Aladdin and His Amazing Flying Bed
Perceptions of the Body Through the Familiar and Unfamiliar at the Harwood Art Center
I see a bed, and it looks comfortable enough even though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get much sleep on it. For one thing, the bed floats more than a foot above the ground. For another, a projector suspended up near the ceiling projects images of sleeping bodies in constantly shifting positions onto the clean, white sheets.
Above the bed, wires attached to the ceiling hold up wood-framed linen panels tilted at varying angles. A separate projector beams video onto the linen—scenes of trees, hills and lakes shot, seemingly, from a moving car.
A tiny carpet floats off the floor. On a bedstand sits a tiny black and white TV showing a glimmering mountain scene along with a book by Italo Calvino open to a short prose piece called "Cities & Memory."
It's like a hospital room in some bad dream, but this isn't a dream. It's an installation by local artist Reggie Stump called Perceptions of the Body Through the Familiar and Unfamiliar. It's also the best of four new exhibits running this month at the Harwood Art Center.
The strange smell—like burning plastic—that fills the room somehow adds to the surreal otherworldly ambience. In the semi-darkness, voices mouth largely inaudible conversations intermingled with eerie machine-like grinds and groans.
Each time the projector shifts to a new slide, the image shakes slightly, lending to the whole installation a strange sense of impermanence. I wanted, but didn't dare, to open the drawers of the bedstand to see if a Gideon's Bible lay there, or some alien text even weirder than Calvino's.
From Stump's artist statement, I gather he intended to create a space where familiar artifacts—a bed, a bedstand, a carpet—take on an unfamiliar cast. In doing so, he intended to comment on the contrast and relationship between the comfort of familiar objects and the anxiety caused by unfamiliar ones. As such, Perceptions is a peculiar but undeniably affecting installation.
I was less impressed with the three other January shows at the Harwood. Rodica Focseneanu's Membranos installation has a unique smell of its own, and it looks like a hastily imagined interior of a human heart complete with pinkish crinkled tissues and a severed aorta-like tube jutting up from the floor. I'm not sure what Focseneanu was attempting, but Membranos came across to me as careless and coldly devoid of emotion. Diane Walton Reitz's folksy retro paintings of Nob Hill in the North Community Gallery are pleasant enough, but her human figures often look painfully stilted. Mindy Cardenas' colorful block prints in the South Community Gallery hint at a Mesoamerican influence, but they're too redundant to hold your attention for long.
This is not to say that these shows aren't worth a look, just that Stump's installation rises above them as the most mature, best conceived of the bunch. All four shows will be up through the end of the month.
Perceptions of the Body Through the Familiar and Unfamiliar, a mixed-media installation with video and sound by Reggie Stump, runs through Jan. 30 at the Harwood Art Center. 242-6367.