The installation was removed just prior to opening by curator without explanation (space given to another artist) -as the work depended upon viewer interaction for realization it remains un-actuated.
Us and Them wood, copper, toy soldiers, red candles, shadows Entropy Project Space, NY 2001 The specific political event, as I use it allegorically, is illustrated by the installation “Us and Them”. It also uses the mythical model format as a formal presentation device. The elements of the installation consisted of approximately 100 cedar shapes resembling a child’s toy blocks, depicting a range of architectural types from industrial to residential, rural to metropolitan, including secular and religious structures, and additionally, bridges and shapes of indeterminate utility. Each one has been charred deeply with a torch, resulting in an iridescent silver-black color. There is visible damage to the silhouette, implying the devastation of war. These blocks, entitled Possessions in the exhibition statement, are arranged, by spacing and type, to indicate municipalities or cities as seen from an aerial perspective. In addition to the physical difference in scale, this overview perspective places the spectator in a conceptually superior position, to a model environment. Models are experienced as direct referents to reality and this sets up a pedagogical relationship in the installation. On one side of the space, the buildings are rural or provincial; the other side suggests a metropolitan sprawl. The radiating structure of each city-unit emphasizes an interconnection between clusters, which is reinforced by bridges, and conversely, each community is a self-contained autonomy separated by natural barriers (water). Candle-powered carousels within each municipality are made of thin sheet copper that is cut and soldered in the shape of an hourglass (symbolizing time). Rotating clockwise or counterclockwise, the carousels move at different speeds, from hesitant to almost frenzied. The candles placed within illuminate small plastic soldiers, perched on platforms in front of door-like openings, surrounding the base of each carousel at “street level.” These cast shadows on the “streets” and surrounding buildings. The openings are shaped in the silhouette of the toy soldier, as is the platform on which they stand. Each plastic soldier, painted black, stands frozen in a war-like action pose. In the upper level of the hourglass shape, there are cutout warplanes, bent upwards from the openings. Oriented directionally to the revolution of the carousel, they cast shadows and light on the nearby walls. The various shadows and lights intermingle, as openings and cutouts interact with the block silhouettes, to project a changing, flickering imagery onto the walls. Each carousel is unique: proportionally in shape, type of planes, the shape of the ventilator openings in the top and in the different arrangements of soldier figures and poses. The candles are red; this accentuates the color of the flame, while the melted wax, which leaks out onto the floor beneath each carousel, refers to blood. All these elements are intended to “converse” within the installation’s environment including the particular time and context of its exhibition. The name of the show of which this installation was a part is “Welcome to the Playground of the Fearless,” a show which opened in January 2002, to the cultural dialogue that is still current in New York and the country after the events of September 11, 2001. Implicit in the title of the show is a sense of defiance, pride, and a hint of “business as usual,” though more of in the spirit of “the show must go on” implicit in the title of the show. This is an example of a consciousness or cultural characteristic as typified by New York as the example of American “national pride.” While not unique to America, rather a nationalistic paradigm, this pride is also perceived as reflecting the isolationist naiveté of the American public by people in other countries—particularly those adversely affected by American political agendas. Pride, as expressed by an inflated sense of national superiority, can form a rigid cultural mindset, blind to alternatives, which I try to counter in my installation by playful visual subtlety and understatement. The simplicity of the children’s toys refers to the simplistic understanding of global politics by the American public. The isolationist mindset is addressed specifically with the generic nature of the imagery (all building sculptures look alike), and the placement of the carousals (war), in both sides (ours and theirs). History, as portrayed by the endlessly revolving carousels, is repetitive and circular. In “Us and Them”, the specific context as inspiration is the bombing of Afghanistan by the United States in punitive retaliation for the destruction of the World Trade Towers and the events of September 11. This is an extensive cultural-discursive context, and I do not address all of it specifically, but rather approach it in general from the two extremes, which are somewhat outside of, or generalized from, the immediate debate. I identify the inclusive subject areas as, first, the economic disparities, which are directly linked to international political unrest, and, second, the realities of war, humanity’s most horrible political expression. This discursive approach engages the specific, political, topical subject matter, through vague allegorical allusion, to create an objective perspective (much like the viewer sees the model) to permit the review of the specific subject matter in the abstract. I bring as many elements into the conversation as I think will stimulate debate: the economic roots of aggression, hence the title, Possessions, and the inequalities between the aggressor and victim as economic --metropolis and village. The carousels, as adaptations of traditional European Christmas decorations, are a reminder of the irony involved in the “presents” we were dropping from the sky in the spirit of the season. Was there any doubt that the campaign would be finished before December 25? The soldiers resemble the bird that comes out to announce the time in the cuckoo clock, another traditional German toy. Can the soldier thus function as a warning of time too late or time running out? What are the consequences of our cultural fascination with war toys for children? These questions are all ambiguous references, which are meant to enrich the dialogue, to broaden what has become generalized in a narrowed political way. Placed within this plethora of intangible allusions, the viewers function as tangible sites, to be projected upon by the flickering shadows from the carousels, and as participants, their shadows commingling on the wall with those of the installation’s. They are implicated as conspirators as their shadows become threatening giants looming over the landscape like Godzilla. This is the child’s nightmare version of computer simulation, intended to stimulate the emotions in the most elemental fashion. There is a delicate balance to be maintained between specific reference and ambiguity when using a specific cultural circumstance to elicit broadly based conceptual associations. This delicate relation can be illustrated by how broadly some of these signs can be read even as specifically as I illustrate them. I consider my installations a mythic creation, a parallel visionary universe, arranged to function as a parable for examining our society. By evoking this plethora of images on a very ambiguous, subliminal level, I expect the audience members to connect with one of many possibilities, on a personal, intuitive level of their own.