For many, hoarding represents a kind of other-ness from which we seek to immediately distance ourselves. Hoarders are compulsively driven to save and accumulate all kinds of materials, seeing as treasure objects that are conventionally considered garbage. Because the hyperbolic nature of extreme hoarding is so alienating, it is a condition easily dismissed as madness—or even misconstrued as laziness or dirtiness by people with less sensitivity to the nuances of hoarding as a legitimate mental illness—but in reality, lower-stakes hoarding behavior is commonplace and presents along a kind of continuum. Most people have a drawer filled with unresolved objects, otherwise known as a “junk drawer.” The junk drawer is a kind of small-scale hoard, filled with objects for which we sense a purpose, but whose use remains ambiguous enough that they cannot be properly placed. Some people may have a junk car, or a junk closet, or a whole junk office, attic, or basement.
Artists are also people who may sense potential in materials that might otherwise be dismissed or discarded. In Detroit, where large studio spaces can be maintained over long periods of time at minimal cost, there are a large number of artists who cultivate creative hoards in varying stages of usefulness and disorder. There is also a decades-long tradition of artists who take things a step further, using abandoned homes as source materials for their art. Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert—a married art duo known jointly as Design99—are among the most contemporary generation in a longstanding interventionist tradition of Detroit “house art,” which stretches back into the 1960s and includes characters like Tyree Guyton and Olayami Dabls. Just west of Conant, where Detroit and Hamtramck converge in the Banglatown neighborhood, Reichert and Cope have been converting houses in their neighborhood into interactive works, collectively know as Power House Productions. In addition to the works that have evolved out of abandoned properties, Reichert and Cope have salvaged the remains of two houses that were completely hoarded by neighbors, resulting in extremely powerful fine artworks that raise questions about the life of objects and our ongoing relationships with them.