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Review: Kathy McTavish’s Høle in the Sky

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Is there a hole in sky? Art mesmerizes the Food Farm!

Media artist Kathy McTavish and the new-music ensemble Zeitgeist took over two windowless rooms of the Food Farm root cellar in Wrenshall this past Saturday to present the interactive exhibition Høle in the Sky to an audience of about 25 people.

The exhibition featured moving images from floor to ceiling and live found sounds by Zeitgeist using and contacting the various textures of the metal walls and farm equipment. Everything inside was cleaned up for the show with the exception of some lucky carrot stacks and potatoes in a container.

Humans more and more communicate with each other via digital devices. McTavish scaled this up to human size and larger, projecting time-related images that overlapped on the walls, floors and ceilings. Textured metal building walls worked to vary and distort the images to great effect.

It could be we have little or no time to slow down possibly irreversible human impacts on the Earth. The exhibition makes the rapid passage of time explicit with numerous moving images of numbers counting off the seconds, words and numbers counting up to nine repeatedly, an outlined figure continuing along a trail, all overlaid with computer-generated imagery.

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At first the viewer might be mesmerized by the abstract beauty of the moving colors, images and digits. Zeitgeist’s contribution of sound, often created by tapping on various parts of the building and equipment, and more traditional instruments, created a “digital” sounding accompaniment. Spend enough time with a clue on the subject of the exhibit and a viewer can start to contemplate time, though may not know what action to take. It is amazing how fast the seconds go by that are counted by the digital timer.

The exhibition is successful in its employment of new media, and very satisfying on a visual level. But if we are to think about a hole in the sky — the ozone layer or any of a myriad of environmental issues — does it succeed in conveying that message? It is a given that traditional environmental doom warnings may fall on deaf ears if always communicated in the same language. Ultimately, as with most contemporary art, the viewer needs to meet the artist part way. If one does this, McTavish is successful with both a visually interesting exhibition and one that keeps a viewer thinking afterward.

I encourage you to take the opportunity to go and experience any future exhibits by this artist.

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