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Housebergs by Theaster Gates - A Workshop Tutorial

Written by Anne Leopold,

In his installations, the artist Theaster Gates deals with the everyday life and history of the African-American population. His sparkling, spinning icebergs remind us of disco balls. In our tutorial we will show you how to create a glittering sculpture.

Theaster Gates is an artist. He is 47 years old and lives and works in Chicago, a large city in America.

He is currently showing an installation at Haus der Kunst. It is a work of art that occupies the entire room and consists of many individual parts. They are objects that the artist has collected, and also objects that he has designed himself.

All the objects share a common theme: they tell something about the everyday life of the black population in the USA. Theaster Gates is an African American himself.

Theaster Gates. Black Chapel, Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Photography: Jens Weber
Theaster Gates. Black Chapel, Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Photography: Jens Weber

Illuminated billboards from restaurants like Harold’s Chicken hang from the ceiling. The inexpensive dishes offered there, such as chicken wings, are part of the traditional African-American cuisine called "soul food", which means "food for the soul". They are very tasty dishes that recall happy meals enjoyed with friends and family.

Veronica Porché Ali and models, 1974.
Veronica Porché Ali and models, 1974.

In the installation you will see photos of African American photo models and celebrities on giant light boards. They confidently present fashion and hairstyle trends. The photographs are from the 1960s and 1970s, a time when most models in magazines were white women. The black population in America was severely marginalized. These pictures contrast this marginalization with a hopeful message by showing proud, strong and confident women.

Theaster Gates and The Black Monks, Photography: Oliver Abraham
Theaster Gates and The Black Monks, Photography: Oliver Abraham

Theaster Gates is also a big music fan and even plays in a band. The exhibition also includes a large collection of records. Gates got it from the descendants of Jesse Owens, the African American athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Despite these successes, Jesse Owens suffered from racial prejudice throughout his life.

Theaster Gates admires Jesse Owens not only as a famous athlete, but also for his knowledge of different musical styles. In order to be able to feed his family, the successful athlete also worked as a DJ.

In the exhibition, there is a sparkling structure with mirrors that reminds one of a discotheque. Gates calls it “Houseberg”. “House” is an electronic music style from Chicago. For Theaster Gates, music is a world in which you can live freely and where skin color or the place someone is from plays no role.

Theaster Gates. Black Chapel, Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Photography: Jens Weber
Theaster Gates. Black Chapel, Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Photography: Jens Weber

With or without music, you can also make something sparkle and create your very own and special “Houseberg.” We will show you how.

Before you start, you should have the following materials on hand:

cardboard / craft paper

aluminum foil (you can also reuse chocolate wrappers, etc.)

liquid glue

scissors

a pencil

waterproof felt pens

cotton swabs

Los geht’s!

Watch the video
How to... Houseberg inspiriert von Theaster Gates - Workshop Tutorial

Anne Leopold leitet das Atelier im Haus der Kunst.