The pivot-point inherent within the definition of ‘perspective’ has been demanding much of my attention lately. The idea that how you feel, or what you think, informs your relationship to reality, makes more sense as it becomes increasingly evident how little we all agree on; as time clarifies its complexity. Perspective makes room for the particular nature that drives the ego, human nature, but moreover, it reinforces something I’ve found to be a pillar of the audience’s connection to presented art: reflection, resonance, likeness, familiarity – the audience seeing something of themselves abstracted, fragmented and returned to them to ‘discover’.
The exhibition space itself has always struck me as a conduit welcoming interpretation, a shape defined by its capacity to have capacity, one which necessitates a platform. Yet, only recently did I acknowledge the malleability of the entire exhibition experience, the true traction of perception, permeating, riddling the symbiosis between artist and audience with the signs of the present.
Gaelen Pinnock’s ‘X Y Z’, currently on view at 99 Loop Gallery, embraces this connection, welcoming it into his process and letting it drive aspects of his works. Pinnock “aims for that moment when it all comes together and dissolves at the same time, where the discontinuity can create a questioning of our powers of perception … often distilling three-dimensional reality into two dimensions, luring a viewer into reading the third dimension,” according to the catalogue.
This decision from Pinnock to do more than acknowledge the audience’s perspectives, but lean into the participatory nature of viewership fuels his presentation. Pinnock has made tangible the metaphor of the beholder, while making deft use of shadow-play, proximity and the visual symmetry of his chosen materials in his pursuit of perspective. Black wool holds its own in Loom III, alongside steel, zinc and polymer resin coatings. As you move, the light fixtures work with you as the audience to shift and see and shape. Questions quickly arise.
Is an agreeable perspective a matter of timing and kindred susceptibility? Then, what of these times, and what of their consequences? What are we seeing when we look, what does it tell of ourselves, and our lives, our present?
Mia Thom’s ‘Night Swim’, an immersive exhibition made in collaboration with Lucy Strauss and Clare Patrick at ABC Gallery, used a different approach to investigate perspective. Through the main modes of sound and space, Thom dove deep into the history and visceral value of the colour blue. Three sculptures, fitted to undertow the viewer’s – or participant’s – body with sound as they sit into, lean into and enjoy its shape, further embellish the vantage points of the ambient atmosphere. More speakers line the walls to create a sphere of vibration that ushers the audience into what quickly grows to feel like another dimension. Without refusing the natural light of the windows from the entrance, or the surrounding sounds of the Mosque and Woodstock traffic, Thom also leans into the prescribed acoustics of the space in the construction of ‘Night Swim’. “It’s not about getting what you want from the space, it’s about what’s already there, what you should work with,” she explains. The idea of “what’s already there” hums alongside notions of perspective as the sonic arrangement ebbs and flows through the room, beckoning.
Clare Patrick writes that Lucy Strauss used “a year’s worth of tidal data sourced from the South Atlantic Ocean to orchestrate the soundscape, [coding and composing] the sonic environment for ‘Night Swim’”. Thom and I discuss the human vocalisations woven in, the tether of familiarity that facilitates an experience such as this. “The intention was to create a container space, without closing off to its surrounding environment, allowing for a sensory reorientation and an attentive form of rest,” Thom explained, “you also never know how it’s going to make each person feel, or how they’re going to react.” Perspective’s doorway finds its opening there, in the tether, the need for the familiarity of a human voice rising to arch over the swarm of sound.
Even at its louder symphonies, I find a sense of comfort that stays adjacent to the hue surrounding me, perhaps because I cannot think or compare at all. I can only be here. I can only be. Remembering Pinnock’s desire for the instant where “it all comes together and dissolves at the same time”, I imagine both exhibitions as examples of this opportunity to make of ourselves, and of art, something more than what they would be in isolation. Together, through these visual languages that have made room for us to share in their dialect, another dimension opens, a space that challenges artist and audience alike.
The thought that it is the ‘sharing’ that opens up these avenues of perspective, which in turn cast themselves far and wide as a host of connections through the audience, tethering everything anew brings me great comfort. The idea that perspective could be isolation’s antidote; that we are always in want of communication with one another this way, is maybe idealistic, but nevertheless feels in place with the present.