IN DREAM WHEEL
Reviewed by Molly Hankwitz
DREAM WHEEL, a project by Oakland film/video and multimedia
artist Barbara Lee, looms, a dark, gurgling, bulky mass in the corner
of the studio, as one approaches. From within the parable of a personal
mythology and the demanding trajectory of a creative pursuit, Lee has
developed the first portion of her trilogy representing the Sacred around
a central desire to unlock the unconscious self and her ability to dream.
Inside, four panels, composed of translucent plastic material, hang from the ceiling of the space and are inset informally with small twigs, wisdom teeth, photographs of her grandmothers and handwritten letters, or woven obsessively from community newspapers and tufts of hair.
Each panel represents a direction -- North, East, South or West -- and, likewise, an existential human category: community, universe, nation, or family.
In the center of this space is a round wood table upon which is spread an inviting Alpaca fur and a black and white cowhide. Over the table is mounted a circular piece of reflective black Plexiglas.
One is invited to walk around the circle and to read and touch the panels then climb onto the bedding which in turn triggers hidden motion sensors.The bed/table begins to turn in a slow circular direction. Lying motionless one is reflected back onto oneself from under the dark Plexiglas while a custom mix of Bunsen burner and a babbling brook begin to play in Surround Sound. Nature and science are gently convoluted in the audio.
As the wheel turns soothing voice-overs from the audio ritual entitled "The Meditation On The Three Gems Of Most Pure Mind" based on the Tsalagi tribe's traditional teaching story for Cherokee children are heard in repeating sequences. Subtly, musky smoke from an electric machine ekes into the space and eventually obscures the circular shape of the room and the luminous panels. The space becomes enmeshed in a programmed atmosphere of sound, light, motion, smell, softness and smoke.
One is lulled by a sensory experience of time and space; an experience which calls into question the idea of 'self' or the ideology of 'self' often called upon in the conventional act of viewing art and art objects. By virtue of having to lie down to fully experience the installation one's perception is altered. At the end of the experience, the DREAM WHEEL closes down and the participant leaves having undergone the artist's conceptual claim on reality.
This first manifestation of DREAM WHEEL is a concrete interpretation of an actual experience the artist had in learning to dream -- a human capacity most of us take for granted but which for her was out of reach -- thus it represents a creative journey so palpable and important to herself that she rendered it in wood, technology, fur, smoke, light and drawing for others. It raises some excellent questions in today's quickly revolutionized world of multimedia and virtual technology consumption.
DREAM WHEEL is a venture. It is a mixed media work floating experientially somewhere between a 'think tank', a hot tub, and a time capsule.
The piece is contrived to engage us interactively and philosophically.
It opens a look into one's self and a momentary connection to Lee's own
experience. The content, the self - the participants or the artist's -
is focused upon in this work. The atmospheric devices and earthy materials
in combination with text and machine enhance that pleasant, strange sense
of self-content by connecting experience and art through theatrical means.
Lee uses a simple software construct for this project in which information is brought from motion sensors within the space to a programmable logic controller, the piece of hardware which allows her to program up to 8 events (or i/o's) in a finite environment. The lighting, sound, motion and smoke are then triggered sequentially.
The artist plans to include increasingly sophisticated
technological forms in the DREAM WHEEL project as she artist moves into
the second and third manifestations. In the second space, for example,
she intends to design an installation on the idea of the Secular in which
the body will be a source of individual information which transforms and
simultaneously experiences its own sensory space.
In this invigorated context, Lee's total concept of the three spaces of DREAM WHEEL, representative of the Sacred, is a forward investigation in which the puzzles, mysteries, simplicities, foibles and facts of technology will have the intellectual presence of poetry and comfort and the appropriation of techniques, technologies and metaphors from mass entertainment (like Surround Sound) will be utilized for art.
As techno-corporate-military-info-complexes promise
a substandard mainstream future of multimedia entertainment it is apt
to theorize, just as it was with the uses of commercialized TV on mass
culture, a crass web-state of co-opted existence: physical, spiritual,
and aesthetic, from which we are perpetually alienated and in which we
have little control.
Reviewer's Bio: Molly Hankwitz