|VR Quicktime created by Randall Christopher. Use your mouse to click on the image and scroll to the left, right, up, and down. The Shift key will zoom in, and control will zoom out. Don't make yourself dizzy.|
One on One is a continuation of the exploration of themes that were present in Enviro Conjunction. The obvious visual features consisted of another large painting, this time being painted on every inch of the wall, which was covered in a layer of cardboard sheets. The painting was roughly 14' x 120' (minus the doors and fire extinguisher), painted in one point linear perspective for each wall, which means four points altogether. The points were set at eye level for someone who stood between 5'8" and 5'10", and positioned at the center of the free throw line. That line demarcated the spot where the illusion was most effective, and is from where Randall took the pictures for the VR Quicktime above. Once you move from the foul line, things get a little wonky.
Also in the space was a portable basketball unit, a basketball, and five sculptures depicting members of a supposed defense. The center was made with a steel armature, given form with chicken wire, and then wrapped in burlap dipped in plaster. Due to his awkward, defensive stance, his feet were also laden with 50 lbs. of lead. The left forward was made completely out of cardboard, newspaper, and various tape, and was also wearing a blue tee shirt and a pair of socks. For balance, his shoes were also stuffed with sand packets. The right forward was the most collaged, but derived most of its shape from a found manequin. The manequin came equipped with fully posable upper arms, but I had to add the lower arms and the entire lower half of the body, made of wood and steel. A wax cast of my face spraypainted metallic blue was also placed on the manequin's head to give it some character. The right point guard was made entirely of steel and stood about 7' tall, and with arms outstretched, he was roughly 9'. The left point guard was made from 3/4" plywood positioned on a base of plywood, 2x4's, and wheels, and painted with latex house paint.
Now we get to the point of the whole show. For instance, why the big painting? Why are all the sculptures made of different material? Why basketball? What's the expected relationship between the work and the viewer?
The work is meant to challenge the viewer in many ways. First, by not making it explicit whether or not interaction is permissable, many viewers were conflicted with the fact that the hoop and the ball seem rather inviting to play with, but on the flip side, its in a gallery with sculptures that can possibly be broken. I tried to leave that aspect as ambiguous as possible so that the viewer didn't really know what was expected. Inner struggle would ensue, causing great anxiety... well, that's if most of the viewers weren't already familiar with my work, which they were. What really happened was that the few people who visited the show played basketball if they felt like playing, not letting the other circumstances influence their decision. Only my students, who I dragged to the gallery against their will, and who had no foreknowledge of anything within its bounds, felt any sort of inner conflict, but then someone just asked if they were allowed to play, and I said, "sure." One part of my original plan flopped, and that was to make all the sculptures very fragile. I couldn't rightly make a sculpture that was structurally sound, and over 6 feet tall, and also easily breakable. The original goal was to see if people played in that space where obviously fragile work was bound to be broken, and then what would happen once something broke. Instead, when a defender was knocked down, he was simply picked back up with little to no harm done. That's also the reason behind the choice of basketball. Basketball is a sport in which you can't always control what direction the ball will bounce if you miss a shot. It would be very probable that each of the sculptures would get pegged during the course of normal play, accidentally even. Basketball is something that already calls for interaction, if there's a net and a ball, there's usually nothing stopping someone from trying to get one into the other. It was something that invited interaction just by its very nature, and I didn't have to give any instructions on how to interact with it. I merely disrupted the interactive capabilities by placing art in the way.
Basketball is also a throwback to my youth when I would spend nearly every summer day on the court that was just at the corner of my street. There was always a game going on, and I always wanted to be part of it. The guys in my neighborhood always accepted me even though I was obviously the weakest link. At the time, that's were I felt I belonged, even if I wasn't any good at it. Basketball also holds more personal meaning in that much of the interaction I've ever had with my father was on the court, and most of the lessons that he taught me were about basketball, and not about the gushy father/ son talks you see on tv. Even within the first minute I was born, my dad had star filled hoops in his eyes as I was born nearly two feet long, looking like linguine, as my dad puts it. He told my mother to "just make 4 more of those, and we'll have a whole team!" I never lived up to his fantasy, but the sport still played an important role in my childhood and adolescense.
The entire painting is mostly to elicit the nostalgic feeling I have for the game, and how the only times I would ever play it were on the playground. The game never felt right being played indoors, and especially not with all the imposed rules if I were to ever play for a team, which I didn't. The atmosphere and the architecture were reminiscent of earlier times and far away places previously called home. Those specific places and my memories of those places wouldn't fit in the gallery context, so the entire city was fabricated. It's literally a no-man's land, deserted and hauntigly disturbing. It moves on you. unless you're standing in the exact center of the foul line, the space is constantly shifting... well, not really, it's only you that is shifting, but the space nonetheless engulfs you. It was that feeling that I wanted to elicit from the painting. I wanted it to be difficult to maneuver within the space without your senses of direction and orientation getting squashed. So I wanted the situation to conflict you, the space to disorient you, the sculptures to challenge you, and the experience to transform you.
Alright, I made that last bit up about the experience, but it sounded cool. This exhibition is a step towards transformation, but I'm not naive enough to think that it would be life changing. It's part of a contiuum of projects that challenge the nature of art as; commodity, elitist, static, and boring. Its working towards a larger goal of reintroducing critical thinking, analysis, and art into the lives of ordinary citizens. I realize the entertainment value a work must have to get past that barrier and into the public sphere. I also realize the fact that criticality has been missing from public debate for quite a while, and people have gotten used to not having to think. I also realize that most people don't give a damn about art, or anything that happens in its name, but for now, that is the only support mechanism I have for my idealism.