A new multi-artist exhibit opens this weekend at SITE Santa Fe. Organized by Laura Steward, SITE’s Phillips Director, and Thaw Curatorial Fellow Janet Dees, One on One brings together vastly different sensibilities to create large installations exploring the concept of personal obsession.
Santa Fe-based singer/songwriter and artist Terry Allen presents Ghost Ship Rodez, a multi-room audiovisual installation inspired by French playwright, poet, actor, artist, and theater director Antonin Artaud’s (1896-1948) journey to Ireland and harrowing trip home. The psychologically wounded creative visionary (author of, among other pieces, “Van Gogh le suicidé de la société,” a bitter treatise against the science of psychiatry) spent much of his life navigating a revolving door of institutions and detention facilities, culminating in a lonely death, presumably of cancer, at a psychiatric clinic. Allen reinterprets the psychological machinations of Artaud during his journey, focusing on the parallels between the artist’s creative genius and lifelong battle with mental illness. As William Butler Yeats wrote in the poem “The Choice,” “The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it take the second, must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.” Allen explores that profound rage and in the process attempts to let a little light in.
Bangladesh-born American artist and art professor Hasan Elahi’s portrayal of obsession stems from a personal experience that involved being detained and profiled by federal agents at a Detroit airport in 2002. Elahi, who exhibited some of his work in Santa Fe during a 2007 group show at the College of Santa Fe and has been depicted frequently in the mainstream media as more of a social agitator than a multidisciplinary fine artist, presents Tracking Transience: The Orwellian Project, a combination of work in digital media that explores the impact of surveillance and technology on a society that is increasingly fueled by the collection and analysis of information. For the SITE exhibition, Elahi assembles the most comprehensive version to date of his ongoing Tracking Transience project; to see his online self-surveillance work, visit trackingtransience.net.
Los Angeles artist Kaari Upson presents The Larry Project, a multimedia installation in which the idea of obsession is applied to someone real but whose life experience is rendered through both accurate and imagined bits of information. Like Elahi, Upson explores identity by collecting disparate sets of data and arranging them in a manner that makes logical sense, as though assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, starting at the edges. But Upson’s work plays on the uncontrollable need of individuals to apply their imagination to missing pieces of information, filling the gaps with fantasy and giving in to dangerous obsessive impulses.
Husband-and-wife artists Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry examine obsession through three video works: Topsy-Turvy and Cut, both from 2006, and 2007’s Exchange. The couple infuse their visual narratives with threads of social consciousness and political activism, frequently investigating the historical connections (and disconnection) between race and equality. From 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, SITE presents a conversation with McCallum, Tarry, and Dees.
There is a free public opening reception for One on One from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5. The exhibit — which runs through May 9 — is complemented by an ongoing schedule of special lectures, conversations, and performances. Visit sitesantafe.org for more information.
Left, Kaari Upson: The Larry Project, 2007, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; photo by Joshua White
Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry: Topsy-Turvy, 2006, installation view, The New York Historical Society; courtesy the artists and Caren Golden Fine Arts, New York