Slack Tide: William Lamson at Artspace

Stills from Lamson’s performance video of “Play/Pause.”

This week in the New Haven Advocate, I review Brooklyn-based artist William Lamson’s Artspace exhibition  Time Is Like the East River, a series of videos, photographs and relics of his performance projects. Organized by Artspace curator Liza Statton, the show aims to explore notions of transformation and chance, and the ways in which time equates with space and distance. Lamson, who had a well-received solo show last year at Pierogi 2000 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is the first artist Artspace has ever invited to occupy the entire exhibition space, and he made much of the work specifically for this show. Here’s an excerpt of the review:

“The project for which the exhibition is titled features video documentation and props from a choreographed boat trip on the East River. Captured on video from the Manhattan Bridge, men in two sawed-off canoes paddle toward each other from separate sides of the screen. They meet in the middle, combine their boats with big clips to make one full-length canoe, adjust their paddles to have but a single end, and proceed together.

“The camera pulls back from a tight shot to reveal the canoe is in the East River with the South Street Seaport and the Brooklyn Bridge behind it. The installation includes the video, one of the paddles, some photographs, and half the canoe, as well as a drawing and a wall clock that has been rigged to measure the speed of the current and the duration of the tides.

“According to the wall notes, the action occurred during the period when there is no appreciable tidal current and the water neither ebbs nor flows. This is known as slack tide, and it’s an apt metaphor for most of the work in this show, which fails to resonate beyond Lamson’s inordinately didactic explanations….

“‘Play/Pause’ may be the least satisfying of the installations, both aesthetically and conceptually. For this work, Lamson created a double-bow machine that shoots arrows in opposite directions. In the performance, which has been documented straightforwardly on video, the arrows were attached to videotape and launched across the room. Lamson views the videotape strung from wall to wall as a chance drawing created in a malleable medium that records time. Time becomes an unpredictable line. Get it? Just in case you don’t, the installation also includes a small video monitor, frozen on a single Yves-Klein-blue frame, arresting time in ‘a state of infinite pause.’ The piece is over-thought, yet undercooked. Projects that riff on different manifestations of time seem pointless unless they either coalesce into some larger critical concept or are so visually prepossessing that they prompt further contemplation on the theme. On neither score does this piece qualify….”

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