Christopher Sperandio and Simon Grennan, the artistic duo nicknamed the “Kartoon Kings,” bring a blend of high and low art to the University with “Conflict Theory,” an interactive installation to be constructed with the help of student interns in North Campus’s Slusser Gallery.
Thursday at 5:10 p.m.
The pair proposed the “Conflict Theory” installation to the University earlier this year after hearing good things about Ann Arbor. Although they didn’t know exactly how it would look, the idea was based on two influences.
Their inspiration came from the group of sociological theories asserting that conflict drives human interactions. They also learned of a game that H.G. Wells, author of “The War of The Worlds” and noted pacifist, created for his children to play. It was a battle game with tin soldiers and dollhouses that Wells thought would curb the need to fight actual war, according to Sperandio, and the duo wanted to construct a piece around the activity.
Sperandio plans to construct a version of the same game on a large, low table with 40-inch high replicas of Ann Arbor buildings for the houses and 5-inch models based on Ann Arborites as the soldiers. On the surrounding walls, he envisions a “mural of destruction,” the plan for which isn’t finalized.
“I imagine it’s going to be kind of cartoony brick walls that are blowing up,” Sperandio said of the mural. “We want a balance between the thing being fun and taking ideas about war seriously.”
The installation should be completed by the third week in October. This week, Sperandio and a team of about a dozen student interns from various disciplines will pool their imaginations to begin the design, organization and creation of the installation. He encourages students from any background to get involved — even if they miss the Sept. 24 internship deadline.
“I would sort of liken it to a movie production,” Sperandio said. “I’m the director, but movies aren’t just made by the director … It’s a big undertaking and everyone who participates is going to have a role.”
Sperandio and Grennan have worked together for 20 years, making non-traditional artwork throughout the U.S. and Europe. The two have done extensive work in comic-book form, thus the nickname “Kartoon Kings,” and their artwork is often interactive.
“We make things that are strange and don’t fit the traditional boundaries,” Sperandio explained, adding that their work doesn’t normally appear in galleries or museums.
On previous projects, they have worked with groups of people ranging from factory workers to retirees, and they always find a balance of imparting knowledge and learning along the way. One of their latest projects, titled “Invisible City,” featured comic renderings of night workers in Berlin’s public transit rail on 10 commercial billboards throughout Berlin.
The mural in “Conflict Theory” may draw from Sperandio’s comic-drawing expertise, but the team will cast plastic army figures based on Ann Arborites — a sculptural process Sperandio has never undertaken in his life.
“I’m going to be right there learning beside them,” Sperandio said.
Sperandio is in Ann Arbor this semester for “Conflict Theory” while Grennan is in Britain working on a separate project, but the two are used to long-distance collaboration.
“We kind of have an idea about something and then we just jump in,” Sperandio said. “We’re not very cautious.”
The game is open to the general public, and Sperandio hopes to involve the Ann Arbor community with a Facebook group for “Conflict Theory.”
Sperandio will also give a lecture as part of the Penny W. Stamps speaker series put on by the School of Art & Design at the Michigan Theater this Thursday. He will speak about his and Grennan’s previous work and how “Conflict Theory” compares. He added that he and Grennan tend to do extremely diverse projects: animated films, comic books and even a reality TV show about arts on Gallery HD, “Artstar.”
“This is like all of our other work in that’s its uniquely unlike anything else we’ve done,” Sperandio said.