Deconstructing Reality: Caitlin Horsmon’s Transformative Video Installations

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

“It is not necessary to create a world, but the possibility of a world”

Jean-Luc Goddard(( Jean-Luc Godard cited in Robert Stam (ed.), Reflexivity in Film and Architecture, From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc-Godard, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.))

What might you do if suddenly the walls of your beloved home began changing? Expanding and contracting, breathing and bleeding, altering without any sense of reason? In Caitlin Horsmon’s work Sense of Place, she creates an immersive video installation that works with these ideas.  Interested in merging reality with fiction to create experiences, Horsmon examines the idea of place through theatrical gestures within spliced video footage. She transforms place into space and back again exploring their histories and the objects they hold, altering their architecture and highlighting their quirks and imperfections.

Kemper - Moving Target - Sept 15-5623

Superlinear Living by Caitlin Horsmon (2015) from The Center is a Moving Target at the Kemper Crossroads. Image courtesy of the Artist

Like artists before her, Horsmon highlights the visual and emotional relationships developed between the domestic space and its occupants. The histories embodied in the home and the interactions with the bodies that inhabit them rise to the surface in the artist’s work. In a way, the work is in conversation with Gordon Matta Clark’s building cuts into domestic spaces. His work would highlight the textures and layers of the space—exposing what lay underneath while also creating a new history to a space before it was demolished.

In Horsmon’s work, utilizing a hybrid of found and constructed footage and sound, she also adds to the history of the space by projection. In Sense of Place, her space is created through the combination of installation and video. The gallery wall is no longer perfect—it resembles a living organism with bulges and fissures. The footage is spliced and stitched together. The content is familiar—images from a freshly finished home makeover television show juxtaposed with scenes spewing the heightened awareness of a horror film. Details from wallpaper patterns and elaborate molding glide across the wall and occasionally fall into place with its new shape. At certain times, the artist’s body enters the frame—adding an additional architecture to the work. “Houses hold memories—what these are and how we remember them are variable and impacted by storytelling, documentation and time.”((Caitlin Horsmon’s statement for her work _place _plateau))

The work elicits tension and nostalgia simultaneously. Through creating these installations filled with potential, like Matta Clark’s building cuts, Horsmon introduces the possibilities of deconstructing reality by transforming our consciousness and the way we perceive our world.

Every Time I Go Outside the World Is Different by Caitlin Horsmon, 5 projector expanded cinema performance, 2017

Installation shot of Practical Optics at Front/Space by Caitlin Horsmon, 2016


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 

 




When Viewing Molly Garrett’s Artwork, Consider This

Still from Steps to Balance 1-5 by Molly Garrett (2017) Single channel hand-drawn animation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Still from Steps to Balance 1-5 by Molly Garrett (2017) Single channel hand-drawn animation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Congratulations! You’ve done it. You’ve made it out of your house to this show. You’ve peeled yourself from the warmth of your bed, put on some decent-ish clothes, hopped in your car, and made your way downtown, faces past, and you’re art-bound. Or perhaps you made it here today after work. You put off that deadline, bolted from exhausting colleague chatter at the snack counter, and escaped an office that is always too cold. (Expense a space heater. That’ll teach ‘em).

You did this to be here today at Against the Screen and you are either about to, in the middle of, or have just concluded walking through the current collection of artwork before you.

Still from Steps to Balance 1-5 by Molly Garrett (2017) Single channel hand-drawn animation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Still from Steps to Balance 1-5 by Molly Garrett (2017) Single channel hand-drawn animation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Have you seen Molly Garrett’s piece I’ll Come To You / You Come to Me (Human Error Loop) yet? You should. Before you do, here are a few musings to consider as you spend time with the artwork. Consider this a guided meditation through the installation.

  1. Notice Your Surroundings
    1. First things first: note the objects, sounds, and sights around you. Acknowledge any passing thoughts or emotions that the installation provokes. Sit with them, but not for too long. You’ve got a few other things to consider.
  2. The Artist’s Process
    1. Garrett’s animation work requires that they trace each frame you see by hand. This rotoscoping process may seem tedious, but such repetitive work can be a meditative practice that allows one to spend time knowing and learning how the body moves, how certain poses and weight shifts are articulated, and how these movements all flow into the next.
    2. As you view these animations, consider the range of movement represented onscreen compared to your own as you stand still or walk about. If your movements were captured through Garrett’s animation process, what would the individual frames of your walk look like?
  3. Your Body
    1. Become aware of your body and the space it occupies against the monitors. Consider the way the body is fractured within the different screens and their relationship to one another. Consider how your body complements and completes the images onscreen. Just as parts of a person are fragmented here through the monitors, so is the identity we project through our own screens. We show only fragments and snippets (usually only the best) of ourselves through our online personas. Our computer and phone screens reflect back to us just a small portion of our selves and that is what we experience of others too.
  4. Time
    1. Consider how Garrett’s animation, with all its individually hand-drawn, and therefore different, frames all constitute the same body part. It changes throughout time as the video progresses, but still remains the same. Thus are we. Our body and our self is not continuous throughout time. We are not the same person throughout all our lives as we undergo deep psychological and emotional changes, as well as physical ones. And yet you are still you. When was the last time you changed?
  5. Balance
    1. Garrett’s past work includes a series of animations featuring them and their partner lifting and balancing each other. That visual acts as a metaphor for the inevitable balancing act that happens once you enter a relationship. You ultimately start to balance the parts of your identity that are yours and yours alone, versus the parts that have been influenced by your loved one.
    2. Consider opening yourself up to the artwork as you would a partner. Do one last loop. Let yourself fully, openly, and unabashedly feel and think what you need to feel and think about the artwork. Consider the balance and dialogue between your identity, your current mood, and what thoughts or bias you carry into this exhibition versus the thoughts, feelings or ideas Garrett is presenting you with here. Spend as much time with it as you want. As you try to lift and balance it on your back, let it gently try to support your weight too.

Well, how was it? What did you think?

Counterweight by Molly Garrett. Laserjet print collage (2017) Image courtesy of the artist.

Counterweight by Molly Garrett. Laserjet print collage (2017) Image courtesy of the artist.

 




Encountering the Black Everyday in William Toney’s Photography

“The black aesthetic turns on a dialectic of luxuriant withholding – abundance and lack push technique over the edge of refusal so that the trouble with beauty, which is the very animation and emanation of art, is always and everywhere troubled again and again. New technique, new beauty.” The Undercommons, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney

Clippers by William Toney (2016) Image courtesy of the Artist

Clippers by William Toney (2016) Image courtesy of the Artist

In photographer William Toney’s Clippers (2016), a set of multicolored clipper guards, the artist’s own, are arranged before a black background, their teeth at some points intersecting —each guard in some way touching another. The blackness of the background feels almost infinite —it isn’t quite clear if the clippers are at rest, suspended in space, or falling together in a cluster. It’s an image that has likely been incidentally reproduced on the counters of countless barbershops. But in extracting these tools from their original context and placing them quite literally into the black space of a studio backdrop, Toney’s still life imbues these objects with a sense of wonder. Through this, a full recontextualization of the quotidian, he doesn’t raise the mundane to the state of beauty but rather troubles conceptions of beauty itself.

Toney’s work is an intensely personal exploration of the spaces and traces of black life. He describes the recent shift in his practice—which occurred after returning to his hometown of Kansas City from Columbia, Missouri where he studied photography at Mizzou—as a rencounter with the language of urban spaces, a re-immersion into the familial and the familiar. Left without the resources and support of his undergraduate art department, Toney turned to making work in his bedroom studio meticulously arranging “scenarios” to capture, some of which involved his family and friends, others which incorporated found objects and personal items. In triangulation with his studio-based work, the artist approaches his street photography through a similar lens. From his de Bechers inspired typological cataloguing of car sun screens across the U.S. to moments of flux or visual irony captured on the streets of Kansas City, Toney crafts a narrative of movement through space.

Still Life White (2017 by William Toney. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still Life White (2017 by William Toney. Image Courtesy of the Artist

He considers these images to be in a state of interdependence, each a vignette standing both on its own and together which Toney compares to the relationship of tracks on a mixtape. Thematic refrains reappear in their full presence or in a gesture toward their presence. The clipper guards reappear in Stilllife White (2017) in the sculptural shrine-like arrangement of wilted and wilting flowers and leaves lit by a reddish light. Amongst the plants Toney places objects that ring of black urban life. The heel of the Jordan sneaker peeks out in the left part of the frame. A folded white “tall tee”— popular in the snap rap era of the mid-2000s — sits propped at the base of the arrangement. Elsewhere in the sculpture one finds detritus that Toney has collected from the streets of Kansas City: the face of a Newport carton and a generic styrofoam cup one would find at corner convenience store. Toney refuses to overlook that which is considered waste/discarded, whether in the form of cultural passe or actual objects that people have thrown away, instead bringing the viewer to an makeshift altar of blacknesses past, present, and future.

Here, his embrasure of refuse runs against expectations of beauty, distancing us the everydayness of the black everyday. It is this that is Toney’s act of refusal—a rejection of the terms of what is considered passe, ‘dirty’, or unworthy of an attentive eye.

Far from the Tree by William Toney (2010) Image Courtesy of the Artist

Far from the Tree by William Toney (2010) Image Courtesy of the Artist

The presence of the clipper guard echoes again in Far From the Tree (2010), a studio portrait of two closely shaven heads—Toney’s and his father’s—leaning into one another, the shadows of the crowns of their respective heads eclipsing the other. The image captures not only the physical similarity of the heads of a father and son but an orchestrated, nonetheless, palpable moment of tenderness and intimacy between two black men. The image acknowledges both the black familial space and the space of black masculinity as spaces in which there is the possibility of refusal of their imposed/supposed limits and acknowledgment of their beauty and complexities.

In a world where representation of blackness in the mainstream remains important, it fades as a goal or interest for both artists and mass political movements. Toney’s photographic practice enacts a practice of refusal, asking his viewers to encounter the black quotidian and its intersections and divergences with a mainstream on its own terms, in its own language in its full wonder and beauty.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




Journeys and Cross-Generational Narratives in Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint

A labyrinth evolves before us in Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint, the ongoing multimedia project begun in 2012. Anderson has created a kaleidoscope of epic semi-narrative proportions, which merges mythology, romantic landscapes, and personal symbolism.The project could be considered an extended portrait of the artist’s son, who’s featured heavily in the work, although such a simplification would do a disservice to the richness of the piece.         

Barry Anderson Come as You Are. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

In 2010, Anderson took a trip across the American landscape, visiting national parks and landmarks with his father and his son. The journey extended for weeks, becoming the catalyst for a tradition that connects three generations of family and laid the foundation for the project that would become The Janus Restraint. Through these experiences, in addition to a solo sojourn to Iceland, Anderson has generated works of cinematic beauty and moments of transcendence in what is ultimately a metaphorical reimagining of boyhood rites of passage. 

The Janus Project shifts across disciplines, incorporating video, digital construction, black and white photography, and sculptural installations that progress and build on one another. They culminated in a series of exhibitions with a variety of these elements shown. Each form complicates and layers the work, recording time in different ways as we witness Anderson’s public and private experiences coalesce. In one moment the camera pans slowly across a deserted Icelandic mountainscape and takes our breath away, in another, we watch candid images of Anderson’s son investigating new terrain in a style that suggests home videos. In the midst of the majestic and the intimate, all is permitted.

Still from Barry Anderson's The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Collectively these videos reveal the Icelandic landscape and the Aurora borealis. As the Northern Lights and additional visual cues to Scandinavian lore accumulate, Anderson establishes a link to Norse mythology. Here we come to see the Bifröst, a bridge to the gods, and understand the natural relationship between a simple baseball bat carried by Anderson’s son and Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. For a contemporary audience familiar with Marvel comics and immersed in a pop culture, saturated with their corresponding superhero movies, these connections provide us access and a vernacular through which to approach the work.

Anderson uses music as a vital element in his practice, one that he pushes as he experiments with different narratological structures. In addition to creating his own soundtracks, he has been working with a variety of musicians to score his videos. Like the unfamiliar influences from which his scores grow, Anderson’s symbolic language provides a slow burn: noticeable but not obvious, intimate but also indirect. The more time we spend with The Janus Restraint, the more the symbols reveal themselves and generate unexpected connections—from Icelandic mythology to Americana—establishing a visceral and psychological space that brings together disparate narratives. The Roman god Janus was two-faced, looking towards the past and the future, and was also known as the god of beginnings, transitions, time, duality, passages, and endings. The restraint Anderson references in his title may be a loose metaphor for the eternal search within the work for himself and the viewer, on various but akin journeys.

Still from Barry Anderson's The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Still from Barry Anderson’s The Janus Restraint. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Anderson’s pristine video quality and cinematic approach create a surreal experience when presented on multiple screens in front of the viewer, challenging the expectation of single-channel narrative. Seen across screens or broken up on individually, Anderson requires viewers to divide their attention and eventually experience all the images simultaneously. It is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of imagery and psychedelic colors, to lose your grounding in the shifting patterns, or to get caught in the symbolism and density of narrative. Anderson and his son reveal themselves to be adept collaborators and guides, however, inviting us to accompany them across unfamiliar terrain through private experiences which always just elude our understanding. Their shared vision welcomes the viewer into their journey of monumental scope, suggesting that even when you’re not exactly certain where you are, you might perhaps stay awhile and enjoy the view.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists. 




Revealing Self: Patricia Bordallo Dibildox’s Poetic Objects of Identity

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox - Screenshot Untitled from the series At the Foot of the Mountain 2014. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

To acknowledge intellectually that one’s identity is fluid and intersectional is one endeavor; to make this visible through physical objects is another challenge altogether. Yet,this is the aim of Patricia Bordallo Dibildox’s practice; a personal and introspective journey through her experience as a Mexican artist and person of color in the United States. Though only at the beginning of her career, the artist has already developed a habit of reflecting upon earlier moments in her work and expanding upon them in new ways. Dibildox stops short of full nostalgia, instead recognizing the personal growth and wisdom that she has cultivated in a short period of time. Says the artist,

My work is a conversation between myself now and myselves throughout the fifteen years that I have lived in the United States. I focus on the way in which the inescapable whiteness around me and the predominantly white institutions that shaped my thinking have crippled my existence as a woman of color.”

Dibildox creates photographs, video and textiles that place heavy emphasis on linguistics and an an expansive notion of cultural and dialectical translation. The artist moved to Kansas City from Mexico at age 8, and more recently realized the vocabulary to describe the codeswitching and assimilation techniques universal to the immigrant experience in the United States. These epiphanies inform her work, though she admits that the process of reconciling her birthplace and contemporary context is ongoing. Dibildox recalls reckoning with Latinx identity during art school, and collaborating with a Mexican-American artist on a publication for her senior thesis. Although she admired her collaborator’s work greatly, ultimately she came to recognize the singularity of her experience and felt frustrated. “It wasn’t the work I wanted to make,” the artist tells me.

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox - Goddess 2016. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox – Goddess 2016. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

After experimenting with iconography readily associated with Mexican culture, Dibildox has shifted her practice towards creating objects that consider how identity is formed in relation to context and surroundings. The artist describes grappling with the sharp contrast between her childhood in Mexico and the rest of her life in a predominantly white suburb of Kansas City. In I know what I want, I want what I know (2017), Dibildox places the titular text on white vinyl globeros, or balloons, similar to toys she encountered as a child in Mexico. The objects marketed to her growing up featured Mickey Mouse and other American cultural icons, fostering what Dibildox calls “a never-ending desire for whiteness.” Though the artist became critically conscious as a young adult, she laments the internalized racism and white supremacy she sees other immigrants struggle with, including members of her own family.

While creating visual imagery has been the central focus of Dibildox’s practice, she has pursued a parallel yet separate exploration of writing. She describes language as becoming another medium for her, and cites etymology and semantics as particular interests. Although her use of text initially began as a way to explain and embed identity within conceptual work, it has since evolved into more deliberate wordsmithing. Visual forms are becoming a platform for her written experimentation.

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox - Untitled, 2016 Image Courtesy of the Artist

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox – Untitled, 2016 Image Courtesy of the Artist

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox - Untitled, 2016 Image Courtesy of the Artist

Patricia Bordallo Dibildox – Untitled, 2016 Image Courtesy of the Artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dibildox’s recent work has combined writing with abstracted self-representation. She has generated tonal images by scanning her skin and averaging out the pixels, which are then printed on fabric. On top of the skin colored impression are the words “Tu eres mi pan de Dios; tu eres mi hola y mi adios” (“You are my bread of God; you are my hello and my goodbye”). Though the juxtaposition of the flesh with religious references has clear allusions to Christianity (biblically Jesus is often referred to as the Bread of Life), the poetic wording is drawn from the artist’s partner and her family. She recalls hearing it said by her grandmother, who used the expression when referring to someone for whom she was grateful, and found to be benevolent and kind. For Dibildox, this person is her own partner, and the work becomes an homage to him. Though she feels that her identity is scrutinized by others because she is part of an interracial couple, her work defies outside tendencies to essentialize or stereotype. Rather, Dibildox’s works ultimately make the case that identity is not inherent, but instead a cultivated accumulation of experiences, relationships, and contexts.


This essay is part of a series commissioned, in collaboration with Informality Blog, for the exhibition Against the Screen at La Esquina Gallery (1000 W 25 Street KCMO) open from August 25 through October 7, 2017. These pieces, co-edited by Melaney Mitchell (Founder & Senior Editor of Informality Blog) and Lynnette Miranda (Curator-in-Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation) focus on a shared goal of bringing the eyes of national writers to the work of Kansas City-based artists.