Objects at rest and in motion at SPACE gallery
Visitors Friday to the SPACE gallery during Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Fall Gallery Crawl will be in for a treat as the artist collective 181 will be undertaking an ongoing performance from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Titled “Circles of Commotion and Moving Pauses,” the performance is the central part of the current exhibit of the same title that opened earlier this month with a similar performance. This time, the collective's members — Brandon Boan, Abby Donovan, Tom Hughes and Jason Rhodes — plan to ride Vespa scooters around the massive gallery in addition to moving, operating or otherwise monkeying with the various props and art objects they have set up around the gallery, including a full-scale, actual sailboat they have coated in clay slip.
“The sailboat came with its original diagrams and plans for its construction,” Boan says. It was donated anonymously by a man from the South Hills specifically for this installation/performance.
“The plans kind of fed our installation,” Boan says, adding that the less-than-sea-worthy boat “exists in a new life here.”
The ringmaster, so-to-speak, of this circus-like art performance, Boan is the only one of the four artists who is based locally. Donovan and Hughes are from Eugene, Ore., and Rhodes from Portland, Ore.
Boan says the exhibit is just as much an art-installation piece as it is a performance-art piece. In the gallery, numerous half-silvered mirror balls are scattered among other things, such as a dead jellyfish in a fishbowl and a couple of weather balloons, troughs of liquid clay and several scrims and mirrors that are set up to serve as “holographic corridor” for a constant loop of video projections.
“During the performance, a bunch of different things happen all at once,” Boan says. “I kind of think of this show as a duration piece. Everything gets set into motion, kind of like a wind-up toy. If you set it down, it's an object unto itself. But if you wind it up, it moves then stops again. At both intervals, you're able to see the things that led up to its motion and the thing that gives it pause, seeing it in a still state.”
The sailboat is by far the most commanding object in the gallery, and at night, it's so perfectly lit that it appears as if a hologram unto itself, giving the illusion that it is about to float out from the gallery's massive windows.
The “holographic corridor,” as Boan describes it, features images of such disparate objects as a Persian rug, stained glass from Russian cathedrals and honeybees buzzing around the head of a flower, among other things.
“When you get to just the right vantage point, you can start to see a haloing of video projections that are going through the space and kind of hover at different planes. But they are actually coming from different areas in the room,” Boan says.
Boan and friends have worked on similar collaborative performances before. In 2010, Donovan and Hughes played virtual ping-pong with Boan via streaming web video from cameras floating behind them while on a kayak in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine. Boan, using a silver paddle and a makeshift 4-foot vertical clay cube court, was in the basement of a student center at a Catholic university in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
That same year, Donovan and Hughes sent streaming web footage from a weather balloon flown in the Cascade Mountains to Boan who was dancing to a Hot Chip song titled “Shining Escalade” in the projected footage wearing a mirrored mylar suit, all in front of audience in a small theater at “Embassy Event, Annuale” in Edinburgh, Scotland.
With this particular installation/performance piece at SPACE, which, Boan says, is a combination of “architecture, sculptural objects and information dialogue,” he likens all of the various intertwining objects and occurrences to a DJ's mixing table.
“So, when a DJ mixes records, he takes one and leads it into another, or even makes them overlap. So that's what is sort of happening here, but visually,” he says.
“Everything that's in the space kind of moves in cyclical fashion,” Boan says. “Each part kind of eats a piece of another part and puts it into motion.”
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.