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Lenka Clayton, Phillip Andrew Lewis

The Museum Collects Itself

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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Clayton and Lewis continue their ongoing exploration of archaeology in The Museum Collects Itself, which focuses on the perceived antiseptic space of the museum, one seemingly free of dust or garbage. For the 10-months of their exhibition, Clayton and Lewis reveal the white cube’s lack of pristine, by diverting the museum’s waste stream to the Monterey Annex first floor. The gallery begins empty, and as trash is accumulated, it is brought into the space. 91 trash and recycling bins are collected daily from the administrative and museum spaces of the Mattress Factory. All but biohazard and food waste will accrete in Clayton and Lewis’s exhibition to be sorted by the entire staff of the museum from the director to the docents, creating what the artists refer to as “an ever-evolving accumulation, forming piles into dunes, dunes into hills, slowly filling the space.”

By collecting 10-months of trash they make cultural waste evident, while aestheticizing the discarded in an installation – sorting, baling, and piling into the gallery, as visitors traverse the material via diminishing pathways. This conjures Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, Dust Breeding (1920), in which the dust gathered on Duchamp’s “Large Glass” was photographed by Man Ray in a bird’s eye view. It is accumulation made visible, a nod to the Readymade, and an imaginary map of a forgotten city. After dust breeds and garbage piles up, Clayton and Lewis’s gallery ends as it started: empty. Perhaps we will be left with a deeper understanding of what happens behind the scenes or will imagine hovering above the installation to see the topography of the Mattress Factory’s waste, a place “under the last dust.”

-Denise Markonish


March 3, 2023 - December 30, 2023


1414 Monterey, 1st Floor

Image by Tom Little, courtesy of Mattress Factory
About The Artist

Lenka Clayton (b. 1977 Derbyshire, UK) and Phillip Andrew Lewis (b. 1973 Memphis, Tennessee) have solo and collaborative practices and have been working together since they met at Headlands Center for the Arts in 2017. The couple live and work in Pittsburgh, PA. Their collaborative projects include an ongoing video-based call and response conversation between one rock and one stone, a public gallery that is always closed, an 8ft long bronze plaque marking the history of their studio building over the last 600 million years, and most recently, the construction of a full-scale working lighthouse, encapsulated inside a dilapidated rowhouse. Their solo and collaborative work has been supported by Creative Capital, Headlands Center for the Arts, Center for Creative Photography, Foundation for Contemporary Art in New York, Black Cube, Reach Projects, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, The Heinz Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Warhol Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Rothschild Foundation and Art Matters. Recent exhibitions include The Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, MU Eindhoven, The Broad Museum in Michigan, LifeSpace Gallery in Dundee, and The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Clayton’s work is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery.


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