18 large format 8"x 10" black and white negatives, Silver Chloride contact prints 8"x 10". 40 pen and ink drawings, installation dimensions variable. Part of a group exhibition called "Second City Psychasthenia", curated by Daniel Bauer. Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York City, 2012.
Essay from the exhibition press release
But they will teach us that Eternity is the standing still of the present time, a nunc stans (as the schools call it); which neither they, nor any else understand, no more than they would a hic stans for an infinite greatness of Place.
- Leviathan, IV, 46. As quoted by Borges in Aleph
What does it mean to pass through a city? How long does one stay? What is the residue left behind? Perhaps it is we who compose the residue while our doubles flee the scene leaving us in the lurch. Perhaps we are the residue. The Second City was all about passing through. Here commodities really knew how to dance. They danced to the music of the future. A future that existed as long as it could be bought and sold. By river, rail, road and air nothing was static, nothing remained in place. Anything that did not move was torn down.
What happens when the music stops? Do those passing through get stuck? Do we continue in the perpetual nowtime of a graceful ghost dance or do we stagger like zombies tripping over one another’s feet? In the Second City the Louis Sullivan Stock Exchange is in the museum. As a sign of lost élan vital or evidence of an uncanny collective clairvoyance.
Motion and stability are still up for grabs. The Second City conjures trans-millennial debates on cosmology in their current vogue as urban theory. We inadvertently slip back and forth between the rival camps - Ptolemy and Copernicus. “Every photograph is a still life,” Garry Winogrand once remarked, with camera to patrol the border between self and other. The supercooled liquid of the glass lens and the camera’s electro-mechanical guillotine shutter still bear the brunt of negotiating the present collapse into our current surroundings.
The artists in this exhibition met in a City Within a City; in a grid of depersonalized confessionals, the networked interior of oversized cubicles that constitute the studios at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Part brothel and part clinic in both form and function. Accumulating and manufacturing symptoms. The reference is to Roger Caillois's infamous 1935 essay Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia, in which the dissident Surrealist suggested that the phenomenon of insect camouflage should be compared to a type of schizophrenic psychic condition characterized as a "depersonalization by assimilation to space"; an entropic loss of distinctions, of ego boundaries, of any bodily sense of inside and outside.
- George Baker, Piss Eloquent
Personal density is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth. Temporal bandwidth, is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“Everything is familiar yet slightly out of scale in Chicago” a recently transplanted colleague from New York said to me outside a bar. I am not sure this applies strictly to size and space, I think Chicago may be slightly out of joint in temporal bandwidth as well. It is why essence manifests itself here. None of the artists here are from Chicago. As SAIC students, professors, and lecturers, their work was made before, during or after their stint at SAIC. Symptoms and residue. The depersonalization, doubling and absorption into milieux is part of the job description if you’re a professor and it is the inevitable residue of good education if you’re a student, part of the hyper stimulus of a rather large urban art school. These artists are just a bit more aware of the keenly extraterritorial position they inhabit in this city within a city.
“... they know they have lost their way... they will stay where they are, never moving, until the last breath of air is out of their bodies, and indeed they will remain in the place where they came to grief even after death, held fast by tiny claws that stiffened in their last agony, until a draft of air detaches them and blows them into a dusty corner.”
- W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
- essay by Daniel Bauer, firstname.lastname@example.org