- Kenneth Aaron
So, I don't have anything nice to say about Fawn Krieger's National Park— the exhibit at Washington High School which uses foam, wood, tar, cement, and felt to fabricate a cave, some rocks, and an ambiguous stream/lava flow thing (a material-based interpretation of a national park). Really, National Park reads as a big old fail— mainly due to a rift between the artist's concept and the symbolic statement communicated by her final product.
More scathing remarks after the jump!
When I interviewed Krieger a few months back I was left scratching my head as she stated "domestic movement" as the conceptual impetus for National Park. Thing is, national parks aren't symbols for domestic movement. (To figure out what an object symbolizes, ask "what does it do?") A national park symbolizes preservation, humanity's romanticism for wide open spaces, the sheer largeness of landscape/smallness of people, the non-domestic nature of nature, etc..
A symbol that does communicate domestic movement? How about a moving van?— build a landscape in it if you wanna get all fancy about it. Point being, there are lots of objective symbols out there for domestic movement, but a national park isn't one of them. Successful symbols are universal, unsuccessful ones aren't, and a national park says very little about domestic movement.
Like a half-constructed ball pit at a low-budget amusement park, hundreds of foam chunks represented rocks, tar-coated foam suggested a lava flow, or stream, and inside Krieger's gray, felt-skinned cave, its wooden support structure was visible— exposing the embarrassingly poor construction skills of the artist, while also displaying an unrealized opportunity to address her concept (via cave paintings or something similar).
Here I found an emotional flatline: no smart cues to remind us of the way we've tamed nature via houses and technology (which might produce pride in human intelligence); no nostalgic references to the social aspect of national parks (we often visit those sorts of places with friends and family); no guilty reminders of the way we city folk have sequestered our experiences with nature though national parks.
As I was leaving the exhibit I overheard an unimpressed voice asking, "what's the point of this?" I called back, "that's a good question." Let's leave it at that.
The exhibit will be open through October 18th, from noon to 6:30 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.