With Venice still in the air and the anticipation of the Whitney hanging over us, the world is changing around me, and I cannot help but draw analogies to the art ecosystem. The squash in my neighbor’s garden is swelling. The layers of crushed acorns are growing, and I have seen the first abandoned leaves start to fall. It is the imminent bursting of milkweed pods and the reminder of the larvae they fed, however, that provides the visual catalyst for ,,, the third Minnesota Biennial that opened at The Soap Factory last weekend. A Nabokovian menagerie, ,,, is a series of butterflies.
The flashiest, brightest butterflies do not need to fly past us to catch our attention. They overwhelm all of our senses. The Basketball Team‘s Sgt. Moore wafts the smell of whiskey throughout the gallery. The looping, Reichian patterns of Nate Young‘s Untitled (Soul Clap no. 1) echo in the silence of the distant companion video Untitled (Soul Clap no. 2). The shuttering of the 16mm projector pulls us into Stefanie Motta‘s Seeing. The drone of the prepared keyboard inside 7-Sided Room with Painted Floor by Andrew Mazorol and Tynan Kerr permeates the galleries and intensifies the rarefied air inside the room.
Some of the butterflies stun us visually. The mountain of fabric of RO/LU‘s Here There Then, Here There Now is inescapable, and Broc Blegen‘s larger than life cut outs of Scrooge McDuck comics, from Allen Ruppersberg, Big Trouble, highlight the bleak portrayal of ego and money in the public art world in the cutout prints on the walls behind them. If taste and touch feel left out, the popcorn from Jess Hirsch‘s reikiwave makes its way throughout the biennial in the greasy hands of visitors, and Adam Caillier and Michael Mott gently enfold us in the absences and presences of Negative Air Room.
Other butterflies are camouflaged, hiding right in front of us, disguising themselves or only revealing their beauty on closer inspection. Allen Brewer and Pamela Valfer‘s mediations of each other’s work are subtle; the twin pieces of The Two Darrins flicker between paintings and the moire of screen mesh. The seemingly static shots of Scott Nedrelow‘s three and a half hour Leaving the Atocha Station invite long-term, real-time reading of the novel’s pages. Infinite Field, Peter Happel Christian‘s collection of altered photographs, stacks of glass, carefully placed tools, is a layered reflection of the interiority of image making. The most obviously camouflaged moth is Ben Moren and Daniel Dean‘s Untitled (Selections From the Permanent Collection), a walking video tour through an alternate exhibition, a second exhibition that reveals itself on top of the biennial.
Some of the butterflies are still nestled within their cocoons. The ongoing dance, music, and other performances are as integral to the biennial as any of the static work, revealing themselves slowly, the chrysalis growing transparent before freeing the fully formed winged creature we anticipate seeing. The opening was full of anticipation as those first butterflies opened their wings, taking flight before a full house, continuously beating their wings in the vinyl LP catalog supplement.
Thinking of all of these butterflies and the weight in the air, I cannot help but wonder about all of the other insects I am missing. Mosquitoes and mayflies have come and gone; earthworms continue to transform the soil beneath our feet. The plants and rocks are as necessary as the rain and sun. When we venture out into the wilds, we can bring our butterfly nets, but what other tools do we need to help us see what is there? Do we need a microscope or a rain coat? Does the art ecosystem change as the external world does? Squirrels begin their annual collections, and geese call to us from their veeing south. There will be a tiger in town tonight with its promise of warmer climes. As it passes, will we understand the beauty that surrounds us more clearly?
,,, is on view at The Soap Factory until November 3rd.