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  Interview w/Natalie Borchers of The Chop Shop  
  By writer, published in citylink newspaper  
     
 

Two sisters decided to amass several artists for a one-night experience of film, music and visual arts on their own dime. They had no idea this premeire event in the raw space adjacent to the California Clipper would draw such a huge crowd. Today, they gear up for show number five.

Rachel and Natalie Borchers are working artists, first and foremost. Despite the glamourless income of bartending and light carpentry freelancing, the two add research, curation, event production and promotion to the workload. In the five shows so far, they managed to fly in musicians from around the US and budget around the needs of a multi-artist exhibition, all the while steadily producing original art for their own body of work.

The Chop Shop's Lament of the Sloth takes place on May 1 at their new location in Pilsen. With issues in the previous venue, from lights dimmed for film that killed the art on the walls, to the severe gentrification cocktail brewing in Humboldt, the Borchers sisters set to resolve all conflicts to best display the talents that inspired them in the first place. They found a home with separate floors to accommodate the varied media, and a community that is primed to embrace their contribution.

The Chop Shop owes its name to several local sublegal endeavors in close proximity to the original venue, and to the found object art that makes up a part of both founders' work. True to the aesthetic implied by the name, the sisters found alternative promotional stratagies to spread the word about the first one night show.

"I have to keep money out of it. It's not about that, and money wasn't a concern - just trying to get the word out. They [a-fir-ju-well, a participating band from Atlanta] advertised on wooden fruit crates. They painted the wood slats and left them around the neighborhood. That was our advertising," said Borchers. It worked. Natalie recalled looking up at Wicker Park's Una Mae's Freak Boutique on Milwaukee to see one of the original crates hanging from the ceiling on display. "We attracted all different types of people. The Chicago Motorcycle chapter show up. Professors. The intent is to bring in all different walks of people. It's not exclusive; I want it to be a shared experience."

Rachel and Natalie painstakingly select artists not only for their creative work, but for their ability to work toward a common goal. N. Borchers reiterated throughout the conversation the collectivity necessary and integral from the preproduction efforts to the time the doors open. Everybody is respected, and everybody is important. The same goes for the guests. It's a sentiment Natalie rarely finds in formal gallery exhibitions. "Nothing makes sense to me about a gallery setting, it just seems stale. Dead. I wanted to create an experience that was alive, that you could take with you." This opinion has developed from its birthplace at the School of the Art Institute here in the city, where Natalie studied. "Art school pissed me off." Borchers said, swiftly mounting her hands on her hips. "I wanted to bring in all the people that that experience wanted to exclude."

With that spirit of acceptance, the sisters decided on a date to coincide with the new moon, a date of significance in the mythos of changing-season cultures. "Outdoor fucking begins," Natalie chimed, "The 1st of May. It's a new moon , so I thought it was appropriate. Immediacy, honesty, no pretension."

After a long winter of concerns like the gas bill and rent, Borchers' intent to celebrate the tenacity of American artists brought about the title Lament of the Sloth. Participating artist Dave Pearson actually named the show in a conversation of misunderstanding and wordplay. "Dave named it 'Lament of the Sloth,'" said N. Borchers. "I thought of the deadly sin, but he was referring to the animal," cracking up Pearson, who was present at the interview and seated across the studio. Pearson added, "Then I started thinking of it as artists that kind of keep going. It's sad. They're not being slothful. They don't stop, whatever happens. It's lamenting our non-slothiness." In addition to the rich sound of a deadly sin, it so happens that Lexy Strong, an exhibition visual artist, has imagery of the sloth (animal) in her body of work. The name worked.

The sisters don't really know what to expect this time around. They do know, however, that their work is important. These artists produce. They work as many jobs as they have to, spend money to produce art for art's sake, and some fat wallets have done more than take notice. "At the last show, once it became a name, some big people came in. For instance, a big time photographer bought up Gregory Jacobson's [a visual artist from a previous show] collection, turned around and sold it for a substantial profit," Natalie pointed out. The sisters take no commission from the exhibitors, as they feel no right to cut into a fellow artist's living. Even though the rich guy got a little richer, as they do, the Chop Shop sisters see it as progress. The exposure is growing.

The list is set. Lament of the Sloth with host works from twelve artists, and live music from The Good Friday Experiment and a-fir-ju-will out of Atlanta, Georgia. "I wanted the purity, Natalie emphasized. "Keep it tight."
The line up for Thursday, May 1st at 908 West 19th Street opening at 6pm (byob):
Visual artists Bryan Bankovich (Newmerica Productions), Rachel Borchers, Natalie Borchers, Kelly Brannon, Matthew Brannon, E.K. Buckley, Bill Gant, Stacy Goldsmidt, Marianna Levant, and Dave Pearson, with a command Chop Shop performance by a-fir-ju-will, music by the Good Friday Experiment and DJ'ed by Chris Wilkus. Bryan Bankovich of Newmerica Productions will show short films, some of which depend on the live interaction of the musicians in a-fir-ju-well. As Natalie likes it, it's a show you have to attend to take away the synthesis of the cumulative work these artists put forward.
"I'm making an offering basically; inviting everybody to take it in for what they will."

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