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Dirty Dark Place brings contemporary art to a corner of the Kyle Flea Market

Written by
Veronica Meewes

There's not much that can’t be found at the flea markets located just outside Austin's city limits. After all, flea markets are inherently bastions of the zero waste lifestyle: physical proof that one person’s trash is indeed another’s treasure. This year, a forward-thinking contemporary art space inside the Kyle Flea Market is pushing those boundaries even further.

H I X Collective, a project-based art group run by Daedelus Hoffman and Lindsay Starr, took up residence in a back corner booth of the market in January, and dubbed the space Dirty Dark Place (inspired by A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, the Austin gallery that artist Dave Hickey opened in 1967). The duo is renting DDP, formerly a tattoo parlor, for the entire year and featuring a different artist’s work each month. 

“DDP is an experiment in radical populism and a challenge to the traditional structures and strictures...of contemporary art,” says Hoffman. “We hope to bring new forms to new audiences and expand community through our exhibitions and public programming.”

All on the Line

Case in point: Unsuspecting weekend shoppers who strolled up to the booth in February were met with a team of salespeople initiating conversation about the perceived value of Robert Jackson Harrington’s artwork. A challenge called Hands on a Harrington (inspired by the documentary Hands on a Hard Body) ensued, rewarding those who could keep contact with any of the pieces for the entire opening of his exhibition, All on the Line.

“There’s a lot of on-the-nose comparisons to sending up the marketplace, the art marketplace, and contrasting that to the urgent, informal version of capitalism that we see at the flea market,” describes Hoffman. “I think that’s there and the artists definitely pick up on that and I see that more and more in the projects they’re developing.”

Remote Storage

In March, Sean Ripple’s show Remote Storage, which features a panoramic work created across a series of archived art library books, was created in response to the recent displacement of UT’s Fine Arts Library. In April, Christie Blizard performed an “EDM tailgate” in the parking lot of the flea market, attracting curious bargain-hunters with her outlandish display of electronic music and puppetry. 

“There’s a lot of considerations when using the space—there’s no wifi, there’s people there who don’t normally engage with contemporary art,” says Starr. “So it’s not like we want someone to just come in and show their existing work. We want someone to come in and utilize the space.”

It's not only these considerations, but the participants themselves, that challenge each artist’s site-specific work, which means there are also plenty of raised eyebrows and discussions about what defines art or its worth.

“We’re interested in disruption—in making trouble and having disagreements and people not liking things,” says Hoffman. “We think there are just as interesting conversations to be had in divergence as in convergence. I want people to be able to disagree openly, frankly and often.”

Dark Dirty Place

A need for affordable art space, coupled with a lack of programming for emerging and mid-career artists, originally inspired Hoffman and Starr to seek space outside city limits. But, by bringing contrasting worlds together in a year-long project, the two ended up doing much more than that.

“We’ve been so gratified by the warm reception we’ve received from the regulars at the Flea Market and deeply heartened by the looks of pure joy and curiosity on the faces of visitors as they encounter our various projects,” says Starr. “DDP has taught us to still believe in the revolutionary potential of art and the transformational power of community.” 

This summer, monthly program will continue with artists like Ryder Richards, Daniela Cavazos Madrigal, Brad Tucker and Anthony Rundblade, utilizing a range of media—from hacked shop vacs to faux YouTube tutorials—and exploring topics like flea market formalism, the dark side of DIY culture and the Mexican immigrant experience in central Texas.

For information on future openings and events, follow DDP on Facebook and Instagram. You can find DDP at the Kyle Flea Market, located at 1119 N Old Hwy 81, Kyle, TX, on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 5pm.

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