When Yale Union commissioned artist McIntyre Parker to create a site-specific work for them, they had no way of knowing it would wind up being a perfect reflection of the contemporary arts organization’s recent state of mind. The recent and sudden death of their executive director Yoko Ott, has weighed heavily on those who work in and for the space. When I visited to see Parker’s work, it seemed like everyone, in spite of their excitement about presenting this piece, was hunched over, bowed under the weight of the loss.
Even without knowledge of Ott’s passing acting as an unintentional influence, the mood of Parker’s piece is plaintive and mournful. Per his instructions, the entirety of the main gallery floor at Yale Union remains empty. It was the first time I’d seen the space that way and it forced me to reconfigure my sense of the room. This was an eerie sensation, at first, but it gave way to a desire to see and hear what I had previously ignored: the noise from the downstairs woodshop, clanging construction sounds, the various marks and imperfections of the hardwood floor.
The object of Parker’s installation is placed in a room just beyond the gallery space. A projector runs a loop of 16mm film on a nearby wall. Again, the effect was slightly unsettling, but that sensation dissipated once I got absorbed in the surprisingly powerful images on display. The work is a series of contextless shots of nature, the inside of what looked like a car engine, and a quick flash of a sand dollar and two dimes sitting on a table. I picked up new little details each time the film spooled through.
Parker purposefully leaves everything open to interpretation, with no placard or artist’s statement. It’s enough to say that the empty room nearby reflects his state of mind when he conceived the installation, exploring what—and more importantly who—isn’t there to fill it. While it wasn’t intended as such, the piece is a perfect reflection of Ott’s absence.