The Puppet Show @ ICA
January 18 - March 30, 2008
Again the spatial quality of sound has performed profoundly at the ICA with the Puppet Show. It is another collection of artists, many well known, and some seemingly appealing to a small but ever growing party crowd. Applause could be heard in some of the pieces, anguish of performers in others, straining their feelings through filters of fiction and the real. And some pieces hung elegantly in the light while screaming televisions could not cause me to blink.
The show kept me in the room for at least a couple of hours. The space at the ICA led me from one to the other but without having to use one of their maps.
The front room was an accessory to the audacity around the main room. I have to say it was a bit like a chicken-coop in there. A little stuffy, feeding me classic howdy-doody, Pee-Wee Herman, and the beloved Phil Hartman as Captain Karl. On the shelves lay seeming relics of puppet history. What I would come to realize is that this room was meant to be representative as a storage space. And after I read that it made a little more sense, though I’m not so sure I agree that it was a backstage kind of thing. It was a little more macabre. It was more so a mortuary of characters. Like the hard rock café in a sense.
Within the main room was a buzzing, ackkking, noise that was, put best by a friend, something that was not quite getting to him yet. A collection of videos playing all at once at very high volume. A chaos that I wasn’t sure I would get over. Soon I learned to tune things out when I needed to, and to let works play with each other. Simple acoustics were an interesting part of the show. Televisions inside of crates to tunnel the sound directly toward an on-lookers bench. It works. The boxes are staggered, and the volume of sound is still able to peak and valley without completely overwhelming the surrounding performances.
The white floor area in the main gallery had a much different feel. A giant white platform, elegant fabric and plaster works, resembling puppets, kind of. The show was a good reason to bring these pieces together. They weren’t following the same line as most of the other installations, but they were nicely tethered to Kentridge’s animations and prints. They were all a bit of a breather from the sound circus. The stage they were set on was a giant white pedestal. The fabric, plaster, and natural materials glow in their own space on the white floor.
I did pass through the second floor; my mind couldn’t make it past the ground level. I had exhausted myself for the day.
Though there was the ever-present hierarchy of names at the collective show by the ICA, I still looked at what interested me. It’s not to say that I look at a gallery experience as pure entertainment, but this show’s wavering emotion kept me looking and listening. It took me a long time to get my fill, and I would still like to revisit.
[Ron Greenwalt is an artist living and working in Philadelphia.]
Monday, January 21, 2008
The Puppet Show @ ICA