by Sarah McCarthy
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
The most recent exhibit at the Sheehan Gallery, entitled “Goatsilk,” explores the intriguing question of how animals and humans will continue to co-exist in an increasingly technological age.
Two of the artists, Ben Bloch and Caroline Peters, were inspired by a “New York Times” article that explained how scientists were researching a way to mass produce spider silk for human consumption. The work that deals most directly with this question is “Portraits From an Ark,” a digital media piece which shows 55 participants getting their faces painted like different animals. Visitors to the exhibit say an animal’s name (anything from “sheep” to “blowfish”) into a voice-activated microphone and a one minute video begins to play. The participants look decidedly uncomfortable as a mysterious hand pokes and brushes their faces with thick paint, but become more relaxed and begin to imitate the actions of “their” animal, once it’s reavealed what creature they’re meant to resemble. The piece, Bloch and Peters write, “… reminds viewers that the act of becoming requires acquiescence and abandonment.”
Another intriguing piece, “Nexting,” is compromised of short film clips from the MTV dating show “Next.” The show usually involves a contestant and five “daters.” When the “dater” begins to bore or annoy the contestant, the contestant says “next!” and another dater is sent in to finish the date. The piece, then, is comprised of six-second clips which show the “daters” delivering a snide remark to the contestant who has rejected them. After they have finished their line, their faces are distorted into a large and exaggerated caricature of themselves. As the artists write, “Besides being humorous, these distortions give a glimpse of the oft repressed horror that results from being ‘discovered’ and then rejected.” Anyone who is disillusioned with the self-centered cattiness of reality TV is sure to enjoy this work.
Other works include “Pressing the Vessel,” which shows a mouse in its last few minutes of life the paired with the voice-over of an evangelical sermon. The piece is meant to address “the moat between our idea that life is sacred, and the isolation that seemingly takes over at the end of life.”
These pieces, along with six others, will be in the Sheehan Gallery until Dec. 8