Okay, so I failed to attend all three of the openings I wanted to this past weekend. Fortunately though, I made out to the Art Palace. They operate on more of a working man’s hours. Openings are usually held on Saturday, later in the evening, which allows me a full day’s work and time to clean up before taking in some art and catching up with friends and acquaintances.
I have never seen or heard of Ebony Porter, so I went in blind. An excellent exercise in evaluating a contemporary work of art. Upon entering the darkened gallery, two circular pools of light are projected onto the floor. Tiny shards of glass or mirror lay within the circular containers as the projected video presents blurry or hazy images of children and adults playing in the waters of a beach. The image transitions into cellular-like patterns while a sea conch sits on a pedestal in the corner with the word “listen” captioned in inked calligraphy. Photostills of the video are placed around the “back” rooms of the gallery. The photos look grainy and low-res. Not the highest quality image.
My first impression of the work was an immediate association with Michal Rovner. I believed the pools to be petri-dishes and assumed the people in the video were being examined. It turns out that those pools were actually pools containing water. There was a secondary projection onto the ceiling, but it wasn’t as focused as the pools on the floor. The images I remembered of the ceiling were cellular. The conch in the corner provided auditory stimulation. I admit I did not place the conch next to my ear, but I got close enough to listen for a pre-recorded transmission. There was none and heard only the usual “ocean-in-a-shell”.
I left the gallery a little puzzled as to what the video was trying to communicate. I just could not figure out what those images were and what they could be insinuating. Even after discovering the water within the pools, I was unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion. So I check Glasstire to see if reaction is up yet and end up re-reading the gallery’s description. As soon as I read “memory”, it hits me. The blurry, jarry video, the grainy photos, the distant sound of the ocean in the conch, all memories of Ms. Porter’s travels. Of course I was having difficulty grasping the images and understanding their significance, they are not my memories. Perhaps I was trying too hard, perhaps I am way off with my assessment. But it makes sense that the photos, home video and even the souvenir of the ocean all tried giving me clues as to what they were describing.
“…viewers are invited to reflect upon the mysteries that bind us together.” Pretty much everyone has had some experience with the ocean. I think there is something elemental that attracts us to this threshold where water meets earth. Kind of like the Venus washing ashore on the giant clamshell or the thought that the evolution of man began with the first steps of a fish onto a beach. Maybe its where all the elements first met to produce life. I like to think about the importance of the four elements in relation to their presence in the human body. The religious belief that God molded us from clay(read: earth) in his image, the science of our bodies being composed of water, the necessity of breathing air, and the fire or the spark that ignited life and feeds our passions and keeps us warm.
Comparing my first two reviews, I find that they are similar in their “requests”. Both exhibits allow us time to reflect and inspect… life, basically. Both incorporate the use of water and light. Liz Ward provides us with these ingredients by taking the time to investigate her question first and then showing us the products of her experiments. Ms. Porter on the other hand creates a situation that includes the same ingredients and we join her in the act of contemplating. In terms of “style”, I would not have been surprised if Ms. Porter’s work were included in the now traveling exhibit, “22 to Watch”. There seems to be, maybe a generation gap? Where Ms. Ward implemented production and actual evidence, Ebony Porter opted to introduce triggers that operate on a more communal level. I loosely attribute that to our nation’s eroding industrial identity and the more decentralized modes of management used in today’s hi-tech industry.
One thing I was sure of when I left that night, was my rating system. It is a little troublesome. I definitely enjoyed the show but I did not leave with the excitement I had been experiencing last fall. I felt it was better than GOOD, but didn’t think it excited me enough to receive a GREAT. Writing down my reaction and evaluation, I feel compelled to assign it as my first GREAT show. But to be fair I will revisit the installation and tell you ’bout what I sees.