Shotgun Review

Bell, Book, and Candle

By Carol Anne McChrystal September 14, 2010

The pieces of equipment in Bell, Book, and Candle make no bones about their purposes: each measures the invisible forces that inform and mediate the human experience of architectural space. Each unseen corporeal force is one that humans seek to describe with scientific law—aural, visual, temporal, and visceral. This one-to-one relationship between object and purpose is a simple, straightforward gesture; it’s particularly potent considering the close quarters of the gallery, where corporeal changes like temperature and light may be easily detectable on the scale of such basic technologies. Michael Guidetti draws attention even to the physical presence of the instruments, their cables and plugs tidily fastened to the floor with green tape. While each object is true to its physicality, the material surface of the gallery (painted entirely green screen green) slips away into the non-space of chroma-key. Digital images taken in the space could potentially be keyed-out to be anywhere and nowhere—rendering an object in chroma-key green renders it invisible and transitive in the digital world. Upon entering these images, one minute a viewer may be in the gallery, and, potentially, the next may be like, “Hi, I’m in Delaware.1

Situated deep within a labyrinth of flickering-fluorescent office hallways, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stepping into an episode of “Sapphire & Steel.” Like the two inter-dimensional protagonists of this the sci-fi serial, Guidetti’s devices investigate physical traces, uncovering flat readings that describe nothing and everything: “The texture is here, the structure is here, but there’s nothing here.” The fleeting attention paid to these perceptible but imperceptible, non-specific-specifics is a spectral sleuthing: I get the feeling that I’m supposed to get the feeling that the artist is waiting for something like a rupture in space, time, or physicality: “not ghosts, not images, but something in between.”2

Parallels and disjunctions between physical and virtual, objective and metaphysical, digital and analogue are both amplified and conflated. But, at the same time, the readings described by the instruments are a dead end: information is never represented in the pre-rendered 3D model of the room, and Guidetti instead asks a viewer to simultaneously hold a

Bell, Book, and Candle, 2010; mixed media. Courtesy of the Artist and Jancar Jones Gallery, San Francisco.

pair of opposites in his or her mind. Thus unfolds an ungraspable notion that opposites can never quite be; wrapped up in one another endlessly, binaries continually flow into and out of one another.3 In a strange way, the exhibit operates within the constraints of an old model of representing knowledge—this logic ultimately destabilizes itself and asks the question of Deleuze and Guattari’s Body without Organs. What is the potential of the virtual elements of this gallery (this space, this earth) that lies between, beyond, and through our established structures of comprehension?4

Place, media, materiality, and the virtual are fused and confused, revealing the complexity that underlies each of these notions together and apart. As the title infers, concrete objects are employed as symbolic gestures intended to represent intangible, perhaps superstitious procedures. Though every item in the gallery literally is what it is, Guidetti’s work is rich in poetry and metaphor. In a nod to our perception of ourselves—navigating the fragmentary terrain between the physical realities we create and those which are not directly observable—Bell, Book, and Candle moves in between modes, making use of linear comprehensive models like time and temperature and giving way to a necessarily incomplete, yet always whole multiplicity.



Bell, Book, and Candle is on view at Jancar Jones Gallery in San Francisco through October 9, 2010.



1 Myers, Micahel, Bonnie Turner, and Michael Turner. “Wayne’s World.” VHS. Directed by Penelope Spheris. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures, 1992.

2 “The Man without a Face,” Sapphire & Steel. Independent Television Authority. United Kingdom: ITV, 27 January 1981.

3 Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

4 Ibid.

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