On view through July 27
Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.
Susan Meyer appears to long for the ideals of peace and harmony.
Her new exhibit at Redux Contemporary Art Center, called Together, uses photography, sculpture, video, and sound to create an alternate universe in which people communicate through silent gestures without moving.
The inhabitants of this universe are miniature figures, all of them the size of pencil points, which Meyer has arranged in positions that suggest tranquility, love, and repose.
These figures pose on glass platforms suspended by steel wires and serrated silver bolts. The platforms comprise an airborne geometric landscape free of housing or other forms of shelter. The figures remain idle as if caught in a time warp of transparent rooms that forces us to reexamine our surroundings.
But even an ideal world is painstakingly difficult to command.
Photographs of Meyer's sculpture hang in the anteroom at Redux. Unfortunately, they fail to do more than act as billboards. They show what the sculpture looks like, but like all billboards, they are not as satisfying as the real thing. You speed by without much pause.
The room that contains the installation itself has a small monitor that is supposed to screen some type of William Shatner video. But on my visit, even with the help of a Redux volunteer, I could not convince the video to play. The installation's music, which apparently enhances the viewing experience, remained silent, leaving the discordant sounds of students working in the back room to fill the air.
Meyer seems to understand the futility of total control and anticipates such concerns with an interesting combination of age-old resources and modern-day techniques. In contrast to the the glass platforms, which are laser-cut and gleaming like illuminated clouds lingering in a futuristic universe, the miniature people are plastic figures taken from ordinary model train sets.
When Meyer purchases the figures, they arrive as individual torsos, heads, and limbs. She assembles the body parts and positions them in engaging and aloof gestures — some dangle their legs over the edge and peer listlessly into the ether; others speak with their hands; a brash couple copulates in public.
Meyer's installation shows us the splendors of a new way of living. Whether we subscribe to her doctrine demonstrates how difficult it is to believe in a place called Utopia. Indeed, this installation is a brave new world, replete with acrylic orange orbs and steel wires that shine like the spark of shooting stars. Meyer has studied various communities in an effort to understand the idealistic assumptions that make radically alternative living enticing.
She has also considered why so many of these communities fail. Her installation presents no solutions to the failures and no challenges to the idealistic assumptions. Instead, she offers an in-between interpretation.
Like an idealist, she presents the promise of a free, homogenous lifestyle: uninhabited people (naked), similar features (red heads them all), contented in a pristine environment (frozen lakes of glass touched by hues of blue, yellow, and white). But she also asks the cynic's tough questions: how and why did this community form; how will it sustain itself; who will be around if all the pieces come crashing down? The interpretation remains locked in an idealistic stalemate that is sure to inspire disparate opinions.