Martin Roth’s installation (untitled), debris, re-creates a site of war-torn Syria. Through scattered debris and rescued animals, he allows the viewer to experience a sense of destruction on a more personal note. He aims to materialize a war that, despite its large spanning presence in the news, is still quite intangible for those in the Western world. The physicality of the installation, absent of the gory images often presented in the media, explore a means to understanding the conflict on a more tangible, yet subtle manner.
When entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by a visually familiar, but perhaps physically unknown territory. The space has been covered in dirt and rubble directly taken from the border areas of Syria and Turkey. The experience of discomfort is furthered by a reverberating ambient noise; the sound of a siren blaring in the distance. The downstairs room has been flooded in three inches of water, smelling of mold.
However, there is more to this work than just a presentation of the wreckage. Roth has also allowed his installation to become a platform for the living. Within the main installation site, the viewer is greeted with the flight and chirps of small green parakeets that have been rescued from abandoned pet shelters. The downstairs is inhabited by toads that were to be sold in Chinatown to be consumed.
The presence of animals take us out of the realm of the polarized, politicalized war, and bring us into a softer, yet more complicated truth. Here, we see a quieter realm, without images of death. The removal of human reality, somehow, speaks even more frankly about the true human condition; without the complications of ideology, scenes as these would not exist. What do sites of war really mean, free from philosophy, ethics and misunderstanding? (via: The Creators Project)
In her series Reno, a component of her larger project, Wandering In Place, Jennifer Garza-Cuen captures a hidden America.Through images of abandoned theaters, plastic covered casinos, dust collecting disco balls, women bound to decks of cards, and quiet, empty, almost pallid landscapes, she is able to inherently provoke an aura of nostalgia. She describes the work as a “metaphorical memoir,” pulling at the strings of what “the American dream” truly means and looks like. In a country formulated through vast histories, how does a cultural identity extensively exist? What does it mean to be an American? Her work captures a more subtle, yet convoluted portrait of identity, proving that the American identity is innately faceless and multifaceted.
Her photographs confuse cultural memory, bringing us back in time, despite depicting the present. In what she refers to as a “constructed-documentary style,” she dances around the idea of documentation versus constructed narrative, blurring the line between fact and fiction. She brings us into a dreamland where it seems time has stopped. Her photographs capture moments of silent contemplation. They are almost cinematic period pieces. Perhaps, stills of the scene directly following aclimax. Her photographs are not clear portrayals of darkness nor light; they provoke the viewer to search for an almost Lynchian meaning. She displays moments of what may be misfortune, missed opportunity, or confusion. She allows a sense of yearning and misunderstanding, getting at the very ethos of Reno. She states:
“Reno is a place that embodies ideas of Western idealism, the frontier spirit, of transience and the gambler’s impulse to risk everything for the chance at a better life. It was founded as a toll, a passage across the Truckee River, and on silver from the Comstock Lode. In Reno I attempt to come to terms with the defining force of place while returning to my own experience of being a wanderer, a state that obscures identity and embodies what it means to exist outside the codified order of the defined.”