Pratt DDA Faculty Show
As an artist, how much context and instruction do we need to give to a viewer for the art we are creating to be impactful? Without the context, does the art become less meaningful or does it allow the viewer a better chance to engage with the work and develop their own personal connection to it? Viewing Blake Marque Carrington's projections at the DDA faculty show raised these questions for me. While the video projected was aesthetically pleasing and almost entrancing, there was little context for the content of the videos and how they were being created. Was it interactive? Were we able to manipulate the projected video because of an unseen sensor? After the show I looked up Blake's website to find out some more information. The video projections are generated from sound – an audio recording of a psychoanalysis session between the artist and a therapist. According to Blake the "Inspiration comes from a debate active in theoretical physics called the Information Loss Paradox, where scientists argue over whether information can truly be lost if it falls into a black hole." Knowing this information completely reframes my experience of the art piece. Now I engage with it knowing it is a representation of the loss of information. Viewing it again with this framework it makes me question the ways we communicate and the ways we remember. How memory breaks down and our break downs in communication when we try to articulate certain thoughts and emotions. The video is projected in a similar format each time, making consistent use of simple materials like black and white tape and the angle of projection, but the content changes every time even though the source audio stays the same, similar to how we express our memories over time. Often the basic framework of a memory may remain in tact, but as we retell the memory, and the actual event becomes more distant, the content changes with each recollection and retelling of the memory.
When I first viewed the projection my appreciation of it was superficial. I found it visually pleasing and interesting. Since I didn't have any context about the piece while initially discussing it I was forced to look for meaning and have discussions around the materials, projection angles, etc. but again it all felt to be a on very superficial level since I had no other context with which to frame the projections. Reading more about the piece enhanced my experience of the projection significantly; however, if I had all of that information before viewing the piece I probably would have viewed it much more passively. I think providing context for art is important, but forcing someone to discover that context on their own instead of readily presenting them with it also allows them to have an an extended engagement with the art that could be even more impactful.
The Year We Made Contact by Blake Marques Carrington
MoMA PS. 1
Fernando Palma Rodriguez
Palma Rodriguez's work makes you uncomfortable from the moment you set foot in the room. The crude construction, with sculptures made from repurposed materials and with wires hanging everywhere, plays into his narratives discussing the violence and environmental crisis occurring in his native Mexico.
Viewed as static sculptures, his work is already impactful, but when the dying horse slowly begins to move and paw at the ground it spurred visceral feelings towards the animal and the pain. However, as with sculpture and many of Palma Rodriguez's other sculptures it was difficult to determine to what level the viewer had control over the motions of the sculpture. It begs the question of how much instruction should the artist provide the viewer? Is it important for the those consuming the art to understand exactly how they should be interacting with the art (or at least how the artist intended for them to interact with the art)?
I've also noticed how adults are often afraid to interact with art unless there is clear instruction. There was a child in the exhibit at the same time as me, who fearlessly ran up to each installation waving his arms trying to understand how each piece worked and how he would influence them. When I think about the work I want to create I wonder what the right balance of instruction will be in order to encourage adults to play and experiment as fearlessly as that child, but without giving them step by step instructions on how they are supposed to play and control the artwork.
Zhang Huan and Li Binyuan
On the other end of the spectrum 'Land', an exhibit focusing on the performance art of Zhang Huan and Li Binyuan provided ample context for the various pieces exhibited. Each piece was accompanied by in depth explanations providing context that often helped bridge cultural gaps for me. While some images and videos were striking without context, the information provided by the curator or artist gave me perspective that often moved the images from beautiful to meaningful.
In particular in Zhang Huan's performance where he continually climbs a bamboo tree and attempts to slowly lower himself back to the ground, having a description of the attempts encouraged me to spend more time with the piece. Without the context I probably would have watched a single attempt and then moved on, but with context I stayed to watch as he repeatedly climbed struggling with each repeated attempt. Even though I knew the ultimate outcome because fo the description I was almost more engaged because of that information, waiting in anticipation of the final outcome. Watching as he attempted to matched the strength of nature, showing power over the bamboo he bent, but ultimately the bamboo only bent while his own body broke causing him to fall.
Seth Price's larger than life prints of human skin create this deep sense of intimacy with the subjects while being completely anonymous. At first glance the images felt like sprawling landscapes, when in reality they were extreme close ups. Price's images reveal very little about the subject. While the exhibit lists the names of the subjects it is still unclear which image correlates with which name. Skin can often provide context for artwork. It can represent identity, culture, be a canvas for personal expression, but in this exhibit it has been abstracted to such an extreme it does not even feel like skin anymore. All the usual associations we may have with skin have been stripped away leaving us only with these contradictory images that provide incredibly intimate details about a person in the most abstract way.