Ben Hall @ Essay’d
“I am trying the least-hard to be an artist of anyone you’ve met,” says Ben Hall, by way of contextualizing art in the diverse constellation of his interests and responsibilities. Like most things Hall says, there are varying degrees of truth to this complicated matter. Fanatical about language, obsessive about details, and meticulous in his planning, Hall is clearly moving toward something with great determination—and that something includes receiving an MFA from one of the country’s most prestigious universities. But a deeper look at the projects and lifestyle infrastructure that Hall has constructed indicate that he is not, as he says, trying to “be an artist,” and especially not trying to make things that “look like art.” Rather, art is just one of a number of mechanisms—one with which, it must be noted, he manipulates with dexterity—that he’s using to drive toward bigger priorities.
What, then, are these aims? Hall is concerned with ideas, first and foremost, but also placemaking, efficiency, generative curatorial models, and especially social mobility. “My people are neither learned not educated,” Hall is quick to offer, “they are Wal-Marters, through and through.” (“Wal-martyrs?” he ponders, finding a new linguistic layer in his own rhetoric, mid-conversation) While Hall places no apparent judgment on various levels of social strata, he is keenly aware of them and cites their signifiers as a kind of shorthand—both conversationally, but also in the deployment of materials in various iterations of his art practice.