Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Janus at Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure 3030 20th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
DATES: March 12 - April 24, 2010

Sarah Smith, the curator of
Alchemy, describes the show as "new work by artists who act on schemes of transformation and whose investigations are imbued with metaphor and poetry. By using basic and humble materials and processes, they create work that revives, transforms and restores our sense of wonder."

The piece that struck me from
Alchemy was Adam Hathaway's Janus: an interactive sculpture that is playful, and very much restores my sense of wonder, as Smith intended with the show. The question with this piece is the interesting play with communication, and how one may contribute to the sculpture by talking on the phone that in turn records your voice as you can hear someone else's voice talking to you. I find interesting that you cannot communicate with the voice at the end of the line, since it is a ghost that has only left its mark on a maze-like tape that runs through the insides of the sculpture. Is it fake communication? Is it miscommunication?

Adam Hathaway Janus

To me, it was simply a special experience. As I approached the sculpture, it seemed rather curious, like an antique marvel. There was an instruction next to the sculpture that read: PLEASE PICK UP THE PHONE. TALK AND LISTEN. And so I did. I Picked up the phone, uttering the typical "Hello?", and what the ghost at the end of the line did was emit a soft laughter that made me smile. Maybe the piece attempts to have the public converse with ghosts that have left their voices and laughter behind, strangers that converse and scratch a guilty pleasure of overhearing someone's thoughts or touching intimate fibers of one's soul by simple laughter.

The final aspect of the piece is the playfulness with time, where the voice one hears lies in the past, and the one the viewer produces is in the present but will lie in the past when the next user encounters it. But, the precondition that exists with this sculpture in order for it to work is the participation of the viewer, engaging him in this exchange where if you leave nothing in return, the following viewer will have nothing to experience.


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