Walk behind MASS MoCAâ€™s lobby, past a previously unused part of campus that exists somewhere amid derelict industrial artifact and developed exhibition space, through the remnant of Sprague Electricâ€™s power plant, up numerous sets of stairs, and across a suspended steel overpass. What youâ€™ll find is that somewhere along the way youâ€™ve forgotten where you are in space and time and crossed the threshold into another world: the world of Donald Carusi as brought to you by artist Michael Oatman.
The world that you can expect to enter is one of complexity and thoughtfully organized disarray. Itâ€™s as if youâ€™ve stepped into the middle of a movie set, where an elaborate narrative is implied. Mis-en-scene takes on a whole new meaning in the intricate architectural choices, ambitious level of detail, and purposeful editing of interior elements. Layer upon layer of seemingly disconnected objects meld into one another to create an environment that is at once familiar, mysteriously foreign, and sure to appeal to the naturally inquisitive periphery of the human mind.
Oatman labels his technique as an installation artist â€śmaximum collageâ€ť and â€śunvironmentâ€ť, but finds that neither term truly encompasses the breadth of the artistic channels that he utilizes in his multifaceted projects. All Utopias Fell, his latest installation open to the public on October 23rd, is comprised of three interconnected parts. Codex Solis is a series of solar panels and mirrors atop Building 5 that follows the textual composition of a quote by an unnamed author. The Shining is a spaceship that has mysteriously crash landed outside of the museum after 30 years of space travel, absent of its previous occupant. Enter through the silver vessel and into The Library of the Sun, Donald Carusiâ€™s hermitage and former dwelling space where objects that exist as a residue of their intrinsic history are recontextualized to transport viewers into the missing inhabitantâ€™s peculiar and enigmatic life.
The most discerning viewers may spend hours perusing over the space, yielding to the desire to piece together the skeletal remains of Donald Carusiâ€™s solitary existence. A number of objects will undoubtedly lead viewers to the conclusion that Carusi was an investigator and experimenter of sorts. A copious amount of sun photographs, diagrams, and images are plastered to the interior of the space ship, referencing Carusiâ€™s interest in the sun as both a scientific phenomenon and cultural symbol. A technical control panel reminiscent of something you might imagine in an early rocket ship is a reminder of the previous whereabouts of the craft. Other items such as jarred food, a record collection, spare building parts, hanging yarn Godâ€™s eyes, and a personal library of engineering, astronomy, nuclear power, and fiction books seem more colloquial, but are no less imbedded with symbolism and clues. These items combine to provide an intensified viewing experience that exists at first as a grain of something that we can relate to and then as a place where we become lost and engage with the art.
Although on the campus of MASS MoCA, All Utopias Fell seems to preserve the absence of gravity in space. Michael Oatman also preserves and is inspired by what artist Marcel Duchamp believed was a central component to the art experience: viewer exchange and interaction. DuChamp says, â€śThe creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative actâ€ť. So indulge your appetite for art that is as thought-provoking as it is aesthetically pleasing and join us for the opening reception of Michael Oatmanâ€™s All Utopias Fell this Saturday, October 23rd from 2-4 p.m.
written by Sarah Borup