Information Interrupted: Reveal + Hidden at Guest Spot explores conceptual and visual methods for sharing and concealing information. by Cara Ober
Even in the Information Age, too much information is, well, too much. For example, I have a good friend who likes to describe certain activities in great detail, despite my pleas to the contrary. I don’t know why she can’t understand that there are facts I just don’t need, or want, to know. TMI, the popular acronym for the phrase too much information, is a form of protest against sundry details which, once shared, render someone, or something, much less appealing.
Successful artists have long understood the stigma of TMI. No matter what kind of artwork you favor, the delicate balance between revelation and concealment creates a tension necessary for dramatic contrasts. Reveal + Hidden, the newest exhibit at Guest Spot, explores this strategy visually as well as conceptually in a playful, multi-sensory group show. Curator Rod Malin designed the exhibit to challenge expectations about disclosure and presenting information in interrupted intervals, ephemeral materials, and through highly esoteric or mechanized delivery. The curator compares the desired impact of the work as “being surprisingly, yet softly, hit in the face by a down pillow.”
Unlike many of Guest Spot’s previous shows, Reveal + Hidden is full of kinetic and sound-based work. New York artist Audra Wolowiec’s Concrete Sound (floor) appears at first glance to be a tiny sculptural village of identical A-frame houses, arranged in a tight grid on the floor. However, the angular, concrete surface was designed to mimic the gray foam sound walls of a recording studio, bouncing ambient noises around the gallery. Several smaller Concrete Sound pieces are on display on walls and shelves, where their modular and technical capabilities are more apparent. Although these sculptural works hint at the way sounds reverberate, it is Wolowiec’s combined text and sound piece, private space in a public time, which really addresses the way an idea can be coded, fragmented, and even erased. The title comes from a Vito Acconci essay, a conceptual art text that Wolowiec uses as the basis for both parts of the work. In the audio portion, available via headphones, the artist has recorded herself reading the text aloud, with all the words edited out. What remains are the small gasps, lisps, and breathy sounds the artist made in between each word. In the visual work on the wall, Wolowiec translates the text into her own secret code, which employs a familiar alphabet and notations, but only arcane hints at meaning. All of Wolowiec’s works are visually appealing in an intellectual, well-crafted way, while simultaneously being frustratingly self-contained. If you haven’t worked in a recording studio lately or you aren’t familiar with Vito Acconci, is enough information revealed to appreciate the work? Herein lies the tension that makes the work interesting.
Like Wolowiec, Baltimore artist Elena Volkova explores obscure and subtle details, through photography and graphite drawing. In Proofs (Guest Spot), the artist photographs several small areas of space in the room, prints the image at the actual size, and then places them in the original spot. These photos playfully draw attention to overlooked architectural details, and question assumptions about perception and value. On the wall, Volkova presents a grid of six white rectangles, each divided into rows and columns by slight folded lines and the shadows each fold creates. Closer inspection reveals a trompe l’oeil fabrication: some of the folds are actual and others have been carefully shaded with graphite. The effect is stunning and, although close attention is mandatory, no formal education is required.
Juan Fantanive creates kinetic sculptures that marry high- and low-tech to a charming effect. Liveliness is an electronic flipbook depicting a hummingbird in flight. As the image cards flip at a dizzying speed, the hummingbird flits around convincingly, disappears, and then returns, while the flipping of the cards mimics the hum of the bird’s wings. In the larger Talking Board, Fantanive animates a grid of white and blue circles, which churn and rotate at differing speeds, angles, and directions. It’s a simple image, but the complexity of the motion implies a number of natural processes. In both pieces, Fantanive makes no attempt to conceal the inner workings of his contraptions. Although both pieces work in a magical way, all the power cords, electronic equipment, and wires are left highly visible as evidence of his labor.
Baltimore’s Gary Kachadourian deals with concealment on a literal level, installing a photocopied, life-sized drawing of an interior of an elevator in the back room of the gallery. The drawing covers one and a half walls in the space and creates a disjointed feeling of compression. Kachadourian’s three tiny maquettes of domestic and urban spaces, placed simply on a table, serve as an intimate counterpoint for the bluntness of the installation. Displayed on a computer screen, New Yorker Geoff Lupo’s film Have you Seen this Man documents an absurd collaborative intervention. For many years Lupo’s art practice has included handmade advertisements for random singular items. Displayed on public bulletin boards with tear-offs of his phone number at the bottom, Lupo advertises single crackers or a paper clip for fifteen cents, in order to provoke a conversation with those curious, or cheap enough, to call. Lupo documents the numerous phone calls and personal interactions to hilarious effect, illustrating the illogical, silly, and inadequate nature of mundane human conversation.