By Jessica Xing, Contributing Writer
The Invisible Dog Art Center, located in Brooklyn, NY, opened two new exhibitions this September — “Author” by Yanira Castro, under pseudonym A Canary Torsi, and “Wheelock” by Abraham McNally. Once a factory specializing in invisible dog leashes, the Invisible Dog is a hub for artistic creativity, housing performances, interactive art pieces and studios. The two new exhibitions, in particular, are similar in their intimacy but distinct in their execution. “Author” uses intimacy to unsettle and confuse; “Wheelock” contrarily aims to comfort.
“Author” by A Canary Torsi
Created in part with A Chocolate Factory Theater and Abrons Art Center, “Author” is an interactive dialogue between the author (you) and the cast (an archive generated by the project’s past performers). It is the third part in Castro’s “CAST, STAGE, AUTHOR,” with each piece examining the relationship between spectator, performer, and creator.
The computer in the black box room allows the viewer to interact with the cast, the part of the installation that can reply to what the viewer types on the computer. This enables an almost stream of consciousness that flows back and forth between the author and the “cast,” debating the credibility of the three roles stated. The TV screens outside the room — on the walls of the black box theater — show a number of different video environments: a desert with a multicolored sunrise in the background, with a polar bear, small figurine bird, and teddy bear in the foreground; a room with furniture assembled in such a way it is unsettlingly organized — only for the room to be in disarray on a different screen. What appears on the TV screens outside of the room, on the other walls of the black box theater, is controlled by the dialogue between the author and the cast.
“Author” is eerily intimate, almost to the point of being intrusive. Once the viewer steps in they are immediately isolated in the darkness, with nothing but screens to guide them forward. Then there is nothing but a computer in an empty, brightly lit room prompting the viewer to lock the door in order to begin the simulation. The computer serves as the viewer’s only point of contact, so this bridges an almost immediate sense of confidentiality between the “author” and the “cast,” yet the facelessness and anonymity of the conversation makes the intimacy feel awfully isolating. The combination of emotions that the installation evokes is what creates the dynamic dialogue between what is essentially a human being and a computer. It is a disquieting understanding between author and cast only possible in an enclosed, private space. The transcript of the conversation, which can be printed once exiting the exhibit, feels almost alien once in the outside world, away from the solidarity of the black box room.
“Wheelock” by Abraham McNally
A large, single sculpture taking up almost the entirety of the Glass House, “Wheelock” by Abraham McNally is made of only two materials: wood and wool. While “Author” was isolating, Wheelock invites a viewer into an intimate setting, born from a longing for home. The massive and inward shape of the large wooden sculpture brings a visceral sense of comfort — a body of earthly materials that wraps the viewer in its embrace.
“Wheelock” was made entirely of simple materials. McNally chopped down the wood from a farm’s overgrown pasture, gathered the fleece from a local farm. Yet the homeliness of what the sculpture does not undermine its scale, which is meant to bring into question past, present and place. Upon first glance it is easy to become overwhelmed — facing outward the piece acts like a solid, formidable wall, blocking whatever is inside from out. Yet upon closer viewing, the imperfections born from the care that went into the piece grounds it in a sense of comfort. What once becomes a wall blocking people from coming in becomes a shield protecting the viewer from the outside in a down of wood and fleece.