Ronnie Bass, Charles Atlas and the “Fabric Room”
Posted By: Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes is back at The Works on Sunday, 9/12 10:20pm. The atmosphere is subdued; energy and attendance are down from Thursday night. Tall Matt Haynes is fairly certain that this will be a short night in which he’ll blog about a few more exhibits and go home bored but in bed and sleeping by midnight. He has no idea what revelations await him, especially (EXHIBIT) 3. He won’t end up going to bed until 2:00am and will spend most of the following morning talking any innocent bystander’s ears off about the night.
RONNIE BASS: “2012″ and “The Astronomer Part 1: Departure From Shed.”
I settle into the room and enjoy the soothing music and steady editing of Ronnie Bass's two conceptual music videos (wait, is it redundant to call a music video "conceptual?"). Both videos juxtapose home science projects with Ronnie Bass chanting call-&-response lullabies about how it's okay to step into the new age of somethingorother.
Spectators drifted into the gallery room, many soon to start snickering and leave… I think it's something to do with the robotic rhythms and Bass's poker-faced delivery juxtaposed with the melodrama of his lyrics and chord progressions. Well, Funny, intentional or not, is better than Boring and that music is real purdy.
A restless thought is planted: This exhibit is another video loop but has no accompanying video loops nearby and no sculptures in the room or visible alterations to the space. What makes this any more of an exhibit than looking it up on youtube? I mean, yeah it's theoretically smaller on youtube but hang on there, nuh-uh, cause like, yeah, you never know, I could have a big ol' monitor projector at home, right, right? I mean I don't, and I don't know for sure this is on Youtube (next day note: most of it is) but stiiiiiiiiillll.
This restless thought will take happy root with EXHIBIT 2 and sprout into a whole new beast on (EXHIBIT) 3.
CHARLES ATLAS: “Tornado Warning”
I like this one a lot. Two rooms… the back room has three walls: A wall/floor projection of a rotating black spiral on white, a wall/scrim projection of different household items spinning lazily in midair, and a wall projection of radiating ripples over images of pop-culture junk. Two or so maverick spirals dart around various points in the room. I'm not super crazy about the back room but it IS unpredictable, immersive and invites play.
The front room, though, ah man, what a beautiful piece of work. On a wall/floor projection we see a single white line cell-dividing into a rising panic of boxes, numbers, 2/D, 3/D, containment and chaos. My description probably makes this sound as about as exciting as… (Tall Matt Haynes pauses for 3 minutes trying think of something clever and fails) well, something not very exciting. But give this one a try, anyway: It's tense, easy to follow, hard to nail down and makes great use of space and time. This be the stuff, I thought. But the night wasn't over…
“The Fabric Room”
Get this: One of the most celebrated installations at the Highschool isn’t even in the TBA catalog.
In the “Fabric Room,” there are four walls curtained by a color progression of long thin fabric strips. The floor is wall to wall cream colored fabric with foam rubber stuffed fabrics lined with shreds (basically mutant pillows). I’ve visited this room three times on two different nights now and each time there are people sculpting the pillows, hiding themselves in color-matching wall shreds, flopping and cuddling on floor, taking pictures and finally trying to find out what the hell this installation is officially called so they can get more info on it.
But as I said, it’s not in the catalog. There isn’t even a sign on the door (at least not that I’ve ever seen). After asking several people what this was (the answer was usually to the tune of “I don’t know, but it’s AWESOME”) I finally found a knowledgeable source who disclosed: It’s not an installation or an exhibit…
“It’s the Under-21 Lounge.” She tells me.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
You’re telling me that this isn’t an “explorationofcontradictoryetc” but just an idea for a nicely decorated room for the kids?
But it’s a hit! Everyone’s talking about it.
“Oh that’s so wonderful. The volunteers will be delighted to hear that.”
My mind races.
I immediately re-seek the room, dive into a cushy corner and blog.
Well, Tall Matt Haynes, what’s on your mind? This: In the world of Art, there are so many potential stalemates between the sophisticated insider and the bewildered outsider. I’ve read a few of the artist interviews in the catalogue and the interviewer always seems to ask questions about the artist’s relationship with his/her ideas rather than about the art’s relationship with its audiences.
I wish they’d start off with these questions: If I were an outsider to your work and to the genre, why should this still engage me? And why, once it engages, should it not be easily let go of or forgotten?
‘Cause, dig: With the simple but dynamic decoration combo that is the “Fabric Room” we have something that surprises, provokes play and offers new perspectives on color, texture, size and contrast. Most people (at least Portlanders from what I can tell) haven’t been to a room like this and are talking about it once they leave. My praise isn’t intended to discount the (presumably) deeper levels of thought, prep, work and experience that go into all the other exhibits. But, but…
Alright, your turn, readers. If you’ve visited the “Fabric Room”, tell me:
-Were you able to recognize, on your own, what made this separate from the Real Exhibits?
-What were the key differences to you?
Three Rooms and A Surprise Ending
Ronnie Bass, Charles Atlas and the “Fabric Room”