Read the full transcript by contributing writer, Shane McAdams
'Street Scene' Maps Our Brave New World at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center
MAY 07, 2019
Ages ago, when I was in art school in the heyday of site-specific installation art, we discussed notions of site and place exhaustively. A “place” we always concluded was simply coordinates on a map; a “site” was a place with cultural significance conferred by meaningful human activity. It seemed a bulletproof definition at the time.
Then came social media, Google Earth and virtual reality. Suddenly it seemed possible that these emergent forces had the potential to map an alternative set of mental coordinates onto a seemingly immutable physical map. Jon Horvath and Hans Gindlesberger’s exhibition, “Street Scene,” in the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center’s Ploch Gallery through June 8, explores the onset of this non-Newtonian, spatio-mental geography, visually remapping it for our brave new world.
The collection of digital collages builds from a well-chosen and diverse series of cultural sites—from the street in Paris where Yves Klein’s took his famous “Leap into the Void” to a now-defunct Greyhound bus station in central Chicago. Horvath and Gindlesberger layer glitchy impressionistic mixes on top of each site’s physical location—provided by the precise X and Y coordinates—incorporating movie stills, street-view imagery, text from blogs, user forums, historic images, public records, song lyrics and other supplemental data.
Each work is an archeological dig site, yielding artifacts layer by layer. One of the most intriguing (though there are many) is of a spot in Hernandez, N.M., where Ansel Adams snapped a famous shot of the moon over the Chama Valley. The image overlays Adam’s photo with one of it now and offers a first-hand and very detailed textual account of the artist’s attempt to capture that very precise moment on film. Adams’ own urgent words ground a work that might seem eternal and beyond context in an immediate and personal narrative.
The artists complicate things further by selecting subjects that come to us pre-layered in meta. One composite work builds from a scene taken from the movie Memento in which Guy Pierce is seen photographing a hotel sign with a Polaroid camera that he uses in the movie as a proxy for his own non-existent memory. The movie famously moves backwards, with the opening scene being the latest chronologically. Letters below the image in the work label the non-linear sequence, described as “devilish” by a film critic named Andy Klein. Another work builds from a real Tokyo street where Bill Murray’s and Scarlett Johansson’s characters part ways in the film Lost in Translation. Underneath the composite image of the street are a series of random guesses pulled from a fan forum about what Murray actually spoke in her ear in the final scene. Information lost and replaced; hope regained; reality about a fictional relationship set in a real place, rewritten. All lost in translation.
There are also moments of powerful social commentary, such as a sad street-view image of a derelict house in Love Canal, N.Y., long since abandoned after being declared unlivable because of chemical pollution. The digital photo is accompanied by an image of the letter written by Jimmy Carter declaring the community condemned in 1978. In another work, we see a hotel in Waco, Texas, where it turns out an illegitimate murder confession by Calvin Washington took place. Supplemental information reveals his later exoneration by the Innocence Project. Many of these works crack open yet another dimension by sending one immediately (as it did me) to a search engine for further investigation.
Horvath and Gindlesberger also give us Henri Cartier Bresson’s most decisive place: Wim Wenders’ Berlin and Spike Lee’s Bed Stuy. They aren’t simply collages about places, they’re investigations into the nature of consciousness and awareness in a digital age; into a more mature and far more complex discussion about place and site.
“Street Scene” explodes objective coordinates into messy composites for the viewer to finally reorganize into their own contingent realities. The works might also suggest the presence of a glitchy new horizon, one just as terrifying and limitless as those that were once navigated toward by starlight alone.