Walking us through the ephemeral life of a one hundred year old house and the people who have called it home, this exposition is imaginative and experiential. Carver’s contemplation of place and memory are at times sought through the audaciousness of a child, and at others, through the modesty of a layman. Her approach gives way to a delightful and thoughtful exploration of these topics, and is what really sets the framework for understanding the show as a whole. As we embark on Carver’s journey let, “our contemplations of the cosmos start” (Carl Sagan, from A Personal Voyage: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean).
On: The Cosmos and Things We Love
Everyone had that thing. It was the one thing they knew they would grab if the house burned down. It was the thing that transcended monetary value and that in the end really just meant something to them. We see it with kids as they hold tight to their boxcars and blankets, and we see it in this show in Music from The Cosmos. As the first chronological piece of work, this PBS audio serves a prelude to the exhibition.
Positioned on a pedestal but stuck in time, the SchoolMate cassette player is this sort of technological capsule. Emanating from within is Carl Sagan in all his glory (thank you, 1980s). But resounding even louder than the grandiose soundtrack is this overt recognition of our youthful disposition towards object and novelty. Interactive by nature, the operational modes of the tape player invite the viewer to play, to remember, to reminisce, to long. As you press the “play” button, the melodic nostalgia begins to exude.
This emotional attachment to things plays a pertinent role in Carver’s work. We see how our affection for things turns things into sacred things; how we fill our homes with things that bring both comfort and salvation, things we revere and eventually learn to fear. We’re protected by a fortress of object-ivity; a sanctuary of sentiment. This religious practice is what devises our sense of place, our sense of safety and of home.
On: Heritage and In Abstentia
Coinciding with this notion of place as spirituality is the paralleling theme of belonging.
Carver creates this sort of unconventional, and dare I say trending, frame (see: macramé wall hangings) as the backdrop for her remnant treasures. The breadth of the sculpture’s reach is wide as it dabbles in queries ranging from personal to theoretical. What is so uncanny about the sculpture is the strange juxtaposition between human presence and human absence. We identify with the items through our own personal experience; pulling an ice cube tray from a freezer, mending a tear, or spreading butter on a biscuit. While at the same time, these very items point us to human absence, the presence to whom these items once belonged.
So as we think about belonging and how the concept of the show fits into our own lives (what does an artist moving into a 100 year old house have to do with us, anyway?) we can think about this piece. Truly, we are children of time. We are the offspring of those we will never know. Our lives are connected and interrelated and we know that because of a Country Crock butter tub.
On: Brain Waves and Readymades
With the playful overtones and surprising undertones, the nature of Carver’s work seems whimsy and perhaps at chance. But upholding the work are pointed formal choices that really set the peculiarity and oddity up for success. Take googly eyes, for example.
Seen in this piece (but not in this photograph) is in fact, a set of googly eyes fixated behind a light switch cover mounted to the wall. It is not until several examinations later that you realize this miniature assemblage is part of the composition on the floor (see above). There is something very childlike about the construction of this readymade, the glued-to-the-wall-eye-balls, the absurdity of ball-filled-shoes, and the questionable co-existence of the two. But what is so gripping about this piece is its stark representation our very minds and their capacity to retain and conceive.
Our memory really is a readymade in how constructs our understanding of things passed; how it pieces together all of these pre-existing experiences to present a single moment in time; how it positions our mind to know what we know of things and to re-consider them, still. We see the physical manifestation of this throughout Carver’s work, but even more, she beckons the power of the readymade as a larger metaphor for the show.
The success of the show really stems from Carver’s ability to tap into the viewer’s sense of play and aptitude for reflection. She accomplishes this through balanced eccentricism and strategic whim. Fielding antiquities into the contemporary realm, we learn to navigate the present as it pertains to the past.
In the ironic (and terribly irrelevant) words of Carl Sagan: “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” For more cosmic insight, visit the Art Academy of Cincinnati at 1212 Jackson Street in Downtown Cincinnati.