2.2 / Review

Bell, Book, and Candle

By Elysa Lozano September 22, 2010

The three-dimensional technical drawing of Jancar Jones Gallery that Michael Guidetti produced for the Bell, Book, and Candle press release maps the interior space, including the office and the objects within. By equitably representing both of the rooms respectively allocated for art and for business, the rendering nods toward a pragmatic presentation of the bureaucratic realities that Michael Asher introduced when he removed the wall between the gallery and the office at Claire Copley Gallery. Rather than settling into this conceptual foundation, Guidetti’s reference to the demystification of the neutrality of the white cube is tactical. His project utilizes this perspective as just one of the gallery’s many characterizations.

The space itself has been altered to embody a multifaceted persona. Stepping into the exhibition is like entering a film studio; from floor to ceiling, the walls are painted as a green screen. This activated, filmic potential replaces the sullied neutrality. The suggestion that the walls could be replaced with any other location articulates the gallery as a platform for future fictions, a blank canvas on which scenes will unfold. The artist becomes the director of a hypothetical future video in which all traces of the original space will be erased and the gallery-as-institution relinquishes responsibility for its future representations.

In contrast, visitors are implicated in shaping themselves in this context. An array of recording and monitoring equipment sits on a foldout table. A fixed camcorder sends live images to a monitor; sounds picked up by microphones flitter across an oscilloscope; an electromagnetic probe gauges changes in the field; and a thermometer, compass, and light meter give their readings. As an actor-spectator, an audience member’s actions could be determined with a mind toward a current recording. With a stealthy nod toward surveillance technology, Guidetti’s work both conflates and drives a separation between self-awareness and self-consciousness. More than civic funding initiatives for the arts that reward community-based activities or the current predilection for audience participation, this

 

Bell, Book, and Candle, press release, 2010. Courtesy of the Artist and Jancar Jones Gallery, San Francisco.

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

project has a concrete foothold in the objective to develop self-actualized singularities.

While a viewer becomes a spectator of his or her own performance through the monitor and oscillator, there is yet another distancing effect: amidst the monitoring equipment, a computer rendering of the gallery’s interior rotates on a laptop, and flickering dots assemble and disperse in the virtual gallery. Like panoramic views of hotel rooms or the traversable space of video games, what else is needed to perceive this immersive illusion besides the disembodied eye cultivated by still-life painting? As Brian O’Doherty (a.k.a. Patrick Ireland) writes in Inside the White Cube, “[T]he Spectator and the Eye are conventions which stabilize our missing sense of ourselves. They acknowledge that our identity is itself a fiction.”1 The mediations themselves—as well as a viewer’s internalization of their significance—become ways of building fictive self-identifications.

By the same token, this space, limited by the ways in which humans are able to perceive and make sense of it, is an accumulation of conflicting representations—a product of economic transactions, a potential anyplace on film, a set of dimensions in space, and a virtually immersive environment. Could the proliferation of fictive identities be evidence that the gallery is missing its sense of itself? The gallery’s character is determined by one final unflinching gaze. The exhibition’s title, Bell, Book, and Candle, which refers to a ritual used to deflect ghosts, re-casts the monitoring equipment. Typically used by ghost hunters, the camcorder, microphone, oscilloscope, probe, thermometer, compass, and light meter are perhaps not meant for earthly visitors. The history of fraudulent ghost photographs is as long as the history of ghost photography, but Guidetti’s equipment doesn’t record; it merely perceives a potentially paranormal space, a space that can only exist through its mediation.

What does it mean to have work that stares past visitors in the physical space to another plane of existence it wishes to purge? Here, the ghosts haunting the space could easily be the conceptions, historical precedents, theorizations, or designations of galleries past, the identities of which linger after the walls have been painted. I suggest Guidetti doesn’t use this ritual to get rid of such ghosts, because with their help he is finally able to leverage the idea of a gallery’s self-perception to demarcate it as a free-floating, neutral, blank zone.

 

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

________

1 Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. (p. 55).

Comments ShowHide