In Case of Emergency
Jessica Sara Wilson at Crush Curatorial
The action is long over, but an unease remains. An ambulance without its siren is like a disaster movie on mute, and we are made to fill in what we know to be there: the soundtrack of catastrophe.
In her show Faulty Bulb at Crush Curatorial, Jessica Sara Wilson has forged a connection between the lighting patterns of emergency vehicles and the soft glow of nightlights. While both are evidence of safety, their presence implies what looms beyond them, whether it be a fire that rages untamed or the monsters under the bed.
After entering the darkened gallery space, a typically opaque press release (please never make me read the word “ontology” in a press release ever again!) refers to the New York Law Code, academic texts, and an NPR online forum. If you can’t read it (it’s dark, after all), your body’s conditioning, which might tense when it sees the flashing lights of law enforcement, will tell you all that you need to know, as the tell tale light patterns of emergency vehicles dominate the next room.
Could be/ would be (2), plugged into an outlet by the floor, is a riff on those light patterns, as it abstracts the colors of ambulance and police car lights by translating them into an amalgam of multicolored nightlights, like a child’s building blocks of primary colors. Suddenly they’re not so scary.
Also highly successful is the Anthony McCall-like It will have been real because it was felt to be real, which interrupts a projection with squares of transparent material, which create a series of variations on the projected image (in a way I’m not sure a photograph can do justice––though this can be said for many of the show’s works). The slicing of the light beam into layers makes it feel tangible, like we could hold it in the palm of our hands. It also distances what it depicts––a fire truck’s light show––from the threat it represents, and instead leaves us with planes of dancing sparks in red and yellow. Again, this translation removes some of the sting of the original image.
Some years after Hurricane Katrina, I visited a nun who had collected the drawings of hundreds of children who had endured the natural disaster. Symbols would emerge across the children’s drawings–– the roofs of houses without foundations, for example––as if there was a universal language of trauma, symbols that stood in for the reality they had experienced.
Trauma does not fall into the neat categories our minds need for smooth processing, but that which surrounds trauma––the systems of aid, the means of processing, the expression of it after the fact––do fall into patterns. Jessica Sara Wilson’s focus on the external signs of trauma close the gap between those patterns and the patterns that make art.
Until March 9, 2019