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Broken Dayton Invasion

Art group from Ohio to take over Grey Gallery

March 1, 2012
By MATTHEW PARRISH ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

The Broken Dayton Machine, an art group from Dayton, Ohio, will take over the Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., at 6 tonight.

The exhibition will be a spectacle - there will be multiple video projections occupying the windows of the art space as well as a performance by popular Lewisburg-based artist Aaron Meyers, who will go all David Blaine by burying himself in salt while surviving only by breathing through a thin straw.

Recently, the Sun-Gazette connected with Broken Dayton Machine member Nicholaus Arnold via email to learn more about the group, which features Ian Breidenbach, Frank Travers, Ren Cummings, Ashley Jude Jonas and W. Phillip Evans.

Article Photos

Artwork by The Broken Dayton Machine is shown. The art group from Dayton, Ohio, will take over the Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., beginning with the opening reception at 6 tonight.

Evans was a part of the Public Art Academy's Artist-in-Residence program last summer, spending a few months making art at the Pajama Factory.

MATTHEW PARRISH: In your mission statement, you called Dayton a failing city. Why is it failing?

NICHOLAUS ARNOLD: I think that the idea of a failing city is kind of like saying that there are just a lot more bad things happening than good ones at the moment. Dayton's a rustbelt city that somehow held onto a lot of industry until very recently and it's having to find a new way to grow to get out of its problems, problems that a lot of cities in the midwest are having to deal with: poor economy, rising crime rates, lack of development, etc. I guess in the statement I wanted to keep from using the word "dying" unlike news magazines that create lists of such things. I feel that as long as people believe in a place it can't die. Does that make sense? I love my home town more than anything. I feel like it's a place only a mother could love. It's quirky and beautiful, but it takes someone from there to see its potential. Lucky for me, I know it's awesome.

MP: When did you guys form? What connects you other than the place? Do you collaborate a lot?

NA: We formed around the beginning of 2010 while Frank, Ren and I were in grad school and Ian was growing a giant beard to turn into candles. One of us got an idea that we should start an art collective and pool our resources to do national shows, and the next thing I knew, I was emailing crazy ideas to people I never expected, trying to do projects everywhere.

MP: What do you think are some of the more interesting shows Broken Dayton Machine has pulled off?

NA: My favorites right now are the video ones. Our "I Have No Rival" video shows always seem to draw a crowd and get people interested. We started those in Dayton and moved them around slightly under the same title. I'm not really sure how we pulled the first one off. I believe Phil [Evans] and I collected nine projectors, drove through the night 600 miles to the venue and met up with everyone about 24 hours before we pulled off a three-story video projection. That one was awesome. Living in an old convent for a couple weeks and burying a time capsule in a couple tons of concrete was pretty cool, too. We did that in Braddock, Pennsylvania, with Unsmoke Systems. I always like the stories behind the shows; there's so much that can sometimes go into pulling one of our "events" off that the viewer doesn't see. That's one of the reasons I'm excited about this show. It's kind of like a Broken Dayton's greatest hits show. We get the opportunity to show our work and make something weird happen.

MP: Any funny stories from past exhibitions that you wish to share?

NA: I've got five million funny stories about trying to pull off Broken Dayton shows. Many involve Frank Travers' needs for a show, which are always last-second, but some great adventures. He's the only person I've known that would ask you to pick up 20 pounds of popped popcorn, some live bait and a few pounds of glitter while you're out to get something like masking tape. It was quite an awkward trip to the Wal-Mart that day.

MP: What do you have planned for the Grey Art Gallery?

NA: We plan to make it a super awesome art-holder for the next month. Actually, I think this is the first time we've coordinated with a commercial gallery space with a mutual interest in creating an interesting show. In the past, we've mostly been creating art happenings or events in non-traditional spaces or even an occasional academic space. What's great is Casey's [Gleghorn, co-owner of the gallery] response and interest in getting us into this sort of format, it's giving us a new model to use for future shows.

MP: I saw the show is titled "Better Than Nothing" and the flyer has a minimal artwork on it. Where did the title come from? What about minimalism inspires you?

NA: The title is actually from a book of William S. Burroughs' dreams. We weren't coming up with very much in the way of titles that fit what Casey wanted for the show or any kind of direct concept show - which we're still looking for venues for - so we decided to pick page numbers, I'd read a passage from the page and we'd pull a few titles from it. "She Died of Poisonous Puberty" was my favorite, but since Phil knew Casey and Casey's wants, "Better Than Nothing" won out. It's grown on me quite a bit though at this point.

MP: Why should people be excited for the show?

NA: I promise that if you come to the show I'll make sure we finally get flying cars and that hover-boards will indeed be a thing in three more years. I think the Grey Gallery just promises free money. Seriously, I can't deliver on any of that this show - maybe another one. I can promise some awesome arts, some interesting ... video sorts of things - not sure how to describe it - unicorns and miscellaneous body fluids. Probably some bad puns too and I'm hoping a giant pile of salt. Combine those every way your mind can and you get an interesting show to come see.

The opening reception for the show will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight and the exhibition will be on display through the end of the month.

For more information about Broken Dayton Machine and to read the group's manifesto, visit



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