‘Host’ cleans out our closet

The Soap Factory's current exhibition, 'Host,' critiques the very meaning of what it means to be a host, as a nation and as a gallery.

Stephanie Dickrell

Governed by invisible forces, our lives are constantly pulled and prodded into a submission.

Host

WHEN: Sept. 8 through Oct. 21, Thursday and Friday, 2 to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
WHERE: The Soap Factory, 518 Second St. S.E., Minneapolis
TICKETS: Free, www.soapfactory.org.

Gravity causes us to fall. Social norms cause us to behave. Societal pressure causes us to act within certain social boundaries. Materialism and capitalism produce hurry and waste. Politics create violence, discussion and disobedience.

We rarely think of these invisible forces, or even about the electricity that is running through our walls to charge our iPods and run our computers.

It’s all just there.

Elizabeth Grady, guest curator at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, has envisioned a show to help us see the unseen, examine the unexamined, in any way possible. The artists, from local to international, tackled these issues from every conceivable angle.

The exhibit, entitled “Host” and aptly open to interpretation, features pieces from a variety of media, including thrown-out clothing and peeled wall paint.

It takes place in the dusty, dilapidated rooms of the gallery that actually used to be a soap factory and looks as though it might fall down around you.

As I walked through the exhibition the day before the opening, the art was still being installed throughout the gallery. Because much of the art is installation based, it’s hard to tell whether a table laden with tools is art, or in the midst of being moved for the upcoming show.

The pieces are that subtle. They fit in with the building, and it takes a second look to see, and another to understand.

Tracey Goodman created a piece out of plaster that looks just like tubes holding electrical and phone wires which are strung through every wall in every building, but rarely noticed. She makes commentary about both about the invisible electrical forces and about communication – its ability to connect and how it sometimes goes nowhere. Some tubes end in midair. A light switch box is attached to a tube leading out the window. That is where the tube stops, making no connection except with the glass, and if you can imagine it, the outside world.

And then there is Jenny Polak, who tackles the issues of immigration. Her installation piece features a hide-a-bed and tiny bunks stacked six tall, symbolizing an undocumented worker’s need to hide. The piece features an interview with a woman in southern Minnesota who has been aiding and abetting undocumented workers.

The pieces feature anything but the normal. One piece by David Bowen features flies making art with the aid of a computer and light. Another, by Meridith Pingree, features pieces from car locks, motion sensors and brightly colored fishnet stockings.

Viewers interact with the work and it reacts to them. Block the light for several little bamboo plants, and watch them move to find the best light. Move in front of the motion sensors, and watch fishnet stockings and pieces from automatic car door locks move.

Step on this carpet, Elizabeth tells me. I activate a sculpture, by Erik Shorrock Guzman. Pieces of metal start spinning, a whirring sounds starts, light is flashing. It looks cool at first, this light spinning around and around. Then the whirring gets higher pitched. The light moves faster and faster. The back of my brain perceives a threat. The rational part of my brain says it won’t hurt me, but the other half is saying, move, get out of there, it’s coming at you.

Then, it’s finished. It’s silent. I can’t remember why I was so scared. It’s just an innocent piece of metal attached to the wall.

It’s an experience. It’s an experience that makes you examine your everyday life, and how and why you live the way you do.