There’s nothing like a good word play to pique my interest in…well…just about anything. Stephanie Nadeau’s exhibition, “Is it Farther or Further?” is no exception. Add in the promise of a “data-powered music box driven by the winds of Antarctica” and I am sold. I mean, who can resist that?
The show’s stated exploration—the human need for solidarity amidst shrinking topography—relies heavily on landscapes drawn, photographed and digitally monitored. Drugstore-quality prints of autumn debris ranging from single sticks to heaps of dead foliage depict isolation losing out to unity. The tension between part and whole underlies a number of Nadeau’s works; sovereignty is met with skepticism.
Travel as a means of isolation is compromised by technology, as exemplified by a centrally placed iPhone on a pedestal. Rotating downloaded images of groups and teams in moments of camaraderie, the device underscores the lost possibility of solitude in mobility. Hence the show’s questioning and ultimate dismissal of “farther,” or distance, in favor of “further,” or degree. Physical distance has been irrevocably diminished, leaving only metaphoric separation in its wake.
The technical skill of the show’s few drawings elevates them to anchor status. Negative space unites the drawings and showcases the artist’s personal confrontation with vastness. In one piece, two open mouths—one a bear and the other human—are isolated against an expanse of white paper. Without environmental context, the metaphoric separation between man and beast seemingly dissipates.
Ultimately, the show doesn’t convince whether human solidarity is something to be sought or fought. I’m inclined, however, to consider such unity in terms of the “data-powered music box driven by the winds of Antarctica,” which succeeds in theory alone. (Justin Natale)
Through October 31 at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 North Ravenswood