Vitrine Gallery, Albuquerque
On view in June at the following times:
Wednesday, June 6, 8:12-8:51 a.m.
Saturday, June 9, 2:25-5:23 p.m.
Thursday, June 14, 5:28- 6:44 p.m.
Sunday, June 17, 5:01-7:06 p.m.
Friday June 29, 1:08- 4:01 p.m.
From 3:50-4:22 pm, open the blinds and lie down where sunlight comes in through the window and falls on the rug. Think of what you were doing from 3:42-4:14 pm when this light was leaving the sun.
It wasn’t close yet to 3:50, but I lay down anyway on the thick red rug pulled through with floral patterns in blue and white yarn. I did the math and thought about what I was doing eight minutes ago—making my way down the sidewalk, sweating through my tank top, waiting for a car to pass, petting the dog, stepping inside. “It’s best if you experience it alone,” Allyson Packer had said from where she sat with her dog on a bench outside under the patchy shade of a tree. Within the gallery space that is only superficially empty, Packer has created art that is intangible, where the experience and any effect must be largely internal, in the mind and body of the participant. I was relieved to lie down and force a lull into the day, to put my physical body here into this space, to examine sensory experience while applying the mind to the movement of time by way of light. It was a reminder that the body is part of the poetry too, not apart from the intellectual space of the gallery but always in dialogue with it. In this work that examines physicality, I am physical too.
The only sound was the swamp cooler humming. The blinds were pulled on the picture window looking toward the street, and the muddled shadows of passersby slid across their surface like ghosts. I followed the instructions like this up to number nine. They, in turn, directed me to stand in the center of the gallery and look up at a mirror, angled in such a way as to show me an otherwise hidden cluster of browning bananas. I stood before holes punched into the wall by nails, where a painting was once hung. It was titled, the instructions note, Sometimes I’m the Fox, Sometimes I’m the Rabbit.
The ever-moving instrument of the mind, that powerful mechanism turned in on itself, is the art of the exhibition.
Liquid State is meant to deal with temporality—the way materials, like the concrete and plaster walls of Vitrine, are first poured and mixed; they are liquid before they are ever stone. “Solid for now,” as Packer writes in her artist statement, “eventually worn down or pulverized into dust.” By proxy, the ephemerality of experience is called into the gallery with the viewer. What is most powerfully communicated here, however, is our own perception. In Liquid State, we are asked to bear witness to our own awareness through the directed focus that Packer provides. The ever-moving instrument of the mind, that powerful mechanism turned in on itself, is the art of the exhibition.
In the bathroom, the faucet drips into standing water. A pendant lamp hangs above the small window that looks out onto the backside of a building textured and painted to look like the landscape. “Stand under the light and look at your reflection through the window. Refocus your eyes to look through the window and out to a wall that blocks your view, but is painted to suggest that it does not block your view,” the instructions read. The heat of the lamp evokes the sun but is not the sun. The wall I gaze out on approximates the landscape but is not the landscape. The reflection I see in the window pane is me but is not me. Does this exercise question authenticity, or does it suggest that a simulacrum can conjure the same true emotion? Does the solid state I inhabit allow transcendence, or is it just another expression of the same fluid materiality?
By turning to the smallness of detail, Liquid State also points us toward big questions. When I stepped outside the gallery, my contemplativeness evaporated and my focus returned to its usual flurry. I felt malleable—a mind shifting in response to the ever-changing world. To what end? We aren’t given a particular attitude to land on. Packer doesn’t tell us if we should be comforted by the enduring nature of change or sad that none of this is ultimately keepable. Maybe it’s both and more: the meaning forming and unforming apace with our own quality of thought.