Soft Epic redux and Grothusen’s memory house

Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib's Soft Epic (detail) at the Icebox.
Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib’s Soft Epic (detail) at the Icebox.

I caught Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib‘s Soft Epic video projection at the Icebox on the last day of its run and want to add my appreciation here to what Andrea wrote previously.

Deep into a seemingly endless war and at a time of severe ecological peril, The Soft Epic rides both those waves of anxiety and yet, with its sweep of imagery and magical sound, the work has beauty as well.

The post-apocalyptic panorama, with fires consuming the urban landscape and animal-headed avatars watching, had a kind of Pan’s Labyrinth ambiance where the faun world has taken over. And like Bosch’s Last Judgment the work conveys a sense of finality, end-game and a world transformed into hell. The large blue-and-orange kingfisher in the rightmost panel is like a kind of god, looking on without acting. The hummingbird in flight above is god’s good angel.


Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib
Kingfisher sitting and watching.

Because the work was 120 ft. long it was almost impossible to take in completely without walking in front of it several times. But as I was pacing back and forth, it occurred to me that this is just the way we digest information in general –episode by episode over time.   How it integrates depends on what’s already stored in our own personal mental data banks.

By the way, the Crane provided the Icebox to the artists gratis for the run of the show. Richard Hricko and Nick Kripal told me they’ve done this before at times when the Icebox is between shows or events. They like to curate artists into the space to enrich the programming and give artists a chance to do ambitious experimental works they can’t do elsewhere. It’s a great gift.


More photos at flickr.

A small bird/human encounter in another place and time
Stunned Bird, Milwaukee
Stunned Goldcrest after having banged into the window.

While in Milwaukee I happened on a non-apocalyptic scene involving a bird and a window. A small Goldcrest bird had flown or been blown into a store window on a very windy day. The stunned creature sat and let us come pretty close to it. Later it flew off and left no trace except for the pictures I took and the imprint on my mind of nature cohabiting with humans and not getting the best of the deal.


Building zone in the Gray Area

Michael Grothusen
Michael Grothusen’s Scale Model, From Memory in the Gray Area at the Crane.

Michael Grothusen‘s Scale Model, From Memory, in the Gray Area outside the Icebox was the artist’s re-creation of his childhood home. The playhouse-sized work with walls covered with a filmy screen was a reminder of how building materials can be more than building materials. Unlike in the Whitney Biennial where many artists use 2×4’s and nail guns and concrete to evoke the desolation of urban blight and the futility of building in a decaying world, Grothusen has fashioned something lovely and lyrical that’s about memory and family. This house and the love with which it’s constructed transforms the materials into a piece that’s not a construction site but a vessel holding something ephemeral and precious. The natural light streaming in from the Crane’s big windows accentuates the stillness and solitude of the piece.

Art can’t really capture the past any more than it can the present or future.  But good art, like this work and Hironaka and Suib’s, can raise issues about time, place and memory and suggest just how fragile and golden life is.

More photos at flickr.