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Installations by Regional Artists at Squeaky Wheel

From Lauren Gay and Isaac Johnson's "The Music Box: Adventures of Lucy and Renaldo."
From Kyle Butler and Shasti O'Leary Soudant's "unreliable (s)pace."

Unreliable Narrators

The Music Box: Adventures of Lucy and Renaldo, by the artist team Lauren Gay and Isaac Johnson, currently on show at Squeaky Wheel, is a multifarious installation consisting of four video projections—three on TVs, one on a wall—a couple of poetry chapbooks, some preliminary sketch-like drawings of babies, and some geometric doodles—and oh, a couch and a rocking chair, so you can sit and relax and take some time with this exhibit, think about it, try to figure out how the parts fit together to make a whole.

The problem is—even after sitting for a while—it doesn’t fit together very well. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense—if this is in any way an issue—as a whole or in the parts.

There may be a theme to the videos, or possibly several themes: babies, or a baby, or pregnancy, or life and death, and travel. Somebody’s pregnant, and somebody’s traveling—there are travel shots, from an airplane, then on the road, car breakdown, and even some railroad noises. The most coherent video vignette has to do with what looks like a departure after a pleasant visit, and tentative plans being made for a subsequent visit, to Denver, and the male voice of a couple (maybe the guy shooting the video) says: “We live on the edge of our relationship every day, Brian. We’re coming to Denver…” This may relate somehow to the pregnancy, which may already be in the works. Another video shows a baby, and not much else. Another video features an old lady dying, and a cemetery, in New Orleans, it looks like, the graves above ground, and pregnancy again—but it doesn’t look like the same pregnancy as in the other video—and from time to time a tinkly music box playing Brahms’s “Lullaby.” And here and there, from one video or another—you can’t tell which—gurgley sweet baby noises.

One of the chapbooks, entitled Baby, by Lauren Gay, consists of short poems, usually four lines each, containing the word “baby” in vertical anagram in caps, versus the rest of the poem in lower case. For example: “Belly grows/ And/ Baby knows/ You love her.” The other chapbook, entitled ABC Notepad, by Lucy Tulip Li, contains of random poetic aperçus. For example, “love is a capitalist construction.” No further explanation. Or real or fictional police officer exam questions. Statements like “Sometimes I enjoy breaking rules,” with multiple-choice possible answers: “strongly disagree…don’t know…strongly agree.”

The Lauren Gay and Isaac Johnson piece is from the Squeaky Wheel Regional Artist Access program. The other piece from the program is by Kyle Butler and Shasti O’Leary Soudant and is entitled unreliable (s)pace. It consists of a moving treadmill on which the observer/participant places a little plaster cast snail—there’s a whole bucket of them available—that then proceeds along the treadmill hopefully from one end to the other, but is just as likely to be knocked off part way along by three croquet-type hammers swinging back and forth over the treadmill. Right beneath the treadmill is a large bed of rock salt, and most of the snails that get knocked off land in the salt bed, which would be fatal terrain, a fatal environment, for a snail, I was told.

In addition, two videos, each of a human eye, looking, blinking, looking some more, watch over the apparatus and procedure.

What’s it all about? Here, let me put it in the words of the artists: “Through collaborative dual-channel video and performative sculpture, unreliable (s)pace…illustrate[s] the slow tensions between historical and existential dichotomies that often result in frustrating truncations of, diversions from, and compromises in, a given life’s trajectory. The viewer is invited to impose their will onto the snails’ disposition by initiating their trip from one end of the gallery (beginnings) to the other (conclusions). The viewers ‘help’ at their own discretion, assuming the interjectionary role of life’s unresolved dichotomies and provoking their consequence.”

The RAAR installations continue through June 29.

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