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Home / Articles / Arts / Art Features /  Getting to Know You
Hasan Elahi
Depending on how you look at it, this could be considered a self-portrait of Hasan Elahi.

Getting to Know You

Be kind to thy neighbor, for they might be insane

February 9, 2010, 12:00 am

Picking up where it left off with Talking Pictures, SITE Santa Fe continues its exploration of relationships with One on One, a tense group exhibition in which artists examine the lives of others, often at a disturbing proximity. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed myself, but One on One presents surprisingly nuanced variations on the theme of (paired) identities. Over and over it asks, “Who are you?” with no answers in sight.

Facing the lobby is the work of McCallum & Tarry—a husband-and-wife team that collaborates on multi-media installations. Conceptually, they are the most literal iteration of a twosome. Visually, the pair comprises a yin and yang (she is black, he is white; she is a she, he is a he), and these qualities are not without historical baggage.

In two of the videos, “Cut” and “Exchange,” the couple undergoes procedures that further implicate notions of identity—giving and receiving haircuts and blood transfusions, respectively. The exchanges are beautifully composed, but their actions have a menacing quality and bring to mind human test subjects and torture. Though McCallum & Tarry are a real-life couple, they are also an allegory, and the viewer is keenly aware of the history of turmoil along racial and sexual lines.

In the adjacent room is Hasan Elahi’s installation, “Tracking Transience.” According to the gallery guide, “[Elahi] was…falsely accused by a misinformed neighbor of involvement in the 9.11 terrorist plot.” Not surprisingly, Elahi became interested in surveillance practices and began to manically document his whereabouts at all times.

The project includes flight patterns, a Google Earth feed of his present location, and a photographic database of meals and gas stations. The result is a rigorous information-age self-portrait, viewed primarily from above, that never actually depicts the artist. Elahi implies that facial recognition is not the only way in which one can be identified. Through our reliance on technology, the idea of self becomes cloudy and we may just as easily be known for predictable patterns of movement.

In the rear gallery, Terry Allen examines the life of writer Antonin Artaud, who, over the course of his tortured life, was addicted to drugs and institutionalized. Fortunately he wrote it all down, and Allen incorporates the prose into wild, multi-framed drawings that depict the violent imagery and worrisome sentiments of the author.

Allen’s work fits the mold of many artists who look back at their predecessors for inspiration but, in this context, it fleshes out nicely, pitting notions of self-awareness against public opinion, or interior thoughts versus outward expressions. Allen works hard to interpret Artaud’s thoughts, but the point may be moot if the thinker is, to begin with, uncertain of his own identity.

Speaking of crazy, artist Kaari Upson used to live in the same neighborhood as a guy named Larry. Even though she never met him, she began “The Larry Project,” a multi-media examination of all things Larry that spanned several years.

Somewhat miraculously and definitely by accident, Larry’s house burned down. This provided Upson access to some of his belongings from which she began to produce drawings, videos and, as one might expect, a life-sized Larry doll.

In truth, I love Upson’s work. I don’t know how much, if any, fun the artist was having, but her exploration of human relationships is as thorough as it is unscientific. The work reflects an obsession, but I feel a pang of truth in the rush of panic and euphoria that is common to all new relationships. Upson’s work lays bare the unsaid complexities of trying to understand another person.

In all, One on One posits that our true self is mutable. That self is different for each person one encounters, but all of them are real.

One On One
Through May 9

SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta
505-989-1199

 

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