Electric is the Love at Laumeier Sculpture Park’s Gallery expands traditional notions of sculpture by taking a bold, headfirst dive into the role technology can play in experiencing outdoor sculpture – indoors. Part of the Kranzberg Exhibition Series, Electric is the Love is artistically bold, intellectually informed, and playfully engages sight, sound, and touch, aiming to, as Curator Dana Turkovic said, “create an exhibition that was unlike anything Laumeier has hosted in the past.” By working with local artists in media that encompasses a wide array of technology, and how the idea of Laumeier’s own sculptures can effectively be newly experienced in a gallery space, Turkovic has really put Laumeier on the map in terms of cutting-edge exhibitions and artists interacting with outdoor sculpture in progressive and surprising ways.
Robin Assner and Adam Watkins present a video-recorded Laumeier in the first room of the exhibition where their music video montage, I Love You (Remix) consists of 9 continuously running, different screens play, with music, on a larger screen as a part homage, part exhibition guide to the landscape, art, and people at Laumeier. When presented in video form, where nature and sculpture move in their simultaneous interaction on the screen, the park and its art seem more sentimental – the video is literally framed by a giant black grid like a portrait might be. The smaller, single-screen surveillance videos on the side walls create a sense of extreme presentness and almost an uncomfortable closeness to those being watched, for example, a kissing couple, leaning against a car, and make us question our own public actions.
The entire space of the next room is wholly part of the piece. Upon walking in, viewers are immediately forced to confront the over-bearing presence of technology, but whose source and exact makings remain elusive. Cybercar is not just the monolithic, large, black rectangle, atop glowing indigo lights, but encompasses the experiences of the whole space, from the bright orange color of the room activated by UV lights to the strong and persistent hum of the sound vibrations reverberating around the room. Cybercar could act as an homage as well, to the kind of single-color, monolithic sculpture commonly seen outside at Laumeier, but here, in a sound and site controlled, small room.
Video game designer Dave Derington’s Virtual Laumeier project brings sculpture into the virtual realm. Derington has created a virtual, online Laumeier, reminiscent of Minecraft, that viewers can play in the gallery space, building and re-constructing elements of the park through moving cubes around in the 3D space. The project also includes a website for anyone to contribute photos to with the purpose of including anyone’s own, personal photos of the park, their unique views of Laumeier in order to expand the game. The scope of Derington’s final project is fully dependent on the involvement of visitors and their vision of the park. Turkovic said of the works in the show, but perhaps it is truest of Derington’s, “are pertinent now because they are an extension and expansion of sculptural practice. They are very good examples of the evolution of artistic practice in general and of curatorial practice as more engaged, collaborative and creative practice rather than a strictly academic one.”
If you’ve never experienced a sound art exhibit before, or you’re not quite sure what it is (no, it’s not just another word for music!) Eric Hall’s Reconnecting to a server… is a great introduction. What may at first look like an empty room with simply surveillance videos in the upper corners of an otherwise empty space, is quickly understood as something much more once visitors begin to move around and different sounds, depending on where and how they move, start to detect their location and direction of movement through audio. Each experience depends on how much people move around, and how many people are in the room (2-4 is probably best). The sounds that visitors hear are actually recordings from Hall’s “Chatroulette” account (a website that connects strangers and allows for conversations through webcam chat) that he experimentally left up while idle. While the connection to Laumeier here might be a bit more obscure, you’ll see a lot more of Hall’s work at Laumeier this year, which often involves site recordings, as he is Composer in Residence.
Finally, the exhibition closes with Yo_Cy’s (Christine Yogiaman and Ken Tracy) Loom Portal, the most visually mesmerizing piece of the show. A large outdoor/indoor installation (the other part of it can be seen from the patio, off of the gallery), Loom Portal consists of visible circuits and long, clear fiber optic strands that pour into the gallery from the outside in a dense, waterfall-esque shape. Light from the outside, along with an exterior mirror array grid, acts as the input, and the output is the light field indoors that changes in degrees of brightness depending on the time of day, cloudiness, and other natural factors. This work most obviously brings the outdoors in, but even more so, Loom Portal allows a space where a highly developed light source expands how we think about the role and the place of an indoor gallery space at an outdoor sculpture park, and how the two, historically, institutionally, and visually, are linked together, but can also expand and grow together.
Turkovic wrote in an email that one of her goals for the show was for it to “have a ‘tone’…I wanted to in my own way actually flatten that space, transfer the experience of walking around monumental works in nature by producing something that mediates it and filters it while highlighting it and enhancing it through photography, video, sound, reflection, cabling, light, and virtual gaming space.” And she succeeded -Laumeier has never seemed so contemporarily accessible nor its future so bright.
Electric is the Love: Kranzberg Exhibition Series continues at Laumeier Sculpture Park Gallery, 12580 Rott Road, St. Louis until 22 January 2012. The indoor galleries are open Wednesday-Friday, 10-5, and Saturday-Sunday, 12-5 throughout the Fall and Winter. The galleries and park are free and open to the public.
– Saturday, November 12, 4: Sound artist Eric Hall will continue Laumeier’s Campfire Chatseries in Laumeier Nature Trail.
– Saturday, December 10, 1: Video game designer Dave Derington will host a gallery talk.