Bushwick residents seem hip to the idea of making art for the community. Festivals like Bushwick Open Studios provide audiences with a peek inside the studio doors of local artists. But what about people living in Bushwick day in and day out? What do they see? The sidewalks, buildings and street fashion can be enough stimulation in and of itself, but why is Bushwick being compared to Manhattan gallery communities? After attending the opening for “Spun O Lith” at Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics on Friday night, I find myself asking whether or not Bushwick artists make art specifically for Bushwick artists.
Rebecca Gaffney, lead curator for Spun O Lith, is a Brooklyn-based video and installation artist who works with out-of-phase strobe light and reflections of performers in live camera feedback. She likes to improvise with light, music and sound. And Spun O Lith was just that – the improvising of visual materials within a space.
But what does that improvisation do for the viewer? Do we hope for something magical to happen? Do we stare at the machinery long and hard until what we think is important, happens? Through a tangled web of video projections and a system of mirrors, the Spun O Lith viewer is immediately stimulated with reflective materials – all supposedly found on the streets of Brooklyn, also referred to as “covert trash operations.” Channels of video feedback manipulate what you see. It’s a slow manipulation and you have to linger in the space to notice it. You may experience your refracted self, but never a refraction of reality.
It was evident that Gaffney could lure a crowd. Bushwickers swayed late into the evening, grinding to digital soundscapes and nursing drinks while wearing sunglasses – but the latter was part of the exhibition experience. Pick up a mirror and play. Darken your environment with shade.
The space definitely seemed to be curated for a Bushwick crowd; it had a messy-cool feel to it. The foil on the walls hung sloppily, wires weaved in and out of the floor, a bit ominous for someone holding a drink. But, Spun O Lith showcased found objects that YOU could have touched; work in progress ideas that were evolving in real-time, which presented the opportunity for the audience to connect to the live process. The trashy layout seemed purposeful, maybe not enough effort was the point.
When I asked Gaffney about her inspiration, she mentioned “the wasteland.” Approaching her latest collaborative project with “easy instinct,” Gaffney is open to whatever comes in her path. She lists her favorite contemporary artists as the people she’s working with right now, “light channelers and demon blockers.”
Here’s a video with Spun O Lith collaborator, Matthew Caron.
Ultimately, Gaffney wants viewers to get “high on light” when roaming through the condensed space. Try to allow yourself to flow with the changing exhibition, and if you’re having difficulty with that, try putting on some sunglasses. Maybe bring a few glow sticks of your own, as well.
Spun O Lith will be open at Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics until March 15, and will feature a changing variety of video artists and musicians.