phile under: art review

Review: Finder Keeper

Zachary Davis’ installation at Appendix

By Lisa Radon August 29, 2009


She reached out to the Ziploc® bag full of water and…touched it (!?!?). And it swung, and the lights played in the water inside, but it did not bump any of the other two dozen or so bags suspended at various heights 1/4 of the way into the garage that is Appendix Project Space. And she moved further into the space, this time ducking under yet another water-filled bag, steering for the three chunks of cantaloupe affixed to the back wall. A half dozen scout ants had found the cantaloupe and a few more had come. One could imagine the network of black lines that would appear in a day or so when the ants worked their magical communication system and drew black lines from ant hill to sweet melon and home again. So too, the humans who crowd late-summer Last Thursday found their way down the alley in great numbers (the southern pull of the alley on the crowd flowing East and West on Alberta grows as more people enter it) to find Zachary Davis’ installation, Finder Keeper, its end. And the people become part of the piece because they enter it, their faces distorted by the bags of water become giant lenses. It is impossible, in fact, to view the piece sans people as opening night is for now the only viewing opportunity…which makes me feel that in writing this, I am sending you a postcard from an imaginary place. Look at the slideshow and check out daylit photos on OPENWIDEpdx. It’s a good installation, and I wish you could see it in person.

Water is wayfinder, cutting river-paths to the sea. Here, in the video in one corner of the space, it enters the frame tentatively; we see a close, aerial view of a trickle of water slowly making its way across pavement. But along the way water makes glistening, dust-edged shapes that slowly morph. Leave off the bags of water above and it would perhaps take a second to understand what you’re seeing here.

Meanwhile water potential, water held in stasis, is suspended above in plastic reservoirs that have similar light properties to a single drop of water. And of course, the drop is analogous to the single ant as unit of greater whole. So the interplay of elements here binds the viewer up in a delicious near-narrative that can be read as metaphor for the inexorable power of the individual as combined with thousands of other individuals tracing the same path.

There was another element in the piece, triangulated from monitor and cantaloupe on the third of three walls. It looked to be a little stove, a metal cylinder with a hole in one side through which you could look in and see foil and a red light with a plant spilling out of the hole. On top was what I’m told was a mask which makes the whole a figure, but I wouldn’t have read it that way without assistance. As mini furnace I had no way to fit it in with water, paths, ants except as threat held at bay. As figure it reads as an unneccessary attempt to create a presence for the maker in the installation.

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