What Happened “inside, for a short amount of time” (Rosalux January show: new work by Dan Buettner and Rebecca Krinke)
Post by Rebecca Krinke
Opening Reception, January 4
It was an unusually interesting opening. First of all, Dan sold 9 pieces at the Opening!
Rebecca had the unfamiliar experience of an opening becoming a part of the artwork itself – without having planned it. My work in the show was an oversized black 4-poster bed, with curtains of black feathers, layers of different textures of black fabrics, a tall stack of identical black notebooks, surrounded by a floor of straw swirling around the bed.
A few people asked about the notebooks, which are indeed my real notebooks. Gold thread, rising out of the straw floor, bound the notebooks together assuring that they could not (easily) be picked up and read. This triggered wishes in several people to see into them, perhaps using video to project their content onto the wall. I found this a gratifying response as one of the reasons for this artwork in my mind is the fact that “secret notebooks” or “notebooks with secrets” were there in plain sight to incite visitors to ponder their relationship to secrets.
As I was talking with gallery goers about the work, a comment from one person about wanting to “jump right into this bed” prompted another to say something about how the bed was “sinister, perhaps dangerous”. This stimulated an ongoing conversation where I then asked people if they wanted to jump in or stay away. A group conversation ensued where I was asked if I had slept in the bed. It actually had not occurred to me – it was an “artwork”. The conversation turned to: “What if you slept in the bed?” I became increasingly interested in this unusual and provocative idea; it had emerged from participation at the opening, and echoed aspects of my public art-social practice work. I decided I would indeed take up the idea and sleep overnight in the bed – in my artwork called “Insomnia”.
Overnight in the Gallery: A “Sleepover” in “Insomnia”, January 23
I decided that I would spend one night only and focus on personal, solo, direct experience – no tweeting, live blogging, or webcams – after all, the artwork features a blank black notebook under the covers just waiting for someone/me to write in.
When I first arrived that evening, I simply enjoyed looking at my work with no one present and the door locked. Turning the lights off by the door and walking across the deep, dark gallery space with the light of my phone revealed just how pitch black and cavernous the gallery is; no windows means not even a seepage of light. Crawling into this bed/not bed was a bit precarious. I brought a sleeping bag, as there is straw inside the bed too; this was occasionally a very strong scent but seemed to come and go as I shifted about…conjuring notions of stables, animals… The gallery is not quiet however – our overhead furnace roared to life at irregular intervals – or it seems that way when one is awakened several times during the night. I did have a dream. And although I did not feel trepidation inside the gallery, it was a threatening dream. A rather ominous being of some sort seemed to be hovering near the bed. I yelled (in my dream), ‘Get away this instant!” and they fled. So I actually felt strong and victorious and fell back to sleep. I woke up at 7ish to the banging sounds of trucks unloading outside. I packed up and went to Spyhouse for coffee, feeling a mixture of things: elation at doing something strange and new, comparing my adventure to a fairy tale, feeling an edge of fatigue, and daydreaming about new work…
Gallery Talk with Jack Zipes, January 25
Dan and I were delighted when Jack Zipes, a distinguished scholar of the fairy tale, accepted our invitation to offer his thoughts on our work. Jack has written dozens of books on the fairy tale over decades and is a wonderfully engaging thinker and speaker The Gallery Talk was attended by 20 or more people who came with great observations and questions.
Jack opened by saying that the fairy tale reveals aspects of the social, cultural, and political issues of the time, and that the realities described by fairy tales can reveal gaps between truth and falsehood in our society. He positioned the “Insomnia” artwork as a feminist re-visioning of the fairy tale; here there is no catatonic woman present in the bed (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) but rather the bed is empty, and the woman has left or can come and go as she pleases, and the stack of notebooks imply action. But, paradoxically, the all black bed also manifests a strong sensation of death, mourning, and entrapment. That gold thread wrapped around the notebooks? It won’t work; it is “still a man’s world” the artwork may be communicating. Fairy tales said this: that the spinning of straw to gold, all night long, to save a life, her life, was women’s work… and it was always women trapped by spells, by men, and waiting for a man to save her.
Jack opened his discussion of Dan’s work by referencing the sentence from his artist statement, “art says what can’t be said”, as he noted the power of Dan’s works to show us the break between / the space of beauty and tragedy. He described how each work had a clearly visible image in the foreground (often animals, plants) and an occluded background that seem to speak of the environmental traumas at work all around us. Jack noted, “These works deserve our serious contemplation. We are living at a precarious time.”
The audience-participants were very engaged, asking questions of Jack, Dan, and myself. Great discussions ensued including: What, where are fairy tales or their replacements now? The bed, stack of notebooks, and the feathers in “Insomnia” drew observations. One woman remembered from her childhood seeing her parents sleeping – and it was a strange and somewhat frightening experience as sleep, unconsciousness and death commingled in her mind. The stack of notebooks seemed like a ladder or steps to some, as in write your way into or out of the bed/the situation. Dan’s work instigated several intriguing conversations about his process and presentation: his works are all the same size (book page size) and are paired with pages of text, filled with “dummy text” (using the Greek alphabet) with only the title of the work visible in English, creating a potent installation quality to his work – creating a larger read of the work – more than a series of works on the wall.
It was a very illuminating and enjoyable afternoon.
As a postscript: Jack bought one of Dan’s pieces! And a second piece was sold after the Gallery Talk.
The Experimental Freedom of Rosalux Gallery
Rosalux is a collective gallery – wherein the 20 members work together to run the space. Gallery members are focused on selling their work, but the collective format also allows each artist to create their own vision for their show, and for the two artists who decide to show together to create a vision for how their work will be seen together.
In planning our show, Dan and I made studio visits and contributed in helping each other clarify how to best show our work. I was intending to show the bed and a series of cloaks (made of feathers, straw) hung on hooks on the wall. In talking with Dan, I realized the bed would fill the space and was more potent alone. Dan and I saw connections in our work through the notebooks, and this book page quality of his works that emerged as a strong aspect in his installation.
As someone who makes sculpture and installations, not so readily collectable by many people, I doubly appreciate Rosalux and the freedom I have to create space, objects and encounters. This show was “alive in real time”, filled with many unexpected presents. One I particularly treasure is when Dan told me about a family member who was initially a bit underwhelmed by the thought of seeing only one sculpture by his showing partner. He said that after seeing “Insomnia”, she had 20 minutes of commentary on it!
“Inside, for a short amount of time” created new community and experiments. Rosalux is a crucible for innovation and collaboration for me, and I’d like to say many thanks again to Dan, to everyone at Rosalux, to our gallery goers, to our supporters, and to Jack Zipes.