On the street behind the laundromat where Selina sells burritos out of a cooler for $3, Trapdoor Gallery is showing work that’s meant to give you pause. It’s not the kind of shocking pause that takes you aback, but rather like the sort of pause where you linger with the front door open, thinking for a moment about whether you are truly ready to step out. Harkening back to the words of the great Rod Serling, the sign on the post up ahead is in fact part of the exhibit, inviting you to consider for a moment that you have entered a land of both shadow and substance. Clearly, you have just crossed over into West Downtown, Albuquerque, N.M.
Allyson Packer’s Portal/Portal is an installation that for a brief moment becomes a constituent of this area of town. Packer lives a few blocks from the exhibit and works a different few blocks from it as well. She says she is “here” most of the time. The neighborhood is a pass through for many and the exhibit is at its root a meditation on the concept of being a part of it, as well as apart from it. In the instructions on the map provided, Packer says, “Climb the ladder and feel the feeling you get when you are standing on the roof of your house and you’re both more aware of everything around you and also apart from it.” You can in this exhibit climb the actual ladder. You can attempt to feel the feeling.
Portal/Portal can also be reflected in the language that is used to describe it. Packer says the installation asks the viewer to feel, “the feeling of repeating a word so many times that it becomes a meaningless combination of sounds.” As the sun was setting, I spent at least five minutes with the artist swapping the order of the English and Spanish pronunciations of the word “portal” until I was questioned what newspaper I was with. Experiential work like this requires your participation.
Showing artwork that no one can buy presents a fresh set of parameters for both gallery and artist. In Portal/Portal we find an opportunity to consider a space not established to make money, but to be passed through, presumably on our way to some other place where we don’t need to use our imaginations quite so much. Linger there for as long as you can.