Museum staff are currently installing the second Proximities show, and in the midst of that comes a wonderful sense of discovery. We finally are able to see how the works hang together and interact with each other. I liken the process to the old school photo lab, when sliding an exposed piece of paper into the chemical baths begins to reveal an image. Things come into view gradually, with a thrill in seeing the contours emerge. Knowing Me, Knowing You (a title that was suggested by Proximities 1 artist James Gobel) is named for a melancholy pop song by ABBA. And while I won’t go so far to place the tone of the upcoming show on the gloomy side, the colorful exuberance of the first show is replaced here with a more muted and domestic demeanor.
Mik Gaspay’s tatami mat installation sets things close to the ground in a way that evokes any number of films by Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese film director whose cinema speaks so simply and elegantly of shifting relationships, between generations and between East and West. In the installation, there is a sense of using the agency of Japanese aesthetics evoke the slippery nature of ethnic and cultural identity in more recent days. Looking across Gaspay’s piece at Michael Jang’s black and white photographs of his family in 1973 adds to that Ozu connection, as so many of his films are black and white and tug on the heart strings as they access those loving tensions between elders and youth. Jang’s photos evoke that feeling one gets while paging through a photo album that was just found in the attic.
We expected the images and sounds would blend into something new, but that tone is impossible to predict until the works meet each other for the first. The melded audio to the show is evocatively homey—the grumble of televised voices pervades the room from Kota Ezawa’s animation and via Pawel Kruk’s video reenactment; the bubbling soup pot in Gaspay’s piece signals a family meal; while the high tones of Chinese opera seep from the headphones that accompany Anne McGuire’s video. It’s as if the sounds of a clan are blending together in a house, an abode where everyone is in their own corner before convening for dinner. As in any household, the connections are formed through individuals who reside together, their noises, their obsessions, and the idols they selectively uphold, like posters in a teenage bedroom (Charlene Tan’s nod to Yayoi Kusama, Kruk’s Bruce Lee, Jang’s David Carradine in Kung Fu), and the different emotional tenors they strike. Barry McGee’s installation is yet to come—he’s installing a newly reworked piece that will certainly add another layer of the interpersonal to the exhibition. We’re getting close. The picture develops before our eyes.
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