Density, tension and narrative – Jasper Spicero’s Centers in Pain

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Brooklyn-based artist Jasper Spicero presents Centers in Pain at New Galerie in Paris. ‘Centers in Pain’ is a project that originally took place in a minimum security jail in Portland, Oregon. Following its completion in 2004, the prison was abandoned and maintenance personnel was reduced due to lack of operational funds. A 10-ton structure that crushed one of the prison corridors and that is gradually destroying the sewage system connected to the nearest water reservoir depicted a ‘center in pain’. Now used on occasions as a film set, Spicero rented the facility for four days although it remained inaccesible to the general public. The project was later translated to a website, a video work, a script and sculptural objects.

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers in Pain, detail. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers in Pain, detail. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The tagline to the project “in every patient a center in pain” draws a parallelism between institutional architecture and individuals who are subjected to the power of such institutions. In the three rooms at New Galerie we encounter visible signs of passing, such as distressed clothing and furniture. At times resembling a film set, the objects are arranged to look like detention facilities or mental insitutions with the room upstairs organised as a canteen or a common area of sorts and the two rooms downstairs as sleeping quarters. The sculptural objects made up of daycare furniture, hand sewn fabric, tape recorders and digital prints and their organisation within the space, construct a singular narrative, creating one shared environment that presents institutionality as an entity that exerts the same power in all institutional contexts. Despite the fact that the work can be given a Foucauldian reading, Spicero’s research seems more interested in how one constructs the real by means of various interconnected media and evocation through organisations that function as constructed scenographies.

S.M.A.R.T. Picture frame purple, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
S.M.A.R.T. Picture frame purple, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The use of different media, namely video, sculpture, scripts and other textual elements create a multi-layered networked environment that bypasses the singularity of the objects, guiding the viewer towards an immersive experience that relies heavily on spatial and temporal variables. The work exists within a doubled dynamic of activity and non-activity that is not triggered by human interaction but rather, is conditioned by other factors such as the institutional character of the space, limited accesibility and the narrative density and organisation of all the elements. Spicero manages to create a tension that one could perhaps define as active staticity, a tension created through moments of non-activity in the space and the static relationship between the sculptural objects. It is primarily a narrative technique derived from survival horror video games and that is built on spatial intervention and temporal longevity. The use of such techniques sheds light on Spicero’s main enquiry, namely, recreating a fictive universe that is dense enough to be experienced as real.

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers In Pain video system. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris
Centers In Pain video system. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The show at New Galerie functions primarily as an archivization of this project. The viewer is presented with a perfectly functioning shell that is reminscent of film set memorabilia. It does not disclose new information, but through a reorganisation of all the elements, it inscribes yet another layer to an already dense and populated narrative.

Spicero was born in 1990 in Yankton, USA. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, USA.

Centers in Pain on view at New Galerie through July 11.

Jasper Spicero Centers in Pain New Galerie

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2 thoughts on “Density, tension and narrative – Jasper Spicero’s Centers in Pain

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