Guest Blog by Erica Gomez: Deconstructing Memory

Erica Gomez takes a closer look at the incorporation of repurposed materials and tactics of deconstruction and memory by young Bay Area artists in The San Francisco Foundation and SOMArts’ Annual Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition, which is open through October 2, 2012.

The works of more than twenty emerging visual artists participating in San Francisco Bay Area Master of Fine Arts programs are currently on view as part of The San Francisco Foundation and SOMArts’ Annual Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition. Collectively, this exhibition supports underlying themes of deconstruction and memory while recalling the historical practices of conceptual art and arte povera. In an economic climate that induces stagnation, participating artists draw inspiration from found and repurposed materials to destabilize our economic reality.

The nave-like space, Oculus (2012), constructed by artist Kate Lee Short from a number of salvaged speakers, creates a transformative experience for viewers while addressing notions of phenomenology in space. From within, the physical space envelops viewers as waves of white, pink, and brown noise pulsate interchangeably to create an amalgamation that is pleasantly peculiar. The hum of noise permeates throughout the gallery, transcending the physical boundaries of the installation site to create an omnipresent sensory experience. Seemingly at random, the unison of noise comes to an occasional silence, and causes an immediate perceived loss within a viewer. It is a dynamic installation that generates an additive, multi-layered understanding of the exhibition as a whole, and how each work is informed.

In a series of photographs, Physical Realities of Death—A Memoir of Toiva Laukkannen (2012) by artist Tristan Cai, there is an overwhelming vulnerability that challenges a viewer’s understanding of death, depression, and masculinity. The images are displayed in a deconstructed manner without reference to a sequential timeline, which results in an abstracted collection of memories: a recollection of Toiva’s memories in his final days. Slight imperfections and blurs in some of the images lend to a deeper understanding of the complicated nature of life and death. However, upon further study the viewer learns the unnerving reality that Cai has street-cast the role of Toiva in what becomes clear is a fictitious photographic narrative. A larger discourse surrounding our ability to question what is real pervades and a sense of betrayal or manipulation leaves the viewer with a bruised ego. Like Short and other artists currently on view at SOMArts, Cai’s incorporation of found materials—or in this case, Tapani Muranen—reflect upon traditions of the past, while they each strive to create lasting legacies of their own.

About the Author:
Erica Gomez resides in Oakland and is currently pursuing an MA in Visual and Critical Studies at California College of the Arts. She holds a BA from Metropolitan State University of Denver in Art History, Theory and Criticism.

Photographs above by J. Astra Brinkmann:

“Oculus” by Kate Lee Short, salvaged speakers, speaker wire, Motu audio interface, Mac mini, Lepai Amplifiers, wood, 2012, 17′ x 14′ x 10′

“Physical Realities of Death-A Memoir of Toivo Laukkannen” by Tristan Cai, archival giclée prints on wood, 2012, 216″ x 120″