Friday, April 1, 2022

Surface Tension at ICA Central

by Patricia Frischer

Pinar Yoldas (B.1979, Turkey)

The title of this show Surface Tension at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (on view until June 26)  is a starting place for lots of issues raises in this exhibition of videos from seven artists, 2 from the US, 2 from the UK and one each from Turkey, Canada, and Germany.  


We know that surface tension is what makes water able to swell just above the rim of a glass. It is a force that is exerted but that can be easily pierced. It is what make the ocean look like a hard surface from above and what makes it so dangerous to fall into it if you belly flop.  In our world, the oceans are the largest mass and vital to our existence. They are fragile, endangered, mysterious, and powerful.


Although I had a hard time with the definitions used in the show of connect and resist, I can see negative and positive aspects to our relationship with the oceans. I will admit that I felt tension in this show which presents more negative concerns than positive aspects. But it is not the job of the artist to give us solutions to the problems of the universe, but maybe just hold up a mirror which magnifies those problems.

The video of Sue Austin of a woman in a wheel chair exploring the undersea landscape was a delightful entrance at the top of the gallery as was the morphing video of Pinar Yoldas. 

Marina Zurkow screens which seem to depict colorful drawings of water molecules or one cell animals of the deep were nestled into a backdrop of the real detritus from ocean vessels and was the only display that was not solely a video screen. 

I thought the most impressive and compelling work was that by Ulu Braun which scans a scene from ocean to river to ocean with Boomerang images cleverly inserted including a huge plastic water bottle made to appear like a fountain filling a lake. 

I was actually calmed by Charles Atlas with the double screen sunset as letters slowing appeared one after the other, until odd written combinations were revealed. 

The most depressing and scary interactive presentation was by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. You got to choose between four options and you could end where you started at emptiness or go through the eyes of the "seer" to witness the destruction. 

Ulu Braun (B. 1976, Germany), Marina Zurkow (B. 1962, US), Pinar Yoldas (B.1979, Turkey), Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (B. 1995, UK)


Charles Atlas (B. 1949, US)

Charles Atlas (B. 1949, US)

Marina Zurkow (B. 1962, US) - previously with a full show at ICA North

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (B. 1995, UK)

Caroline Monnet (B. 1985, Canada)

Sue Austin (B. London, 1965)

Sue Austin (B. London, 1965)


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