An Atlas of the Invisible, in re:home at Minnesota Street Project

Shotgun Review

An Atlas of the Invisible, in re:home at Minnesota Street Project

By Hoi Leung January 22, 2019

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Hoi Leung reviews An Atlas of the Invisible, from re:home at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco.


Summer Mei-Ling Lee and Laura Boles Faw’s collaborative installation, An Atlas of the Invisible, on view at Minnesota Street Project as part of the exhibition re:home, furthers the show’s exploration of the themes of sanctuary, home/homelessness, and the displacement of artists and creative professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Boles Faw’s departure from San Francisco after thirteen years prompted a set of collaborative works and exchanges with Lee, a fellow artist and friend. An Atlas of the Invisible (2018), by extension, offers a reunion between Lee and Boles Faw in a work that responds to the tensions between San Francisco’s technology boom and artist flight. 

The installation consists of fifty-two letters exchanged between Lee and Boles Faw between the summer and fall of 2018, written with invisible ink. In order to render the text legible, Lee and Boles Faw carefully placed each letter over a flame, a gesture that both reveals and deteriorates the content of the letters. Incandescent bulbs fleetingly blinks to reveal the handwritten texts. A switchboard at the installation’s center, covered with a grid of outlets and a bed of exposed wires, reveals the mechanics that control the lighting apparatus while inviting other metaphors of vulnerability.

Summer Mei-Ling Lee and Laura Boles Faw. An Atlas of the Invisible, 2018; multimedia installation (electronic outlet board, lights, video projection, and handwritten letters written with invisible ink. Additional technical programming by Melanie Piech.) Photo: the Artists, AKArt, and re.riddle.  

A video projected from above depicts the burning of the documents, a record of the performed gestures behind the installation. The visual disruptions make the letters all but impossible to read; the artists evoke a sense of absence by creating an immersive physical space that overwhelms the viewer and draws attention away from the content of their written correspondence.

An Atlas of the Invisible prompts complicated questions about the tensions between legibility and erasure. Lee and Boles Faw’s labor-intensive form of communication considers the complexities of separation and the need for authentic communication while the overwhelming, machine-based environment of the installation invites larger conversations about the impact of technology in the Bay Area and the ways it has overtaken our cultural landscape. By extension, An Atlas of the Invisible creates a disruptive sensorial experience that produced a feeling of loss, of displaced bodies, words, and systems.

An Atlas of the Invisible was on view in re:home at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco through December 29, 2018.

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