Ann-Maree Walker at SPACE
Smack in the middle of St. Louis’ favorite gayborhood lies SPACE, an architecture and design firm specializing in contemporary and inspiring structures and projects. Over the past few years, SPACE has graciously extended their…ahem…space, to local and regional artists for exhibitions.
Upon arriving for the opening of “Broadcasting from Home” by St. Louis artist Ann-Maree Walker, I briefly wondered if the venue was about to undergo a land survey or utility work. Marking flags lining the sidewalk leading up to the front door greeted me like tiny hot pink soldiers. Meticulously spaced and in greater numbers than usual, it became clear this was indeed the work of Walker, known for utilizing both found and manufactured objects such as feathers, nautical rope, and surveyor’s tools.
Entering the front door, my eye was immediately drawn to two 7-foot neon-green towers connected by a fabric tube. Although large and looming, these objects were still as inviting and protective as colorful lifeguard stands. Ignoring the nearby warnings of red and white caution strips, I wormed my way into the glowing tower so that I was standing with my head inside its lime green box. With a red light bulb flashing behind me, I could see at the other end of the illuminated green tube a television showing a white-sweatsuit-clad figure in a small, sterile room.
She/He/Ze was performing a choreographed routine in what looks like an isolation chamber turned homemade spaceship. Unaware of my voyeuristic gaze, the figure carried out a series of calisthenics until suddenly the face of our main character is THISCLOSE, trying to make contact by flashing a mirror. Behind her a red light bulb flashes a signal that matches the one behind my own head. OMG, wait, am I in a TV!? We look right at each other but she can’t see me. As I am hypnotized by this indifferent figure moving about like a big, white surrender flag, sounds reminiscent of Coast to Coast am with George Noory become audible. These shortwave radio sound bytes become an unrecognizable and otherworldly language that is constant and unsettling.
Near the viewing towers, a long metal wall is jammed with hundreds of stenographer’s notes, small metal drawings, pieces of Astroturf, and a tin-can telephone. This installation of small ‘drawings’ stretches from floor to ceiling and each one is carefully hung with fluorescent orange tape. From the calligraphic symbols of a stenographers report to the Atari-era marks on the metal and Astroturf, this wall presents itself as a makeshift ENIAC1 or motherboard. Less the ramblings of a mad-person, and more the product of a meticulous engineer, these hieroglyphics act the same as the radio sound bytes; all intelligible communication is lost. Neighboring this wall installation hangs a single, silver banner with one orange sandbag resting on the floor beneath. Acting as both flag and anchor, these works seem to be staking claim to an undeveloped frontier: Population 1.
SPACE is a functioning office setting – something most exhibiting artists would like to ignore. The contemporary interior showcases an open working environment with desks attached and computer monitors aplenty. Walker embraced this unusual setting by playing assorted videos on office laptops and desktops. Looped recordings of television static, broadcasting tests, and our artist/astronaut seemingly trying to Skype with us silently, play throughout the office space. These videos, combined with the pervasive War of the Worlds-esque soundtrack of muffled speech and Morse code, convert the viewer and venue into a sort of mission headquarters. We become the Ground Control to Walkers’ Major Tom.2
Ann-Maree Walker: Broadcasting From Home is on view at SPACE architecture & design in St. Louis, MO through May 30, 2014 with a closing reception 6-9pm.
Images courtesy of the artist. Photo: David Johnson