examines the corps’ efforts to advocate for the Ike Dike using community- and environment-focused rhetoric in public forums while developing a plan that prioritizes industrial, political, and military concerns above all else.

Juxtaposing real-world interviews with corps officers, footage of bureaucratic procedures, and historical narratives of local environmental infrastructure projects with staged civic action and musical performances, Schmidt–Arenales’s film untangles the irony at the heart of the Ike Dike project: the industries it is designed to protect are the very industries driving the escalation of superstorms in Texas and around the globe. And the communities and ecosystems that are most threatened by rising sea levels and storms will continue to bear the brunt of the Ike Dike’s costly shortcomings. IT IS A GOOD PROJECT AND SHOULD BE BUILT offers perspectives on intervening in purposefully opaque bureaucratic procedures and demonstrates the importance of questioning seemingly innocuous administrative performances through imaginative and collaborative methods.

This exhibition is presented a stone’s throw from the Texas State Capitol, where the Army Corps of Engineers and members of the Texas Legislature are currently debating the Ike Dike’s feasibility and future.

Fred Schmidt–Arenales: IT IS A GOOD PROJECT AND SHOULD BE BUILT originated at Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, NY, as part of Swamplands, a yearlong research project that focused on the ethical and technical entanglements of water. It was organized by the Storefront team with lead curator Jessica Kwok. This presentation is organized for the Visual Arts Center by Max Fields.

About the artist

Fred Schmidt–Arenales is an artist and filmmaker. His projects attempt to bring awareness to unconscious processes on both individual and group levels. He has presented films, installations, and performances internationally at venues including SculptureCenter and Abrons Arts Center (New York), Links Hall (Chicago), The Darling Foundry (Montreal), Lightbox Film Center and Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Artspace (New Haven), The Museum of Fine Arts and FotoFest (Houston), Künstlerhaus Halle für Kunst und Medien (Graz), and Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna). His recent film Committee of Six was an official selection of the 2022–23 Architecture and Design Film Festival (New York) and was awarded a jury prize for best film at the 2023 Onion City Experimental Film Festival (Chicago).

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