Proposal : Subjective Reality Prison Installation

Subjective Reality Prison

Planning a site-specific installation piece constructed from the following materials:
Balsa Wood
Card Stock Paper
Tissue Paper
Magazine images (appropriation)
Marker (black)
various adhesives
straight pins

Attached: Fig. 1-7 **not attached digitally** **another figure may be attached of color sketches of the design**

The piece will be installed in the art building on the window ledge of the middle landing of the staircase just as you come in the entrance on the Tivoli side of the building – across from room 174. As you ascend the stairs, there is a large window balcony. See Fig. 1 for a visual representation of the location.

This piece will be placed upon the ledge against he window. Since the piece will be in the form of a cage, the entrapment or protection of this cage against the large outside world seen through the window beyond will provide stark visual contrast, as well as the large open space versus the small size of the finished piece. Please reference Fig. 5 to see how the piece will fit onto the brick shelf of the window ledge perfectly.

Because of the large, expansive space of this area, the installation will be unobtrusive, but those who notice it will be struck by how small it is in this large space and the desolate feeling of such a small object in such an expansive space. A bright red focal point within the cage will catch the eye of curious viewers and draw them in. Upon approaching to view the piece to view it more closely, viewers will begin to notice the complexity of this seemingly simple piece.

While we’re on the subject of contrast – the large space versus the small space, I’d like to talk about the subject matter of the piece. It is a cage meant to represent, as the title suggests, a prison. This restrictive enclosure projects a feeling of being trapped in a small, almost claustrophobic, desperate space with the expansive backdrop of the sky and trees behind it, a white, expansive, empty wall stretching out in front of it.

Further deconstructing the idea of the prison and contrast, we also can explore the meaning of “safety,” understanding that often, prisons, especially those of “subjective reality” are created to protect us, often by ourselves, sometimes without our even knowing it.  So beyond the window representing a freedom outside of the cage, it represents an overwhelming world or reality beyond the safety of the cage – the white wall in front of it further emphasizes this – that blank slate that is a welcome open place for some people to paint their own reality is a stark, frightening place with too many choices for the person whose reality requires routine and structure. It’s a tiny thing in an open space, further pushing that idea of feeling overwhelmed by the world that I personally experience. There’s an unfortunate tendency of those who suffer emotionally to find a safe zone and lock themselves in it, even if it is a destructive cage that ties them to something that is terrifying and miserable. As terrifying and awful as it is to suffer, it’s sometimes the only thing we know – healing and change are hard and frightening and sometimes it is a hard hole to climb out of. The prison is safe when the world is overwhelming, even if it hurts, confines, suffocates and traps.

The area does more than contrast the piece, however. There is a repeating module in the piece of rectangular space – the cage bars repeat over and over again in a rhythmic pattern. This pattern continues into the installation site in several locations (see figures 4-7). Figure 4 pans back from the close up on the installation site and begins to show a repeating of this motif in the structure of the window installation. Further than that, figures 5-7 show the stair railing that continues this motif as the viewer ascends or descends the stairs, bringing their physical presence into the piece.

Figure 5 can be viewed one of two ways, depending on which way the viewer has approached the piece. If they are ascending the stairs, they may notice the repeating bars, mentally bringing them into a space to begin to view the piece as they round the corner. If the viewer is descending the stairs, however, figure 5 clearly shows that the viewer is confronted with the safety railing – the repeated motif of bars protecting them from walking off the edge of the stairway has actually brought them into the piece, although whether they feel reassured or trapped will depend on the personal experience of the viewer. These safety bars, after seeing something that visually depicts a prison, may lead a person to feel more imprisoned and trapped than safe and secure. That body outline on the floor there may increase that trapped feeling or sense of dread.

Figure 6 shows that after passing the piece (if ascending the stairs) or before viewing the piece (if descending), the viewer is guided along by the a horizontal hand rail guiding them through the stairway (and through the installation) from one set of bars (the upper or lower stair rail) to the next. This path leads the viewer into the cage and then out again, possibly leading them to question the reality they’ve passed through – willingly or unwillingly – from one place to the next.

The back panel of the cage depicts a figure tied up and hidden in the woods. This piece, as with all of the magazine images, is an appropriated work by another artist.  This particular panel is comprised of two pieces: “Vampire: Metamorphosis” (2007) and “Servant of the Moon” (2004), both by Mike Sutfin. The first piece was not large enough, so I supplemented it with additional work by the same artist to maintain the same feel. The red of the kimono was a strong focal point in the original piece and continues to be one in my piece. It draws the viewer in, trapping them in a way that might not be completely comfortable. This encourages thought and further exploration of the emotions experienced upon viewing the piece.

The bottom panel is made up of binary code – 1’s and 0’s representing digital or constructed reality. This is a place where many of us escape regularly, whether we realize it or not, whether it be through a projected reality created by someone else or a reality that is constructed by our psyche to better cope with the complex stressors of the world. This could be as simple as watching a movie, playing a video game, reading a book or surfing the internet, or could go as far as extreme psychosis in which a person does not experience reality in the “normal” sense – such as people with schizophrenia, depersonalization or derealization disorders.

The top of the cage is, at first, seemly a solid black space. Upon closer inspection, which most viewers will not experience, there is a face of a woman hidden within a surface that looks like leather. This brings forth a message that thins are not always as they seem at first, and encourages the viewer to look harder at things before dismissing them as simple. It reminds the viewer that we all experience the world around us – reality – differently. While one person sees a black expanse, another person sees a leather texture and yet another person sees a woman’s face – these are all accurate realities, but they are also all subjective realities – they are each our own realities and the viewer is reminded that he must communicate with others to come to a common understanding of reality rather than assuming that we all experience things the same way. Further, it is a reminder to stretch the boundaries of our individual realities and confinements (this image is outside the cage) and share this experience with others, that they may share the creative vision, joys, sorrows and reality that we each live in.

Underneath this panel, seemingly trapped inside the cage, is a winged humanoid form flying over a vast landscape. This is another reason why a stairwell is an incredibly appropriate place to install this work – those approaching from below will catch this, while someone viewing it at eye level might miss it. The stairway location allows the viewer to get a good view of the three primary panels in the piece. Viewing this panel, the image is an overhead view, shown the way we would see if we were looking down upon the winged figure. This is reality subverted – we should see the figure’s underside. Further pushing the boundaries of a accepted reality, the figure appears as though it is free and flying over a vast landscape – in this constructed reality, however, the figure is confined within the cage. The figure is armed, perhaps ready to fight – this leads the viewer to question what they should consider fighting: reality, confinement, restrictive thinking, restrictive environments, closed-minded perception, panic, pain, suffering, the digital or constructed reality depicted by the binary code on the floor of the cage, the person who trapped the figure in the woods, the line between constructed reality and perceived or natural reality – these are just a few of the concepts that a viewer might instinctively react against upon seeing this piece.

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