Walking past the Martin Art Gallery this month, one might get the impression that behind those doors rests an entire town. Sounds force themselves past their exhibit chains; sounds that could be marching bands or street symphonies. Upon entry, the source of the noise reveals itself: Amze Emmons’ Hutung Sunrise, a multimedia piece that looks something like a gypsy wagon crossed with a plastic forest. The shelter is held up with bamboo and covered by a leaf-patterned tarp. The wagon is presumably drawn by the bicycle attached to its front with light-festooned bamboo; this symbol of movement is ironically offset by the doormat adjacent to the wagon’s rear entrance. This fluid conflation and opposition of movement/stillness, as well as that of private/public space characterizes the exhibit Safety Architecture, which will be housed in the gallery until November 15.
The pieces in the exhibit encompass a wide variety of mediums, including audio/visual, plastic, wood, and gouache. Mario Marzan’s Transient Structures looks at first glance like a child’s creation. Miniature houses line the walls and the floor, their plasticity frank in its artifice. One of the wall-bound dwellings pumps dialogue into the gallery through a speaker. The conversation is in Spanish and centres on daily life; the sounds of washing dishes and distraught children hums in the background. A strange occurrence: midway through the conversation, the audio skips and the narrative is thus fragmented, creating a fissure in the seeming live reality of the recording. The presence of surveillance seeps out into consciousness, and the viewer is thus implicated in the process. Some of Marzan’s other structures feature video without sound; one in particular reveals a young boy sitting in a plastic wagon, handle in hand, while a dog explores the space behind him. The shot is constant, steady, and framed by a living room setting with a window, as though he were in the backyard. The viewer’s voyeurism comes into play once again. Marzan has furnished the dwellings with both domestic objects constructed to scale and real household items such as empty spools and eyedroppers. Some of the houses are connected by spiralling wires enshrined in plastic coating. Many of the houses also feature ladders constructed out of balsam wood, descending optimistically into nothingness, a symbol also present in Micha Bonnstein’s Rescue Cloud.
The juxtaposition of miniature couches with life-size tweezers defamiliarizes Marzan’s space. Hutung Sunrise also employs defamiliarization, but does so with the result of producing a more welcoming sensation. An observer can step on the doormat and into the stationary shelter itself, sitting on one of two plastic stools. A projector exposes us to the source of light and sound, and one eventually realizes that the sound has no connection to the images. The disjoint may momentarily suspend one’s cognitive ability, as does the projection of images onto a textured surface that impedes clear perception. The result of this break from convention is a sense of newfound freedom.
Overall, the exhibit revels in the small transgressions and broken ideologies of space and cultural construction.
Safety Architecture consists of more than the three aforementioned pieces; we here at [c i n] encourage you to check it out for yourselves.