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The Doors of Perception – Juan Carlos Zaldivar: Strings

STRINGS, the current exhibition by Juan Carlos Zaldivar at Gallery Dot 51, represents a unique examination of the basis of perception, the material and ephemeral, using video and sculpture.

The three pieces included in the show are made of a scrim-like fabric stretched over minimal metal support that function as translucent video screens for the various projectors that throw light based images onto them.

In the case of the first one, a criss-cross of long slender gauze acts as a receptor for two opposing light sources. An image of a revolving door, first still, then rotating in a synchronized way is projected unto both sides of each of the four perpendicular panels. As the viewer stands at each 90 degree section, the same image of the revolving door is echoed by the movement of the structure’s edge moving across the screen. The simplicity of the effect invites recognition that the representation of movement and the implicit 3-dimensionality is nothing more than a patterned beam of light. And the fact that the two similar images are being projected on a 3-dimensional screen suggests that perception of space (at least in this case) is produced from a kind of collaboration between light, form, and reflection.

The second piece, a composition of 3 long slender screens which hang at like garments at varying distances from the projectors, reflect images of standard doors in continually changing degrees of openness. Consecutively behind each door images of a body of water, a cityscape with truck heavy traffic and a country landscape appear. The doors have no spatial relationship with the images they shield; they are simply superimposed in front of them.

In this case, perception seems to play a role related to expectation and frame of reference. Presenting the viewer with 3 diverse but conventional events taking place behind partially open and closed doors implies that these variations on visual reality are subjective aspects of multiple realities (represented as various environments) that we can choose from by subject, and in the case of the open and closed doors, by degree.

The third projection piece (below) was mounted high above a staircase as two discs; immediately evoking a pair of glasses. Encountering it from below, you have to bend your neck to look at the image which is visible on both sides of the scrim discs.

The image here is of an underwater scene, minimally defined by a corner of the pool with a horizon line as a reference point. Before long the artist swims into view, entering the double circle frame, crossing it, and exiting on the other side. A piece of fabric somehow attached to his crotch gives his swim a weird fishy aspect that is strangely comical.

Somewhere between a self-portrait and a seascape, this piece is the most mesmerizing of the three – maybe because it is inhabited or the simplest or both. Even though it is self contained we seem to be under water, its high placing give the impression of looking through a pair of submerged portholes. If the intent here was to suggest that the ethereal nature of sea and sky are parallel, that floating and flying are nearly similar, it is not immediately apparent. Nevertheless this would be consistent with the effects of the other pieces in the show that serve to remind us that matter is continuous, and that light and its reflection define space.

You can’t really look at these constructions without being reminded that perception of 3-dimensional space is a by-product of light and its reflection, or that the differences between solid matters, liquids and gases are ones of degree, and that although we tend to move through spaces and between ‘hard’ objects and ‘air’, there is at least one way of defining the universe that considers all matter as part of a continuous, if diverse, whole.

These three pieces stand out as more theoretical applications of how visual perception is a subjective, interpretive process than a translation of some sort of doctrine of reality. Inundated with film and video as we are, and mostly invited to consider all this material as ‘real’ – not least at a moment when most artist video seems to be more narrative or animatative – these seem like quiet reminders that not only what you see isn’t necessarily what you get, it’s not necessarily what happened either.

This text was contributed to ARTLURKER by guest writer David Rohn


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The Doors of Perception – Juan Carlos Zaldivar: Strings