Ouroboros, the symbol of a snake eating its tail referencing creation out of destruction, life out of death, the joining of opposites, and immortality, appears in many cultures and religions and expresses ideas foundational to such disparate studies as Jungian philosophy to modern science. In Root Division’s current group show, “Ouroboros” curators Katherine Krause and Jenny Salomon are interested in using this symbol as a key to gather work that expresses one of two outlooks: the eternal versus the end. Participating artists’ artworks and installations approach ideas of “Ouroboros” both from its historical references and contemporary understandings.
Evan Holm’s “Transistor Hive” is among one of the most popular installations at the gallery. Audiences at the opening reception were deeply engaged in the repurposed dresser’s mechanics that was gradually displacing the flour settled on the floor as the transistors scooped up its minute, pulverized powder. Says Holm, “The delicate activity of hive insects power a simple clock that marks the passage of time. Decay is present in the dusting of flour. The bureau dissolves and becomes unrecognizable as time and life spin forward.” Although a mechanism that documents time’s passage, it works without end that seemingly pays no heed to any concept of time. This passively cyclical movement seemingly without end strongly resonates within the exhibition’s theme.
“This Land is My Land,” Bessma Khalaf’s video recording of herself devouring a 13-foot landscape made from common baked goods plays in an endless loop, appearing as a never-ending journey to satiate desire, exploring ‘Ouroboros’ in the particularly Western World’s seemingly eternal consumption and self-indulgence. Says Khalaf, “I tried to construct a narrative that made sense of my wonder as an immigrant from the Middle East to a consumer culture of gluttony and excess…” It took on greater meaning when she made connections with her video piece and “Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman,” which, she said, “tapped into a pool of carnivorous female energy…” The video in many ways becomes a larger commentary on female image in the Western World: “I also wanted to deal with my feelings of being liberated as a woman, but one who was also pressured to conform to Barbie Doll standards of beauty.”
Coupling local artist Andy’s Vogt’s focus on “the structural shorthand of our built environment,” and Nicolas Torres’ interest in “urban renewal, street culture, community, [and] family,” their untitled multimedia installation at Root Division encompasses much of the curators’ visions of examining that which is eternal in contrast to the end. Vogt repurposes laths, the basic building blocks of homes and buildings, found at construction sites around the city, creating a new level of creation within an ongoing cycle for the straight-grained wood. Vogt’s scultpural piece placed alongside Torres’ video that plays projected onto the laths of an obliterated portion of Root Division’s wall creates an intriguing synergy of excavation, demolition, and regeneration.
“Ouroboros” with artwork by Kim Anno, Evan Holm, Desiree Holman, Matt Keegan, Bessma Khalaf, Sandy Kim, Ali Naschke-Messing, Jesse Schlesinger, Andy Vogt and Nicolas Torres will be at Root Division, 3175 17th St., through November 23. There will be a panel discussion on November 20 from 7-9 pm.