Strange Pilgrims – Environment & Place

The Contemporary Austin is offering til January 24th of next year,  a surreal, experimental journey hosted in three parts, at the Jones Center, Laguna Gloria and the Visual Arts Center at UT.  Inspired in part by the title of the collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, these three showings feature “vignettes offering dark and surreal meditations on memory, mortality and the passage of time.” The following artists’ work is present in the exhibition:  Charles Atlas, Trisha Baga, Millie Chen, Phil Collins, Andy Coolquitt, Ayse Erkmen, Roger Hiorns, Nancy Holt, collective Lakes Were Rivers, Angelbert Metayer, Bruce Newman, Yoko Ono, Paul Sharits, and Sofia Taboas.  UT Press has published a 250 page catalogue of the exhibit.

The Jones Center is offering the first installment of the three-part exhibition, Environment and Place showcasing installation, video, architectural and landscape oriented works. 1960s-1970s conceptual and minimalist art by Bruce Nauman and Nancy Holt share space with contemporary artists Millie Chen, Andy Coolquitt, Roger Hiorns and Angelbert Metayer.

Bruce Nauman’s Green Light Corridor (1970) is about changing perspectives by inviting the viewing to walk through a narrow corridor lit by green neon lights. It’s presented within the large upper space of the downtown Jones Center, with its historical stone, wood and industrial walls. The juxtaposition of this piece with its neon to the cool, calm of the natural elements in the building is jarring.  I did not see many viewers volunteer to walk inside the corridor, perhaps because we are so often surrounded by neon and artificial light.  It would be interesting to compare audience perceptions from its original debut and environment 45 years ago.

Millie Chen’s Tour (2014) invites us to return to a different kind of temporal site.  In hers she presents four historical killing fields viewed while walking through tall grasses or meadows that have reclaimed the land. As we walk away from and through these sites of trauma we hear lullabies and gentle folk music from the Lakota, Khmer, from Rwanda and from Yiddish artists. Each site blends meditatively into the next allowing us to take this tour and reflect.