A ticker tape walkway, swing sets in the sky, and mounds of chewed bubblegum. They were just a few of the pieces on display at Locust Projects for the opening reception of Jillian Mayer's "Precipice/PostModem" exhibit this past weekend.
"'PostModem' started last summer as a musical project. PostModem is a meta-pop band that only sings about the Internet and Internet related conspiracy theories," Mayer said. The exhibit builds on the concept, which became a 13-minute, experimental short film #PostModem made up of 10 mini videos. It was a collaboration between Mayer and Lucas Leyva, founder of the Borscht Film Festival, that went on to premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2013. The exhibit playfully tackles issues of human dependence on technology.
"We constantly turn to our screens to help us understand things and our hard-drives to store our information. I suppose this relationship will only intensify with time," Mayer said.
Stepping through the RGB Box, a confetti threshold, and into a sensory playground, event goers had much to see and do. Almost every installation in the main gallery and the Project Room, where artists Tracey Goodman and Valerie Snobeck displayed their work, involved interactive elements. The RGB Box served as a transition between the Precipice pieces in the front of the gallery and the Postmodem pieces of the main gallery. The booth of whirlwind of confetti conceptually transformed guests from physical to virtual.
Guests were literally greeted by Host, a video sculpture of Mayer made up of an avatar on an iPad attached to a tripod and Roomba "smart" vacuum, as it moved around the gallery blinking and asking folks, "How are you doing?"
"My friend, Brandon Smith, he did the avatar composite of me," Mayer said of the surrogate human version of herself.
Some installations, such as Swing Space, required more physical effort from viewers. While others, such as A Place for Online Dreaming (Sleep Site), required less. Swing Space challenged sensory levels as guests played in virtual clouds and a digitally enhanced sky. Attendees also fell asleep in blankets under the glistening dreamcatcher projections of Sleep Site, which combined physical and virtual elements to represent human dreaming, consciousness, and imagination.
In the Project Room, Goodman and Snobeck's "Out of Place" required the opposite of immersion from guests. instead, they were advised to be aware of their surroundings and watch under their feet, as pieces of chewed gum, dirt, and fallen flowers encompassed the small space. Joanna Kleinberg Romanow, assistant curator at the Drawing Center in New York, asked the two New York artists to create site-specific work based off their impressions of the city and its essence.
"It's the idea of out of place.... a mixture of domesticity and exteriority, and this sort of domestic and natural environment," Romanow said.
Goodman's experience in Miami left her with the impression of a jungle-like environment, something she is unaccustomed to seeing in the north. She has embedded Milky Way tree branches inside the walls of the gallery. She chose them after visiting a local nursery, which had them planted on the property itself. "The blooms totally cover the tree and there's a sea of flowers on the ground, and I was just captivated by the beauty and the smell," Goodman said.
Across from the greenery, are elf salt and pepper shakers embedded within a pastel pink table. Beside it, are similarly colored copies of the Miami Herald. To Goodman, Miami projects pink vibes. Not a difficult conclusion to come to, considering Miami Beach's Art Deco Historic District.
More pink finds its way around the room, this time in the form of discarded candy. Hundreds of pieces of plastic, made from 17 different mold impressions of the Bubblicious Goodman chewed, lay sprinkled around the site. One corner of the room did, however, contain a real pile of masticated gum. "I wanted to include that element of sort of dirtiness, but also being beautiful...having the imprint of my teeth all over the floor...the natural element of the flowers and the unnatural gum," Goodman said of the contrast between the objects.
Snobeck's piece envisions Miami in a more conceptual manner. Although she was unable to attend, her impressions about the city from her previous stay were influenced by the ocean's presence. The piece is an abstraction on handmade paper made from recycled plastic laminate from the artist's photographic print archive. It rests on a ground-level plinth, built to the dimensions of an open ostrich chair, a collapsable beach chair, often employed by Miami beach goers. "What's really interesting about the piece is that...80 percent of beach debris is made up of plastic, so what she's noticed again, is the idea of unnatural sort of invading the natural landscape," Romanow said. After guests were led through the exhibit, Goodman and Kleinberg welcomed questions from the audience about their pieces, which explore the restrictions and liberations of space.
"I did not expect so many of the visitors to interact with the installations in the show....about a decade ago, I interned for Locust Projects under Claire Breukel, so it was fantastic getting to participate in the programming," Mayer said.
The same way they entered, guests left with pieces of red, green, and blue ticker tape in their hair and clothes. However, this time with a heightened sense of how much digital and virtual reality surrounds us, and how we view the world in relation to space.
Programming will continue with a "Conversation with Jillian Mayer," Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at Locust Projects, 3852 North Miami Ave., Miami. "Precipice/PostModem" is on view through Wednesday, June 19. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 305-576-8570.
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