Lauren.Anderson and Lauren.Klotzman
was on view at Permanent.Collection
X2016.01.10 – X2016.01.31
“We actually made a map of the country, on a scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much,” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said
it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the
country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
— Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) [A quote from the gallery handout for the exhibition]
I visited Permanent.Collection’s most recent show on closing day: no preconceptions and no expectations. I walked out a bit dazed, with my thinking rearranged. Both artist’s work—Chicago artist Lauren Anderson and Austin artist Lauren Klotzman—evoked interesting reactions. But it was the pairing of Laurens that made for a powerful reflection on the ever-changing nature of the technological fabric of our lives, the state of the world, and, in contrast, the comforts of our lives.
On one hand, there is the very light-hearted installation by Chicago artist, Lauren Anderson. I always appreciate humor and playfulness: it is a quality that gets lost and forgotten as the world goes under. It keeps us buoyant and gives us hope. It is not to be ignored or forgotten as it is what gets us through.
On the other hand, Austin-based artist Lauren Klotzman’s videos are based on events marking 1991, including ‘turning on’ the world wide web, Operation Desert Storm (the Persian Gulf War, or Gulf War I) and Whitney Houston singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. These videos focus on darker themes that continue to affect lives around the world.
Anderson’s sculptural piece had its camp firmly in the personal realm for home gallery owners Anthony Creeden and Julia Hendrickson, who invite artists and the art public to briefly take over their private space. Anderson made a large canvas tote bag about eight feet high by eight feet wide by four feet deep, complete with a piano keys logo shaped into an “L”, and large cloth handles. The upright bag occupied the rear of the living room, and was stuffed with every item in the room when there are no exhibitions on view: a couch, an exercise ball, stereo equipment, etc.
Packing up one’s belongings in a moving container that can’t be used is humorous in itself. The sculpture was functional in an oblique way: it created a professional-style exhibition space out of a living room. It calls up many other facets of life, including consumerism: what we need and what we have; what it is like to be deprived of our familiar environment and the worlds we create with them; change wrought by moving. Other questions occur. What do objects do for us? When we no longer see something, do we need it anymore? Are things and objects the same? Are they repositories of our memories and our personal histories? Or do we just miss their familiarity and comfort? What is disposable?
This clean, well-lighted exhibition space had room in the front of the living room gallery for two television screens set low to the floor and facing each other, each playing different videos by Klotzman. Four sets of headphones were available, and people could sit on a red shag rug to watch. Consumerism was evoked once again in one tape that showed a realtor showing the modest Kurt Cobain’s childhood home, now on sale for half a million dollars. The tape and the voice were distorted, making the video hawking of a past long gone and the over-enhancement of the retail price tag intrusive as well as fairly creepy.
On the opposite screen was a video short about how Klotzman grew up with the internet world as part of her reality. The web was one of her first memories and it created a frame of reference for her, as it has for her generation and those that followed. Through a personal memory script, running across the bottom screen in vintage web typescript, Klotzman raised questions about the reality of the screen replacing our conscious, thoughtful, independent selves. Is it too powerful a force? Do we resist, or just give in? Is the struggle to retain our own thoughts and ideas already over?
Following those screenings and other shorts, I went into a spare bedroom. In the darkened room, one watched Klotzman’s rendition of the merging distorted voice of Whitney Houston singing the Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl with pilots talking in real time as they flew bombing raids in Operation Desert Storm—a war that introduced front line bombing attacks to the TV screen.
It all felt real. Anderson’s humor brought us into the room and opened up conversation, grabbing our attention with a hearty howdy-do, smiles, and laughter. It connected us with thoughts of our own homes and possessions. This feeling was juxtaposed with Klotzman’s tougher reflection on the world. The message in the technological medium about the not so gradual takeover of our mindscapes is one we need to listen to, even as our natural world is likewise transformed.
By Madeline Irvine, an artist based in Austin, Texas. Her work can be seen at madelineirvine.com.