The work of Brooklyn-based artist Anissa Mack has long sought to connect viewers with bygone rituals and distinctly American traditions. Those who see her performances and installations encounter a brush with nostalgia that is often vaguely familiar at the same moment it is jarringly incongruous with our very modern times. In her 2002 piece, "Pies for a Passerby," Mack set up a tiny white cottage on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library, where she baked fresh apple pies for anyone who stumbled upon her ad hoc kitchen. For some, Mack's baking operation triggered a host of memories and emotions, while others just greedily coveted a free pie. In this way, the artist's project exposes not only the transporting qualities of traditional, family-oriented experiences, but also their depreciated currency in an era that has largely left them behind.
In The Last Full Weekend Each September, currently on display at small A projects, Mack revisits this line between emotional effect and cultural bankruptcy, using the figure of the country fair. In 1996, the artist entered work into all 73 craft categories at the Durham Fair, Connecticut's largest agricultural fair. Ten years later, she did it again, submitting work to all 69 categories. At first glance, Mack's crafts read like a country store's sales display: decorated mailboxes, Christmas stockings, a woven basket, bars of soap, and homespun wares and trinkets.
That the individual objects themselves are unremarkable is a little disappointing, but it is essential to the success of the project in a larger sense: Mack participates in the fair on its own terms. Her entries do not flaunt her art world credentials, nor do they attempt to reinterpret the categories from some paradigm-shifting, hyper-intellectual perspective. Instead, Mack seeks to immerse herself in tradition, to share in the same experience as her competitors. It's a refreshing approach to artwork based in social practice. Here, the artist does not assume a privileged detachment from the subject she studies; Mack situates herself in the thick of things, an artistic strategy that is sincere, compassionate, and, above all, fair.