Liza Sylvestre: Third Space
On view: July 20 – September 6, 2019
Opening reception: July 20, 2019 from 6 – 9 pm
Liza Sylvestre: Third Space is a two-channel, large-scale video art installation that focuses on science fiction, technology, and the disabled body. As an individual with a profound hearing impairment, Sylvestre depends on closed captioning or other interpretive texts to have complete understanding of films. In The Third Space, the artist replaces the missing closed captioning in two movies—2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Space is the Place by Sun Ra—with what she describes as “self-commentary”. Sylvestre explains her process while creating the piece, “Sometimes I record what I think is happening, often I record my visual observations, and sometimes my mind wanders, and I record that as well.” The two videos are projected in the corner of the gallery causing them to “touch” on the 90 degree angle.
2001 is a film made in 1968 about the future—a future we have now surpassed in chronological time. The film represents technological ideals and advancements that never came to be, or that don’t align with reality that was “promised” by a classic Hollywood hit. The artist relates 2001’s premise to the suggested utopian outcomes of technology developed for disability - cochlear implants, hearing aids, retinal implants, mobility devices for those with physical and visual impairments. To Sylvestre, the film represents a failure, in a large sense, because the reality imagined by Kubrick in 1968 has yet to materialize. 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired an entire genre of science fiction films about utopian and dystopian futures prompting Sylvestre to ask: What does it mean to create stories about possible futures? How does this relate to disability? How does technology fail us, and how does technology fail the disabled body? Do we error in thinking that technology is the answer?
Sylvestre suggests that Sun Ra’s Space is the Place complicates 2001. The artist states, “When played together, the two films operate as historical objects that play to the binaries of hi/low, white/black, production/home-video. They also both represent pillars of Crip Theory, which is a new evolution in disability theory that also encompasses the theories of race, gender, and economy, and claims an intersectional stance that demands we look at these issues intersectionality instead of singularity.”
While viewing Third Space, an enabled audience encounters oscillating narratives: the narrative of the original films, the narrative of Sylvestre’s experiences, and the unique narrative produced by experiencing both simultaneously. Projecting these films onto the walls so that the videos physically touch creates a third space between them. Since 2001 is 2 hours and 44 min and Space is the Place is 80 min they constantly generate new juxtapositions and compositions and odd syncing commonalities.
Exhibition video documentation:
NGAS’s interview with the artist:
Liza Sylvestre is the co-founder of Creating Language Through Arts, an educational arts residency that focuses on using art as a means of communication when there are language barriers present due to hearing loss. In 2014 she was awarded both and Artists Initiative and Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Recently she has been the recipient of a VSA Jerome Emerging Artists Grant, a fellowship through Art(ists) on the Verge and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Most recently Sylvestre has served as the artist in residence at the Center for Applied Translational Sensory Science and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN. She is currently holds an MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.