Let me in, let me out

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The mystery of a closed box, the thrill of a child’s adventure, the cheap fear of a funhouse ride mix together in an installation called “Current” by Paul Coors, James Dillon and Nick Paparone at the Project Room.

The three have built a room within a room, and all you see when you first walk in is the exterior of the interior room (i.e. what’s normally unseen inside is on the outside), with its studs and ridiculous loads of yellow wiring. How to get in?

I’m not sure how much to give away without ruining the thrill in case this piece gets shown again somewhere–but there’s a chute with padded walls (shown, with Paparone ready to slide). I presume the padding is both for safety literally and figuratively.

Inside, “Current” is mildly claustrophobic, a room with a locked door, an unlit green light above the door, and lots of ordinary light switches high and low on the four walls.

Roberta and I, consistent with our public persona as the same person, both love interactive art and are mildly claustrobobic. She got there before me, so I missed her reactions and didn’t know what to expect when I made my way in with the help of Paparone, who was there with Dillon to take the piece down. (Coors is in Cincinnati where he runs Publico Gallery, and the three met at the Art Academy of Cincinnati). Vis a vis the collaboration, Paparone said, “We all have different powers.”

All I know is once in, a mix of fear and delight drove me to switch my heart out. I finally had to plead for help. The exit switch changes regularly to preserve the secret of how to get out.

But the exit switch is not the only hot switch. As the person inside “Current” switches away, people outside the box get to witness electrically controlled environmental systems outside the box responding–a heater and air turn on and off; originally, lights switched (but technical difficulties interfered–fuses blew), etc. They have no control, and the people inside don’t know how they’re affecting things.



The guys (Dillon shown) said the piece was about Iraq, the hole that we can’t find a way out of. But I also thought about Saddam Hussein’s spider hole. At the opening, the artists said, each person was assigned a number to get a turn in the box–it made me think of the draft. But I think the piece is about any situation you’re ever stuck in, and trial and error, the unpredictability of consequences, and the sense of life (and our government) being beyond our control.

I also thought it was pretty funny that the box was hard to get into in the first place, and even harder to get into was the gallery, which has hours dictated by serendipity. (Which won’t make a difference if you want to see this piece, because it’s coming down as I type). So it’s hard to get into in more ways than one, and even if you outBush Bush and try to lie your way in, it won’t do you any good.

D&P are now Philly locals–and already wired to the art world here. Paparone (shown under the chute) works for Gyro (a hip, arty publicity firm) and Dillon is helping Project Room owner Kait Midgett with a project for artist-who-we-love Pepon Osorio (see Roberta’s post on Osorio’s “Casita,” a permanent installation at Congreso de Latinos Unidos in North Philadelphia). They also helped Virgil Marti with his Whitney installation (see three posts starting with this one).

At my next stop today, I went to the Italian Market, where some cheese at Claudio’s caught my eye and reminded me of the whole in-and-out issue. It’s a sheet of mozzarella wrapped around a ball of a mozzarella spread, in the center of which a cherry tomato nestled. So beautiful. It made me think of Japanese wrapping.

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features & interviews, let me in, let me out, reviews

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