Barry Anderson with his installation “Fragments of Space: Multiplex” at Commerce Bank
The future is here, and so far it hasn’t taken the form of flying cars, robot servants, convenient interplanetary travel, or most of the other technological promises offered by 20th-twentieth-century creative media.
Rather, it is the ubiquity of screens in our daily lives that stands in as a demarcation between the quaint analog past and modernity. And so it’s fitting that Barry Anderson’s installation, “Fragments of Space: Multiplex,” reaches out to the world from four flat monitors located in the Commerce Bank Building’s fitting Digital Art Wall.
Part of a broader series of work begun in 2015 titled “Fragments of Space,” the “Multiplex” exhibition takes viewers on an imaginary tour of both physical and psychological spaces. By playing a continuous cycle, the video flows from each screen to the next, leaving all four panels slightly ahead or behind their neighbors. This perpetual motion, coupled with the deliberately skewed positioning of each screen, may be jarring at first, but the ability of an intangible artistic experience to conjure an almost physical response in its audience represents a triumph, not a flaw. not. Once viewers have taken a moment to adjust to the rhythm of the piece, they are likely to settle on a single screen to watch, perhaps pausing to focus their attention on the gestalt of the four screens interacting .
Created using Cinema 4D and After Effects software, the actual content on the screens works in tandem with the infinite loops in which they play. Passers-by who linger to view an entire cycle of the installation will be rewarded with multiple visits to two distinct realms. The more easily recognizable landscape, a sleek maze, places viewers in a first-person perspective moving through a post-industrial labyrinth, complete with quick turns and dead ends.
The purpose of the maze remains a mystery; Anderson’s work embraces the premise that the journey matters more than the destination. Traversing the digital warren happens quickly, almost to the point of feeling frantic and claustrophobic. Viewers can notice their lack of agency quite sharply, as all decisions about which way to go take place on the other side of the monitors. Someone who might have chosen to go right will find themselves going left.
To further excite the audience, Anderson’s maze is populated with terrain and artifacts that practically beg for a closer look. But alas, the movement of the video takes us past flooded rooms, a doll and even a partially submerged cow at a speed that defies any close scrutiny. Those with the courage for multiple viewings, of course, can have an opportunity to enjoy the details that a more cursory observation would miss.
Between journeys through the maze, Anderson takes his viewers into an even more surreal environment that manifests as iridescent, geometric shapes that expand and fold back in on themselves. And while these series are more abstract, there is something about the undulation of light and color that evokes calm. One interpretation could be that these segments represent the inner psychological workings of humanity. Another could see the artist gracious to his audience, giving them a meditative reprieve between forays through the more cognitively and emotionally taxing labyrinthine components of the work.
In the end, the reason for the animations, which represent great technical skill, is less important than the fact that they exist. Anderson’s art is deliberately minimalist, both aesthetically and in terms of the context it provides.
People spend a tremendous amount of their waking hours staring at screens. To do so in a way that promotes reflection and elicits an emotional catharsis is a unique and rare experience. To that end, Anderson is very successful in creating digital art for a digital age.
“Fragments of Space: Multiplex” continues at the Commerce Bank Digital Art Wall., 1001 Main St., through Oct. 4. Hours are 8am to 5pm Monday-Friday. For more information contact Robin Trafton, Curator, Commerce Bank, 816.760.7885 or [email protected]