Visiting the High Line, which is in Manhattan’s West Side area was a real treat (especially after reading the National Geographic article Miracle Above Manhattan in the March 2011 issue). This beautifully, well designed park brings serenity even to the busiest, fast-moving city dweller. People were having lunch, talking to friends, or pulling out cameras to capture a photo (an infinite amount of possibilities). One can easily spend a day and evening roaming around the High Line alone. It also reminded me of why people flock to New York. The overall design of the High Line is elegant yet captures the city’s personality in such a way where you know the High Line could only exist in Manhattan.

With a visit to the High Line so early in the trip, it was a thrill that the first physical cue that indicated I was in a completely different environment was installation art by Julianne Swartz. Entering the High Line in the middle, one must take an elevator to the park. Currently, Swartz’s work, Digital Empathy, is a sound piece that involves poems, personal letters, and song lyrics recited by computer-generated voices. At first, walking in the elevator, you hear these intimate messages but the monotone and seemingly cold voice with no inflection makes the message sound eerie and unsettling. After reading the work’s description, I felt compelled to go up and down the High Line looking for the signage to hear a voice and listen. Digital Empathy is a sobering reminder that communication delivered in an unfamiliar way makes us listen carefully and fastidiously. Yet, isn’t that strange, that something unemotional stops and makes our ears and the rest of our senses vigilant? Are the sounds of our own voices not enough? Swartz certainly made me wonder.

Here’s hoping she showcases work in San Francisco. I would definitely see one of her shows and love to talk to her. Julianne Swartz, if you’re reading this, thanks for reminding me to stop, listen, be curious, and stay human.

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With the artist’s reception in a large Budget rental truck, accompanied by a performance piece involving libations and black lights, “Proliferations Part 2” was both provocative and engaging. Viewing the show itself meant being escorted by minivan through a security gate to a roll-up-door storage unit, which was brought down once participants had entered. Viewing works in close proximity not only invoked a strong sense of anticipation, but a participatory aspect to the actual exhibition. “Proliferations Part 2” comes from the curatorial collective OFF Space, which is composed of artist-curators Kathrine Worel, Elyse Hochstadt, and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. The exhibition included works by Alexis Arnold, Alicia Escott, Michael J. Ryan, and Erica Gagsei. The pieces exhibited were constructed from man-made objects, transformed into organic shapes and forms that were then deliberately set against a wooden backdrop.

With their technologically based pieces, artists David Stein and Peter Foucault utilized this confined location to illustrate the dichotomous nature of excess and lack within a space. Michael Kerbow’s Meat Map simulated a pull-down wall map, thus creating a simulacra of memory based on grammar school geography classes.

In comparison, a viewing of “Proliferations Part 1” at Rhodes & Fletcher Wealth Management offices congruently emphasized the various ways in which environment plays a role in our perception and reading of art. Although no special code was needed, “Part 1” required permission in the form of an appointment to view the works. In “Part 1,” there was a clear distinction between art and venue, whereas “Part 2” drew heavily from the environment to provide the viewer context. Artists from “Part 2” palpably incorporated the environment to have each piece function and become experiential. Although extremely different settings, both sites obligated the viewer to engage in a process of perception and valuation. This engaging was as much a part of the exhibition as the work itself, though that might not have been the original intention. Overall, it would be difficult for a viewer to ignore the environment in these exhibitions, as they are so different from the typical gallery setting we have become so accustomed to.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews March 2010

Photos from Proliferations-Part 2

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