Property is equated with ownership, which implies value, currency and class. A plot of land with a sign that reads “private property” is called home to one, and the theft of home to another. This dichotomy is explored in “Fear of Property,” curated by Karsten Lund, on view at The Renaissance Society. The exhibition features the work of Isshaq Albarbary, Joi T. Arcand, Kevin Beasley, Marissa Lee Benedict, Cassandra Press, Daniel de Paula, Niloufar Emamifar, Matias Faldbakken, Karrabing Film Collective, Ghislaine Leung, Christopher Meerdo, Yukultji Napangati, Pedro Neves Marques, David Rueter, Rose Salane, Christopher Williams and Andrew Norman Wilson.
The gallery setting is transformed by a metal apparatus that divides the space into geometric sections. Walls, equal parts opaque and skeletal, create room-like environments for which designated and specific relationships between artworks emerge. This use of space warps the viewer’s eyeballs into two-dimensional screens, as the peripheral vision becomes as strong as the central vision, and depth of field is altered by these disruptive and alluring dividers.
Positioned in the center of the gallery is Marissa Lee Benedict, Daniel de Paula and David Rueter’s installation, “under cover of a solid object.” The largest extension of the piece lives beneath the viewer’s feet as a relief made in floor wax. The relief outlines an impression of a corn futures trading pit from the Chicago Board of Trade. It is easy to visualize the implied structure, and a silver gelatin print hangs on the wall to punctuate this visualization. Cumbersome and antiquated, the ghost structure derived from the relief suggests the burden of property as the world turns increasingly digital and tangibility becomes obsolete.
Moving counterclockwise, Kevin Beasley’s “Valentines Pines (residence)” hangs heavily on the wall, made of primarily resin, raw Virginia cotton and a photograph from Beasley’s family land in Virginia printed on white T-shirts. If a standard photograph captures a moment, “Valentines Pines (residence)” captures a lifetime. A serene forest scene lays printed on top cloth. From the top left corner working down to the bottom right corner, the photograph becomes increasingly buckled by the fabric underneath, interrupted by its own surface. The resin encompasses this frozen moment punctuated by the tags of a few T-shirts visible to the viewer. Ownership of this property measured by the bloodlines that have crossed it, the memories tied to it, and the futures born from it, are suspended in an eternal held breath.
Made of UV prints on dibond, microcomputers, network switch, cable sleeves and animations made with “BlueLeaks” data set, Christopher Meerdo’s installation, “PARSER,” introduces the concept of property protection. Eleven contorted moving images create a visual orchestra of the uncanny valley. Distorted, warped faces screwed up in strange expressions emerge as the moving images unfold. The images flip through themselves steadily, paced like a seasonal desktop screensaver. Derived from security footage and AI-assisted algorithms, the viewer is encouraged to turn over the ethics of facial recognition and the existence of a database filled with unsuspecting participants, all in the name of protection of property. Meerdo’s installation adds significantly to the exhibition’s investigation as a whole. “Fear of Property” considers people’s relationship to property, from owning property to being property.
“Fear of Property” at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis, Cobb Hall, fourth floor. Through November 6.