Alternative gallery spaces like pump project beg for installations like Candace Hicks’ Egress. In the absence of climate control or the muteness of a perfect white cube, ideas like Egress blossom outside of the confines of a series of framed two dimensional works.
Tiny lines of black vinyl text circles the gallery walls two and a quarter times. The artist discusses perpetual motion and coincidences in her reading, forcing you to move continuously in a halting circle around the room as you read. The words slope on the walls, purposeful imperfections in the installation process cause uneven breaks between words or a word falls around the corner to complete the sentence before the break of a doorway. Footnotes fall a couple of inches above the baseboard.
Side by side doors stand in the middle of the gallery, protruding and breaking the seamlessness of the white walls. Each door is fixed with a peephole and numbered buttons in place of a doorknob. Visitors see a different diorama in each and all reference mystery scenes Hicks discusses in the exhibition text. Words appear in different places in each diorama when the buttons are pressed. “Hidden” appears in the fireplace, referencing a locked door mystery Hicks describes on the gallery walls where two women die in a room where it is impossible for a human to have left but through the door (which was found locked). “Terror,” barely legible, lights up on the yellow wall of a bedroom scene where a table has been knocked over and a broken lamp lays alongside the table. One door has a wench that visitors crank to put in motion a perpetual motion machine inside the diorama.
The dioramas have an eerie feeling, as though you are being watched as you peer through the peepholes. I looked cautiously, half expecting a figure to move through the still scene as if haunted. Perhaps it is the slow circling of the room Hicks makes you do in the space that unhinges you from whatever you were thinking about before you entered the gallery. Like the lights turning off before a play, by the time I viewed the scenes in the doors, I was expecting the uncanny.
In an accompanying handmade book, Hicks saddle stitched thick red pages and crafted white doors, like the ones in her installation, for the covers. The essay describes her memories of reading Brave New World and the coincidences in her life and imperfections of memory. Hicks’ casual voice draws you into her mysteries. The footnotes remind me of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and I keep expecting something dark to appear.
Egress pulls viewers into the installation through the sheer minimalism of what is on display to see. The text on the walls and the miniature dioramas would be interesting works on their own, and together I dutifully fell into the conundrum of coincidences. In fact, I was so focused the details of the text and those locked rooms — a syringe left on a white tile floor and a shelves of books glimpsed through a doorway — that I forgot about solving the puzzle Egress presents. Perhaps you can figure it out, but considering the subjects of the text (uncertain perceptions, imperfect memory), the exhibition did not feel like a question that needed a firm answer.
This exhibition is on view through July 8 at pump project.
Thao Votang is co-editor of Conflict of Interest, a writer, and co-founder of Tiny Park. Rebecca Marino (co-editor of Conflict of Interest) is the gallery director at pump project. Previous conflicts of interest limiting the coverage of exhibitions at pump project spurred this publication’s existence.