Friday, August 17, 2012
Installation Review: Outside In / Inside Out: The Inner Life of Jack (by Ellen Sollod and Johanna Melamed); Jack Straw Studios, Seattle
The image came into focus. Or rather, almost into focus; it remained fuzzy, soft-edged, dreamlike. It was, of course, of the street in front of the Jack Straw gallery, projected upside down and backwards onto the wall by the camera obscura – merely a hole in the wall with a lens. Such “darkened chambers” (translation of “camera obscura”) were mentioned in both Chinese and Greek sources from the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. (without the lens), so they probably existed prior to that. They are the ancestor of all of our cameras today. Usually they have been used for amusement, as an aid to drawing, or to prove scientific ideas such as that light travels in a straight line. Here, together with a stream-of-consciousness soundtrack, one was used to create a surreal, meditative atmosphere.
One topic is left to discuss. I thought, after I left, that the pedestrians and people in the cars I had seen go by (upside down) probably were not aware of the dreamworld unfolding only a few feet from them. This discussion could go several ways; we are all, of course, not usually aware of what is happening behind any given wall at any particular time. But also, it could be a metaphor for experimental music and media itself: such art is a complex, beautiful, and infinitely interesting world, yet (due to “blockage” by the mass media) a lot of people are simply unaware of it. Jack Straw Studios is doing what they can to rectify that situation.