Can you feel it? at Commonwealth & Council

July 8—August 19, 2017


Commonwealth and Council presents an exhibition of recent work by Jeanine Oleson that pushes against the membrane between the expressible and the inexpressible—a layer of skin or misunderstanding that keeps one’s interiority from reaching the surface. Oleson looks for ways out: the belly button, the eye, the ear. “Can you feel it?” explores the limits of consciousness within one’s own experience.

The sculptures presented here, like all of Oleson’s work, are at once symbolic relics and conductors of phenomenology. For example, a hand-blown glass instrument illustrates the body’s negotiation with its surroundings, externalizing the functions of the breath. It was used in a recent performance at the Hammer Museum, in which three performers created sound through both breath and body temperature. In this exhibition, a transducer speaker made with a shell amplifies sound produced by the instrument’s sensors, as well as recordings from the performance. The shell here is not an object of childhood wonderment, an aural conduit of the sea, but a technical form of volume.

“Figures of Speech”(2016) reveals the normally hidden processes that allow materials to become functional. Performers transmute copper and clay into a speaker that is both object and subject—a vehicle for expression and a signifier of the precedent labor and the artist’s body of research. The performers themselves are conductors of sound and remind us of our own mechanisms to understand one another.

This material investigation is broadened to include 3D imaging technology, or the fascination with rendering in a mediated manner something that is already three-dimensional. Cyan and red are immediate denotations of enhanced dimensionality, although ultimately arbitrary choices and could be other chromatically opposite colors. This idea that we must make perceptible what is already visible, audible, or three-dimensional, becomes profound absurdity.