The current exhibition at Canada Gallery, A Fall of Corners by Samara Golden, leads the viewer up to the threshold and almost across into an enticing, dreamlike, and slightly askew dimension. At first blush the installation feels like magic. Up the stairs towards the back of the gallery I encounter objects in four distinct tableaus spellbound on the walls to my right and left, and seemingly beneath me too. Soon I realize I am seeing reflections caused by a mirrored floor. Depending on the angle at which I crook my head, I can make the spaces repeat, simultaneously appearing “up” and also “down,” though these bearings now seem imprecise. Realizing that the mirrors are beguiling my perceptions allows for a different kind of consideration to take place.
It is not, as the gallery’s press release would have me believe, that “Golden is … making new realities come true.” The strings and wires by which the objects resist gravity are fairly apparent, and the ersatz furniture within a few minutes of inspection reveals itself to be made of insulation board. Other elements, such as the buffet bar containing synthetic food that looks to have congealed into painted vinyl are even more obviously simulated. The details seem crucial to the artist’s internal narrative — as when in my own dream there’s a particularly meaningful number stamped on the house door. There are four scenes: a wedding banquet hall, a hotel lobby, a bucolic restaurant, and a single person’s studio undergoing the process of being painted. The necessary elements to make the fantasy fully instantiated are present: dining sets, chairs, tables, cutlery, creeping vines, stained glass windows, floral carpeting, an exercise bicycle, salt and pepper shakers, and even gifts wrapped in shiny paper.
Initially I think of A Fall of Corners as a stage waiting to be animated by actors. In 2006, I attended the initial production of the Franz Kafka-inspired play Metamorphosis, at the Lyric Theatre, in Hammersmith, London, by the Icelandic company Vesturport. The staging device Vesturport employed to make Gregor’s transformation into a beetle evident and convincing was to place his bedroom and its furnishings vertical on the back wall of the stage, while the normalized domestic sphere of his family remained earthbound. The actor playing Gregor was forced to scamper and crawl to traverse his room thus making his wearying plight more palpable than lighting or costuming likely could.
In contrast, A Fall of Corners does not describe spaces meant to be inhabited. This laboriously devised confluence of spaces exists wholly and primarily as a representation of Golden’s dream. Indications that I have stumbled into her mind include the atonal, slightly ominous music that plays in the background, and the collection of stuffed, life-size mannequins covered in patterned cloth, thrown willy-nilly into a corner at the end of the catwalk. This catwalk places the viewer in a privileged vantage at the pivot point and gives me a kaleidoscopic view of the surreal domain I almost, but not quite enter.
The work is mesmerizing. It is a rare art experience to be allowed into someone else’s fully articulated dreams qua dreams, to find that they are waiting, too, for someone or something to appear to give the story a direction. I turn at odd angles, peering into the scenes again for clues I might have missed. I glimpse my own face peering over the edges into the mirrored surface and this punctum breaks the charm the tableaux had held me in.
Samara Golden: A Fall of Corners continues at Canada Gallery (333 Broome Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) until October 25.
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