Seeing Isn’t Believing: Exploring the Contemporary Arts Center’s “Unmade” exhibition featuring Anne Lindberg and Saskia Olde Wolbers

February 11th, 2015  |  Published in Winter 2015

To commemorate Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center’s (CAC)’s 75th anniversary, the Steven Matijcio-curated exhibition “Unmade” dissolves vision and purpose, not only in the works displayed, but the 12-year-old landmark building in which they are housed. Zaha Hadid’s rough, angular architecture is obscured by the flux in dimensionality and reality created by artists Anne Lindberg’s and Saskia Olde Wolbers’s respective works. The exhibition’s verisimilitude revises Plato’s theory on art’s imitation of life, in a realization that, perhaps, life is only imitation.

Lindberg, who lives in Kansas and New York Cities, studied art just an hour north of the CAC at Miami University. She infixes thousands of parallel lines, with varying stroke widths using graphite and colored pencils, onto 60-by-80-inch canvases. The drawings’ multi-colored two-dimensionality leaps off, then back on canvases, scrambling viewers’ neurological receptors to see fabricated, fluctuating shapes. It’s not the flatness of the canvas or the artist’s perspective that’s mainly hindering its realism; it’s our own brain’s computational methods failing to recreate the physical world (albeit, a world created by Lindberg).

She continues her obsession with parallel lines by vacillating a nearly 19-mile Egyptian cotton thread across the CAC building, lessening the building’s divaricate design. Overhead lights create an ethereal glow over thin, vibrant thread, which reflects color onto white walls. At first glance, the transparent thread is a kaleidoscopic, floating haze. At second glance, it’s a three-dimensional, chromatic space. At third glance, when you stand beneath the 3,744 cubic feet of taut string (plaster-wrenching, at other locations), your subjective perception slows enough to view each translucent thread as its own entity. As the 2014 installation’s title “Cadence” suggests, there is an inherent rhythm in Lindberg’s work as its optical illusions flow from two-to-three dimensional.

The architecture of Lindberg’s manual lines juxtapose the shifting, globular structure of Netherlands-born and London-based artist Saskia Olde Wolbers’s 2002 video “Placebo.” As the title infers, the piece is more psychologically effective than physically. Olde Wolbers hand-built hospital sets, slathered them in viscous paint, submerged them underwater, and videoed. Emulsive beads of the emollient paint drip from each rotating scene of the DVD. Amorphous globs bob through nubilous liquid, as cloudy as the cryptic voiceover of a semi-conscious mistress, discussing her comatose doctor lover.

She sees no visitors for the doctor, who works in the same hospital in which he is now a patient – not his wife, nor his children, whom he would never leave for the narrator. As her hypnotic account unravels her lover’s pseudology, water devolves the unpeopled sets – as eerily empty as the mistress’ emotionless recital. The punctured tale creeps over an electronic buzz until the narrator confronts her lover, behind the wheel. He rams a tree to avoid confrontation, choosing death over truth.

An image of oneself surpasses the actual person in Olde Wolbers’s piece, like today’s social media society. Our own innate perspectives are reinforced by individualized media, creating individualized facts. There are no definite truths when leaving the exhibition, as not just the pieces’ visuals and purposes were unmade, but the concept of reality as a whole.

“Unmade” runs through March 22. Admission is free through March 12 at the CAC due to lobby renovations. Afterwards, it’s $7.50 for general admission and $5.50 for students, seniors and educators. It is always free after 5 p.m. on Mondays.

–Hayley Day

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