The Other Side of the Mask
National IDEC Conference
Narrative: This 1400SF installation is subdivided into 8 spaces; uses 80 sheets of MDF, 30LF of mirrors and 17 suspended panels; features 105 photographs, 8 TV monitors, 3 digital projectors and 34 speakers; and simultaneously broadcasts 6 videos and 8 soundtracks, including original poetry recorded in English and Italian and original music recorded in a Tuscan chapel.
This site-specific installation addresses issues raised in my poem The Other Side of the Mask: contradictions we project, active and passive illusions, self-deceptions…. Cynically, it’s about being trapped.
The gallery includes two rooms accessed through double-doors referencing masks with monitors mounted outside and inside each door. Looped videos play continuously, including positive and negative observations from diverse locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East and India. Topics range from quiet waves on an Arabian shoreline, to muck in an Italian fountain, from trips through a trailer park, to forays along packed roadways in New Delhi, to quiet viewing of Pomodoro’s Sphere spinning at the Vatican. Positive images are portrayed outside the masks; negative within. Like masks, work room interiors are rawer and less polished than their exteriors…..
A panel of 24 backlit images in the East room offer representative project development drawings. Scraps of paper and receipts evidence the installation’s development. Inside the West room, another 24-image panel records facial expressions made by dozens of people reacting to key words in the poem: squint, search, mock, panic, hurt, hope, pain. Digital images were altered to emphasize emotions behind the expressions. An angled corridor on the West side offers a positive and dramatic, series of large digital photos captured at dusk in the Arabian desert opposite a series of 24 images of mostly disintegrating objects and abused environs. Seven-pointed stars dip down overhead. The centers of the stars reference the rainbow. Sound compresses as the viewer travels along the narrowing corridor, while stars lower along the vertically arched exterior of the West room. A similar corridor on the East side addresses the “gazing,” if not “staring” we do from within our masks. Compression here comes from the narrowness of the corridor: Artwork is literally “in your face.” Along the gallery’s South side, laser-cut masks offer opportunities to look into mirrors. Both are positioned to make this seemingly simple task difficult.
Throughout, a cacophony of spoken, environmental and musical sounds abound. Audio tracks include recitations of the poem and musical performances of the plaintiff Miserere from A Quest, a unison mass I composed. Overlapping disparate sounds from six simultaneously broadcast videos: water gently lapping a shoreline, graffiti-splattered trains clamoring through the Italian countryside, fanfares blaring through cobble-stone canyons in a walled medieval town and a muezzin intoning a seemingly contradictory call to prayer at a … Dubai shopping mall.
The Other Side of the Mask: We’re always looking out.