Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.For approximately 90 minutes Tuesday night, two projectors set at random cast video onto a small web of white screens. One scene, vivid and floral, quickly becomes disorienting, the flowers rattling and the bright colors oozing into one another. The next scene, a cityscape with fluid, colorful lines creating twisted octagonal shapes. Another scene, a quick pan over water lilies complicated by video glitches and, if you look closely, a young Winona Ryder peeking through window blinds. At least, this is how the videos squiggle around in my memory this morning, blurred into one another, bouncing around in an unorganized dance. A chaotic motion of memory. Perhaps this is precisely what the Inside Out Collective was aiming for.
All that we know, that we’re
made of, is motion.
This one-night-only exhibit at Zhulong Gallery, in conjunction with Aurora, was the first project by the Inside Out Collective, comprised of Alison Jardine, Liz Tropser and Lauren Cadieux. The title, Nothing Stays Put, isn't just a reference to the Amy Clampitt poem the artists used as inspiration. It's also the perfect subtitle to a movie about human memory. "The Human Brain: Where Nothing Stays Put." Or something to that effect. It seems particularly true of the way the human brain processes art, overloading on images and tucking them away into pockets of information for later recall, perhaps never to be remembered again. Similarly, these videos, varied in idea and construction, wiggle their way into the viewer's headspace, ephemeral in creation and exhibition, but forever manipulated by human memory.
Trosper was inspired to collaborate when she came across Clampitt's poem. The poet's story spoke to her, particularly her late-in-life transition from a middling novelist to a successful poet, which defies what Tropser sees as the false narrative of contemporary art stardom. More compelling was the poem itself, which speaks of the overwhelming bounty of the surrounding world, where it all comes from and where it goes. The poem opens with the statement, "The strange and wonderful are too much with us," and later Clampitt asks, "What have we done to deserve all the produce of the tropics?" This questioning the state of things, particularly of beautiful things, inspired Cadieux's contribution to the collaboration, videos that are magnified studies of florals. The pretty images are enclosed by complementary shapes and colors and distorted by constant motion into unsettling abstraction.
Jardine's approach explores the ideas of memory in the poem. She combined her home videos — one very closely resembles Monet's "Water Lilies" — with scenes of Winona Ryder. Jardine laughs when she admits Ryder is the actress she'd choose to play her in a movie. She also inserts glitches into the videos as a reminder of the failures of memory. "It's going with my age," she says. But Trosper wonders if it's not just age changing our memory but technology as well. The conversation Tuesday evening revolved around these topics, questions of beauty and memory, as a few dozen visitors circulated through the rooftop space. It all seemed the perfect complement to the work on display, which at times would project onto the visitors themselves or onto the night sky. Perhaps these were the most interesting moments in the work, the ones that were nearly lost in the night. Faintly filling the air with glimpses of color, it served as a reminder that the strange and wonderful are too much with us, until the colors, the memories, slip away.