In the age of texting and Twitter, we are communicating very fast," says Lisa Slominski, a London-based artist and curator. "As a result of these virtual exchanges, our memories of what we say aren't always clear."
Her solo exhibition at Dimensions Variable gallery in Wynwood explores this malleability of memory. Her "Dreamy Nomads, Baby" incorporates light boxes, floor sculptures, and a suite of flocked screen prints on paper. It includes all manner of art historical and contemporary design and architectural references.
Slominski's exhibit is anchored by two large light-box pieces arranged on opposing walls in a direct dialogue with each other. Each bears a text message, which the artist calls a kind of hieroglyphic shorthand that not only communicates words but also employs punctuation to convey emotions.
"Dreamy Nomads, Baby": Through October 22 at Dimensions Variable, 171 NE 38th St., Miami; 305-607-5527; dimensionsvariable.net. Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m.
The first message reads, "just passed our place. miss u xx." The response: "AMAZING!!!... where r u? ♥." Together, they provide a sort of Rosetta Stone for viewers to decipher her conceptual premise. The first message seems to relate to a specific, defined memory. The response displays more emotion, as if the sender "experienced the shared recollection in a more exaggerated way," Slominski says.
Nearby are two sculptures, created with a collection of square and oval mirrors arranged around a two-by-two-foot section of linoleum. The reflective surfaces face up, refracting light, snippets of the light-box text, and the passing image of the spectator as one navigates around them.
It all brings to mind how Native Americans used reflective surfaces to signal each other across vast distances before the advent of modern technology. The reflections caught in the corner of one's eye amplify a sense of the fleeting nature of recollections.
Incorporated into these hypnotic pieces are groupings of blue laser-cut AstroTurf patterns suggestive of arabesques, damasks, and water droplets. The resulting impression is of peering down at one's reflection into baroque- or rococo-era fountains.
"Absolutely," Slominski says of that description. "I researched the period and looked at patterns of wallpaper from the era — and the Buckingham and Trevi fountains, among others. The sculptures might convey a notion of a time and a place for different people experiencing them."
Slominski explains she spent about two weeks trolling the aisles of a Home Depot while preparing for her exhibit. As a result, it evinces a distinct DIY vibe that combines elements of everyday landscape with materials typical of the average South Florida dwelling. It all places the viewer in an environment that's familiar yet quixotic and alien.
Her floor sculptures conjure images of ancient pools of limpid water where people first caught their visages reflected back at them. The serial patterns of blue-carpet arabesques and droplets heighten the notion of streaming rivulets, while the nature of the mirrors and baroque influences bring to mind the masters from art history who incorporated images of mirrors in classical masterpieces. They include Titian's Venus With a Mirror and Velázquez's Las Meninas. Slominski's work is even reminiscent of Brunelleschi's invention of linear perspective with the help of a mirror.
"I've been talking with friends back home of taking an art history course again because there is so much you forget as time passes," remarks the contemporary artist, who received her bachelor's in visual and critical studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her master's degree in art practice from Goldsmiths, University of London.
Some visitors to the space will likely cast a furtive glance at Slominski's elegant yet spartan presentation and dismiss it as a collection of forms and patterns typically displayed at a designer's showroom. But that would be a waste. The work provides an opportunity for more profound contemplation.
Therein lies the subtle beauty and meaning of her project. At a time when conversation is blurred by technology and often conducted at an intimate disconnect, she invites viewers to reconsider a sense of deeper communication.
"These days when texting each other on Twitter feeds and rapid messaging on Facebook, people cannot only express what they are saying, but what they are also feeling," she adds.
Sandwiched between her light boxes on an adjacent wall, Slominski's seductive suite of flocked screen prints speaks directly to the notion of memory distortion. These prints, arranged in a loose grid, are monochromatic, like fading photocopies of each other. Blacks bleed into lighter shades of gray before nearly evaporating into a ghostly white hue.
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Inspired by baroque-era flocked velvet wallpaper, the prints boast matelassé or damask patterns. They seem to have been crafted from the Jacquard looms that produced antique padded textiles. But while they possess a tactile veneer reminiscent of ancient fabric, closer inspection reveals phrases from Slominski's enigmatic text messages woven into the weft of the fading patterns. The words along with the decorative patterns also allude to the ambient din of untold transmissions flying through the ether and our growing isolation from face-to-face engagement.
"I suppose I feel this shift in communication to being constantly wired has changed the way we crave intimacy," Slominski muses. "Through Twitter and texting, the ease to communicate becomes so effortless — losing some intimacy perhaps, but also gaining new nuances too. From overtexting to having six tabs open on my laptop at once, this bombardment seems to make us depend less on holding onto a sacred past memory and more about this constant call-and-response in the present."
The Journal of Neural Engineering recently documented an experiment in which an array of electrodes was implanted in a rat's hippocampus, the organic structure crucial for forming new memories in rodents and humans. The scientists posited that the system could be used on humans to record memory traces and amplify them, which could help people suffering from dementia.
Slominski's work evokes just the opposite: a time when reaching out and touching someone didn't necessarily mean using a gadget to do so.