Henry Schneiderman
I HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGSI HAVE BIG FEELINGS
I HAVE BIG FEELINGS
MFA thesis show, February 2012, University of Kansas


We are flesh and part of the flesh of the world. As such we change the things we encounter.

I HAVE BIG FEELINGS begins and ends with the question of embodiment. The exhibition comprises an installation of larger-than-life-size aluminum mesh disproportioned bodies suspended in a web of strings, and a suite of monotype prints describing similarly figured subjects, all grappling with relationality. The gallery dimly lit, viewers navigate between the sculptural figures in the installation cautiously and with a shifting attention to space, surface, and safety. The mesh figures themselves can be hard to locate and differentiate; lit by three floor-level spotlights, their surfaces elide with their interiors, with each other, and with their shadows projected onto the walls, multiplying the five tangible figures and charging the space with a sense of crowdedness. The tangled strings that suspend them are similarly problematic: difficult to detect until at a close range, and careening at unpredictable angles, one encounters them suddenly as one maneuvers between figures, often startling at the proximity of material. Compounding the multiplicity of layers, the viewers’ own shadows and bodies intersect and overlay with those of the sculptures from the moment they enter the space of the gallery. As viewers move through the installation (or even past it) the projections of their bodies and those of the sculptures slide past and through each other across the walls, generating dramatic time-sensitive drawings.

Across the gallery, a wall of less conspicuous monotype prints offers a second iteration of the installation. The prints describe similarly awkwardly defined figures, mostly solitary and with very little context or ground. Their surfaces open up much as the mesh figures’ do—their porousness having been exaggerated to an absurd scale. Despite their isolation, the prints’ titles all hint at relationships and correspondent feelings: That time we held hands all day, You can always come home with us, Are we friends?, etc. Looking back towards the installation from across the gallery, a viewer encounters one final composition. The installation as framed by the gallery architecture recalls the compositions of the prints and generously opens up possibility: that in crossing the room, one might cross over into a depicted world and slip into printed bodies—if only on the level of shadow. In fact, in order to leave the gallery, the viewer must once again cross the divide and in so doing make bodily contact.

I describe the experience of encountering this installation because it is precisely that—the encounter and our subsequent enmeshment in the work—that I am most interested in. Informed by performance studies, queer theory, and affective studies, this installation engages a spatial analysis of embodiment, meaning, and the spectral past. My material and formal choices anticipate movement and conspire towards a shadowy uncertainty. Haunted by ghosts of ghosts and ghostly traces of past relationships, the work constitutes an invitation to the viewer: to get lost or to lose, and to slip in and possibly back out again.