EXPANSION


Place as a term and a concept radically alters the space that it claims. To ascribe a sense of place to a landscape is to bring narrative to that space, a certain kind of representation. In a perceptual sense, place rearranges into prescribed, controlled, and hierarchical spaces. I became interested in using my thesis exhibition to exemplify the gallery itself as a situational framework - a way to think about art objects as architectural hierarchies to space. The artwork stood as portals, timezones, colonial traditions, the gallery itself expanded through quiet digital renderings.

The exhibition, Expansion, was situated on the northwest side of
campus - western side of Olive Tjaden Hall where most Art students exhibit and attend classes - it was named after its benefactor in 1981, Olive Tjaden VanSickle.

Before European colonial expansion the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy made up of six nations: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora served as the great indigenous expansionists. By the late 19th century, well after land was granted out of their hands the founders and funders of Cornell University developed the Arts Quad where the chemistry building whose name would be Benjamin Hall, a physical laboratory, was built. It transitioned away from science into an architecture school that was later renovated for what is currently a fine arts department. I thought about the territorial development of Cornell University, what and who was displaced to create its inhabitance while reading literary figures whose texts often referenced place in transition and the semiotic word play between images and place.

Edward Glissant’s notion of errance, or George Bataille’s usage of formlessness, the gallery started to open up in all directions perceptually as it took on a history of its actual space. I began to imagine all that this location used to be; the gallery was the specter of all its transitions possessing all object forms.

On the north wall of the gallery I projected a three-channel video. As you approach the corridor leading up to the gallery a double vision emerges. Before walking through the door to the gallery, an unexpected moment of doubt might occur, as you enter the space a projection greets you. At first glance the video projection seems like live feed video surveillance, you may try to find where to stand to see yourself appear on the screen, but only left with seeing in front of you what is behind you.

The viewer is absent and present from the projection at the same time. The center channel particularly evident waves a subtle shadow of a flag with an empty the flagpole holder mounted to the wall. The viewer, left in stillness and silence, starts to anticipate the two outer channels to move as well, perhaps waiting for someone to walk through the doors as the viewer had just done before this encounter.

To move further into the space one happens upon a small rearview projection on the Eastern wall. Halted between the interior and exterior wall a figure recedes into the wall and is pulled back to the surface the second it tries to escape. The viewer has access to this figures back, one can wonder if they are looking at their own backs having just experienced seeing what was behind them projected in front of them with the three-channel installation. The figure is running into the void but gets looped back to the surface of the wall, the skin of the gallery.

Expansion does evoke systems of simulation and illusionistic wonder, however each time a viewer access the exhibition as trompe’l’oeil, or a mirror the work begins to fail. The viewer is left chasing, wandering, or simply contemplate the performance. The body in a way is erased from the projection, or denied access to its own reflection in a cognitive expectation of seeing oneself in the image projected. In the resemblances of the different architectural features of the space careful reproductions were made from photographing and re-photographing the south wall, that controls the acclimation of the room, of the gallery the trap-door hinges that divide the space up into a grid on the ground. It has the two exits and entrances; it controls the temperature and the light. The projection is compressed, minimized, but pushed back to create an illusion of an increased amount space, the leaning framed photographic print slinks down to the ground while suggesting it is opening the floor via the trap-door hinges.

It is difficult to tell where the neutral zones of the space are because the work implicates the entire space of the gallery for consideration. The trapdoor hinges are all erect, ready to trip the viewer as they walk by if they do not pay attention.

There are twelve actual non-functional trap door hinges in the space; these hinges are now activated.

The leaning photograph provides an actual under-space; the black shadow in the photograph interrupts the image and creates an illusion of the underground. The operation of each piece does not invent new physical forms, but uses the architectural feature of the gallery as a medium to create new perceptions of what false illusions of expansion looks like in the most literal sense when we engage with work. It is designed to create cognitive shifts and acts of displacement, to disorient the viewer, to get them to see the work without the dominance of representation, and classification, to have them engage with the performance of the work.

In my thesis exhibition, the Olive Tjaden Gallery served as a lens to experience the performance of manipulation that is calling attention to its self. The presence of the architectural space I extracted the flagpole holder from my thesis exhibition and installed it at the White Box Gallery in New York City for our group MFA exhibition. Adam Kleinman, an independent curator, wrote the text for the catalog of this end of year exhibition, he says, “A trace of a flag sits on a wall, or so it would seem in Baseera Khan’s digital projection of such an image. We cannot say where that flag is now, but instead we can deduce that it must have hung there for a while before it was removed—why else would it leave a trace? The ghost image presented is of a white flag, itself a sign of surrender. As such, this curious image presents a kind of paradox in which the unique characteristics heralded in a banner are now surrendered in a call toward conformity. Is such a stance for or against national identity?”

In this quote I find his attention to the paradoxical situation in this work the subject.

Front Door to Olive Tjaden Gallery
Three Channel Video Projection
Empty Flagpole Holder and shadow video
Crawlspace Hinge
Crawlspace, digital inkjet print, 6' x 4'
Cowboy and Paramount Pictures, video animation loop