I did wonder…is this thing working?
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I did wonder…is this thing working?

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I did wonder…is this thing working?

Carter Floyd and RJ Junger’s exhibition, …is this thing working?, was one of the last exhibits at Front/Space before shutting down their location in the Crossroads, which they occupied for nine years. I have always thought Front/Space hosted particularly surprising exhibitions and was a unique space to curate within. It offered opportunities for innovation and experimentation for both artists and viewers that was exciting. In this exhibition, I was confronted with a grid of security cameras, strategically, conveniently placed between the small square glass windows on the gallery’s curved back wall. It was daylight, and the north wall is one large window, but I was able to catch a glimpse of myself and the entrance projected on the wall to my left, filling it entirely with the footage. Noticing a lag in the recording, I did wonder for a second, ‘is this thing working?’

Photo by Zane Smith.

The same thought came as I watched small red lights intermittently flash inside the camera lenses. Were they all recording? Or at least, seeing me? It was later I came to know they weren’t. Only one was, which means that there is a market for fake security cameras that serve the same purpose as in this piece, Smile, you might be on TV! Those questions, though, and the title of the exhibition, resonate with me almost daily as I watch myself check out at certain supermarkets, and receive notifications that seem a bit too calculated, as my phone eerily tracks and predicts my behavior. The information gathered daily by technology influences the invisible structures around us. Voyeurism is a tool that is being adapted to its surrounding infrastructures, both physical and digital. At this exhibition I wondered, what do I trust in this space? What do I trust outside of it?

Photo by Zane Smith.
Photo author’s own.

The gallery was not overcrowded. There was a generous amount of space between bodies inhabiting this very small venue. It’s hard for the viewer to not be drawn to the sparseness; it generates a subtly that is daunting because of the skepticism encouraged within the individual pieces. When I look to my right I see on the opposite wall Ones and Zeros Chair by Floyd. I don’t see the title; I just see the blur of colors woven together, primarily a beige-y, olive-y, green with moments of blue and red that cluster to reveal rod-like structures, repeating and overlapping across the top and bottom thirds of the piece. The forms immediately feel mechanical, like a product of manufacturing or even lines on a map. It was difficult to identify the chair. The whir of intertwining threads evokes some memory of an old TV struggling to produce a clear picture, static cutting into and splicing the image. The level of clarity in each of these works teeters; just as I think I know what is going on I just as quickly begin to question it. 

Photos by Zane Smith.

Placed between the two pieces clicks Analog Cloud™, a slide projector on one pedestal flashing images perfectly onto the screen of a MacBook sitting on an adjacent pedestal. The images are mostly straightforward; old family photos, in color, but dated. A narrative can be suspected in many; congratulatory candles are blown out, a little league baseball team congregates for a picture, but then I see an image that reminds me of this Bob Bicknell-Knight painting, Holy Ground. It was a photograph of the profile of a car parked in someone’s driveway, but ripples have been sent throughout the image, distorting the body of the car from the center out; not as if it had been wrecked by a larger vehicle, but like ripples were being sent through thick water. In the image following, I assume it is the same photo of the car but is now completely obliterated, as if the photo had been melted. At some point in the reel a set of hands can be seen in front of a photograph, pretending to pinch the subject. Based off of the borders of a vertically oriented image, another slide looks like it could be a still of a YouTube video.

Besides the dichotomy of aged photographs and digital snapshots, there was an underlying feeling of instability and distortion; an awareness of the power these devices have to access nostalgia and destroy it. This piece is also one that suggests a kind of intimacy, as these analog photos, personal memorabilia, may be uploaded to the cloud and re-documented, thus re-invigorated with the perpetual narrative of an individual. Ones and Zeros Chair gets close to suggesting a corporeal experience–the woven work actually reminds me of a blanket my mom owns, though it is not taut in a frame. This exhibition began to describe a deceiving comfort between humans and technology that was lost in the more overwhelming sense of uncertainty and rigidness. Though, I think those assertions about our relationship to technology are poignant, too.  

Photos by Zane Smith.

Around the corner of that curved wall you encounter two pieces facing each other. On the left, Stay Golden Delicious, is a shelf of four half apples that have icons laser cut into their flesh: The “superman” S (the one people under 30 might remember drawing on their notebooks in grade school), Clippy (the paper-clip from early Microsoft Word), what I originally thought from a distance was Arnold from Hey Arnold but is actually Trogdor the Burninator, and of course, the Apple logo. This is definitely the most curious work in the exhibition. There was some humor and directness to it that made me think about internet icons as an organic thing. But, they are not. Time is lapsing and the work is physically deteriorating–in real, uncontrollable time.

On the right, playing on the monitor across from Stay Golden Delicious, is a video by Junger, titled, Build a Home, which presents a sterile and manufactured visage of a domestic lifestyle. What I mean by that is, the video cuts between two sets of footage: 1. gathered videos of dated advertisements and manufacturers producing the objects seen in 2. video clips that feel like documentation of a performance. In these clips, the figure, acted by the artist their self, is dressed in heels, a short skirt, and red blouse, covered by an apron. This traditionally feminine, house-wife character steps up onto a low square platform each time an item is placed onto this growing sculpture—bread, folded clothing, lingerie, magazines, butter, etc. between square planks of wood. These are sometimes forcefully smashed, and objects spill out of the side of the wonky tower. Finally, the tower is topped with a carefully stacked pyramid of eggs, placed one by one before the entire piece is saran wrapped. Back and forth the two sets of scenery merge and mimic each other. At the end, the spiraling motion of the artist walking around and around and around the sculpture while saran wrapping it is overlapped with footage of an industrial sized saran wrapping machine, whirring in circles in a similar manner. The build up of the sculpture and speed accumulated in the found footage of manufacturing facilities is dizzying. I think about the mother expected to perform like a machine, a part of the structures also marketed towards her.

Photos by Zane Smith.

A lot of this work feels a bit dated, with images and devices that allude to a time pre-internet, yet the immediacy of the digital remains a constant feeling. The interaction in Smile, you might be on TV! made this exhibition more dynamic as I experienced my body, live on screen, becoming more aware of how technology interacts with me. Though some generations experience the digital world a bit differently, I would say that in capitalist countries people are adapting to technology and its ability to quickly access information, while also being deceived by it. Accumulation and deterioration, looping and lagging, there is a dimmer side of the digital offered as a part of our physical reality.


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