What remains of the most outstanding piece from the inaugural exhibition at FLAT Space is splattered orange paint amongst scattered dirt, mixed earlier by the feet of George William Price. Once a neat pile, the dust is the subject of Aktions Übertragung: Dust from Perinetkeller, Wien to Ruble Street, Chicago, a performance enacted at the show’s opening. One kilogram of what the artists have chosen to simply describe as ‘dust’ was shipped to the U.S. from the former studio of recently deceased Otto Mühl, founder of the Viennese Actionism school of the 1960s, an impactful movement, which many body and performance art practices remain indebted to today.
Currently working in Mühl’s former studio in Vienna, Nicole Prutsch, along with Price, performed a variation of scores by the artist via video feed, projected live during the opening. Prutsch in her studio, and Price in Chicago, poured buckets of paint on their nude bodies (along with the audience’s clothed ones – a bonus for those in attendance), and after three segments of Mühl’s less perverse actions, concluded with Price lastly offering his body as a palette for the dust. He then exited through the crowded yet silent gallery, leaving the detritus to settle.
The traces left over, along with the performance’s documentation – displayed in the gallery at times – speak to the objecthood of the piece, as opposed to the more process-oriented, corporeal approach. After all Mühl’s Material Actions did originate from action painting. Theoretically, the collaboration presents potential for interesting elaboration, specifically through its translation and the unavoidable manipulation that occurs during digital transference.
Tobias Zehntner, a School of the Art Institute of Chicago art and technology student, contributed works composed of light, ones that produce a brilliant, warm sheen throughout the space. Skyline, 24-hour photo data of the Chicago skyline condensed and looped to 24-minutes, programmed into an LED shaft extending from the floor and almost touching the ceiling, subtly beams blue and purple hues. With this work, one witnesses a sunrise, sunset, and city lights, which do not linger but quickly float by. The placement and fleeting ephemerality of the piece works so well in the gallery that it almost becomes part of it.
Zehntner’s Untitled (Two Bulbs) is less atmospheric and only slightly less serene. Like Skyline, this work comprised of just two light bulbs, a cable, and timer is equally clever in its utilization of the space. With half of it occupying a small nook located near the front, it’s surprising to see the other part upstairs suspended above a secluded area, the two connected by a single cable calculated to flicker and fade at alternate times.
Shifting away from the incandescent, two other works explore modes of ephemerality in different capacities. Austen Brown’s untitled piece, sprawled along the gallery’s main level, is a feat of meticulous engineering. The first-year SAIC sound student arranged over a dozen small glass containers hooked up to what he describes as a self-generating synthetic click, which allows the noise produced by the computer program they are synced with to literally expand and contrast sound. This accounts for moments of brief popping, while at other times it feels as if there is a rain shower inside FLAT – a marvelous proliferation of sound different with each cycle.
Lauren Pirritano’s This Feeling Will Last Forever is the most underemphasized piece in the show, not due to the textual medium itself but to its placement and presentation. Commissioned for the exhibition and printed in an edition of 50, the work explains the process of memory, and it does so repeatedly, literalizing the exhibition’s theme to a needless degree, musing on strengths and weaknesses with which it may aid or fail us.
Curated and arranged effectively within the small space, Visual Ends presents some really intelligent work. The concept of ephemerality is conveyed through sound, light, text, space, and body creating a successful first exhibition overall.
Chicago’s newest apartment gallery in Pilsen, FLAT Space was started by Natalia de Orellana, Olivia McManus, George William Price, and Beatrice Schmider, current graduate students at SAIC in arts administration and/or art history. Motivated as an attempt to dissolve the divide between students making art and students learning and researching about art at SAIC, FLAT’s platform has evolved and is geared toward Chicago-based emerging artists, as well as students.
For information on FLAT Space’s upcoming exhibition, visit: www.flatspacechicago.com.
Lauren Fulton is a curator and scholar currently pursuing her Masters in Art History at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. This post is the first in a series based out of Chicago.