August 19 to September 16, 2012
It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.
–Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
The Collected Aphorisms, Vol. 1, no. 109, Shorter Works,
edited and translated by Malcolm Pasley (1973)
Curious Matter is housed in the front parlor of an 1860s rowhouse and retains its original Italianate details. The architectural specificity of the space brings about many associations. For example, cabinets of curiosities have been an inspiration in how we approach our exhibitions, and the parlor setting has served that point of view. The efficient application of the space for display also encourages visitors to scrutinize the artwork shown more closely, and to note relationships among the works more readily. Spaces that are designed to stimulate inquiry and focus attention captivate us. Following these thoughts it’s natural we’d be intrigued by the work of artist and curator Aimée Burg.
Aimée Burg’s art practice includes the creation of constrained, personal environments, such as Pod, a small, round, one-person trampoline housed within a latticed, dome-topped vessel. One-man See-Saw is another piece that places the player within a device that is confined and offers a single function. For I Will Now Escape From This Box, the task set is simply to escape. In this piece, Ms. Burg is locked within a transparent Lucite container. Garbed as a classic magician’s assistant, she manages to free herself while also exposing the trick behind the escape. As curator, Ms. Burg has chosen to examine yet another intimate setting—the tabletop.
The tabletop serves seemingly infinite functions, whether we’re sitting for family dinner, negotiating agreements, or playing games, the table is the place upon which we order much of our lives. The arranging plane of the table and the vast array of people and accoutrements that are its inhabitants have been reinterpreted for this exhibition as a pedestal, a stage, or the Tabula Rasa, the erased tablet where all is possible. The works assembled survey public and private relationships, etiquette, ritual, and compel us to ponder more deeply and see beyond what we might already expect.
We’re extremely appreciative of all Aimée Burg has done to produce this thoughtful exhibition, and for her distinct point of view, which has made for such a vivid investigation. We’re also honored to host the participating artists and thank them for their invaluable contributions without which this exhibition would not have been possible. It’s with tremendous pleasure that we present Tabula Rasa. Please, pull up a chair and join us.
RAYMOND E. MINGST • ARTHUR BRUSO
co-founders, Curious Matter
Tabula Rasa is a group show of work discussing/showing the idea of the table and the discourses we have with this object and space. It is not only a matter of what a table is but also what takes place at or on a table. Our language appreciates the literal and metaphorical potential of this everyday object: when we are open to possibilities, we say All ideas are on the table. These interactions–from a romantic dinner for two to a large board meeting–span every class and social space. This show’s focus on the table examines these crucial instants and decisions.
The table is, by custom, an area where differing or even opposing representatives can be assembled in temporary (and perhaps artificial) harmony. Several of the artists of Tabula Rasa explore this notion. Monika Sziladi’s composite photographs gather people literally at the table. Though the subjects are unaware they have been brought together, the tension is still palpable. Catherine Telford-Keough, too, gathers a dinner party–a very usual guest list of father and daughter, but both are compelled to dine by an arbitrary, unsettling script. Or is arbitrary and unsettling the rule even for the most casual dinner gathering? How many of us have turned to altered states of consciousness to escape such a table? Frank DeLeon Jones’ photos plumb this escapism, grasping at the edges of an evening where every guest has retired to a mental Green World.
What is served forth on the table is often more important than who sits beside it. Tamar Ettun offers several courses of tension in transit: a riding mount, a sail, a jetliner, wheel-forms, all abstracted via breakage, repair, or recovery. Tension is also on the table in Sam Anderson’s sound and sculpture. Here, the figures are too placid, so doll-like that the idea of play deeply unsettles. Steve Paneccasio unsets the table entirely, presenting photographs of tablecloths in stark detail. Each flaw in the cloth holds a story, but absent a storyteller, the imperfections may also be a source of self-conscious worry. Conversely, Nate Heiges’ tablecloth is anything but self-conscious: a sheer, composed drape of fishnet. And if its covering has become a shapely skirt or stocking, then what carnal role has the table itself adopted?
Extreme perspectives add a final approach to the table. Shanti Grumbine uses one long lens to look through another: a photo of Afghans dining at their blanket-table in the New York Times is erased and cut down, but its meaning–and the unmistakable context of the Grey Lady–persist. At the other end of the spectrum, someone has become so involved in Lorraine Dauw’s table of cast foam that they have taken a “bite,” blurring the lines of table, meal, and guest. But, like all its peers in Tabula Rasa, the table still remains a mannered space.
How have table manners developed, and how do these inform our lives? And what does it mean to willfully remove oneself from these contexts–when the table becomes a bed, a canvas; when circumstance and fast food make our work-desks and laps into the kitchen table? To step away from the table signals an end to negotiations. Tabula Rasa instead presses and explores these ordinary negotiations with the world.
Aimée Burg is an artist and curator. Explorations of confined spaces, safety and the creation of interactive and participatory art objects are a significant aspect of her body of work. She attended Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in France, Pratt Institute (BFA Sculpture) and Yale School of Art (MFA Sculpture.) She divides her time between New Haven, Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York.