I was, perhaps, more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been. It was the night of February 28, and I was attending “I’m Sorry: An Apology Party,” a one-night showing of a piece by T.J. Donovan, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute.
The scene was as follows: I entered an apartment in Pilsen to find two men sitting on a couch drinking PBR and talking about art. On a TV in front of them was “I’m Sorry,” a thirty-second SketchUp animation in which a little man stood on a green plane in front of two big black squares that said “I’m Sorry.” A third black square, also labeled with “I’m Sorry,” spun around above the other two like a windmill. The TV emitted a whirring noise, like a wind turbine or a jet engine. In front of the TV stood a small table on which sat a bowl of condoms. Down the hall in the kitchen, three or four people were drinking PBR.
“I think I’ve made a huge mistake,” I said to one of the men on the couch. “I thought this was a gallery opening.”
“It is,” said the man, who introduced himself as Levi Budd. Budd is the creator of The Sandcastle, an artists’ organization he started a year ago. He likes to refer to it as “a virtual gallery.”
“I’m interested in collaborating with all kinds of artists,” said Budd. “What I do is, I make architectural models in SketchUp and I invite artists to do whatever they want to it. They can put their work into the model, or alter it however they want. From there, we decide an opening—where, when, how, what’s in it, and who’s invited.”
Donovan’s “I’m Sorry” is one such manipulation of a SketchUp model, and the random apartment into which I’d intruded was one such gallery opening. Certainly, I did not feel that Budd or Donovan had had me in mind when they decided who was invited. But the discomfort I was feeling, Budd told me, was appropriate: showing the art in a private space creates an intrusive and apologetic feeling in viewers who enter the apartment, fostering the same sort of paranoia that Donovan had used as the inspiration for “I’m Sorry.”
“Donovan’s not here, he moved back to South Dakota because he felt it was more important to take care of his family,” said Budd. “But he feels like he’s lost connections with a lot of people here, and is also a bit paranoid that he made a lot of mistakes, and was a dick to everyone. So he chose to make a video and an apology at the same time.”
“So ‘I’m Sorry’ is literally thirty seconds of this,” I said, gesturing to the screen, “and that’s the art.”
“Yes,” said Budd. “Also, the bowl of condoms.”