By Will BowenIf you like optical illusions and how the eyes sometimes play tricks on the mind, then you will enjoy the exhibit that opened Feb. 21 at the University Art Gallery (UAG) in the Mandeville Center on the UC San Diego campus.
The whole gallery white space, including the floor and ceiling, has been integrated into the exhibit. There is a small theater stage in the middle of the floor and what appears to be another small stage hanging upside down from the ceiling.
Around the walls are moveable panels of lemon yellow and lime green material stretched on rectangle PVC frames. Because of their bright colors, these panels cast a strange glow throughout the room. Patrons are invited to move the panels at their whim to create their own configurations and influence the lighting.
On the floor, throughout the room, are life-size photographs of the human figures used in architectural models. These photographs are printed on a special paper and peeled up from the floor at precarious angles. From across the room, it appears as if the photographs are either real people or mannequins or at least three-dimensional in nature.
On opening night it was hard to tell who were the patrons or the professional photographers taking pictures of the exhibit or which were the models. It was quite a surprise to see the bubble of illusion burst when one got up close to the photographs and realized that’s just what they were — two-dimensional oversized photographs.
At a certain point during the opening, three actors strode into the center of the exhibit and began a reading of what appeared to be a postmodern made-for-television play, which was written by Ethan Breckenridge, the artist behind the exhibit.
Breckenridge created the concept of the show, which is called “A Project” with the help of Michelle Hyun, a curatorial fellow at the gallery. The opening and the short play are a part of a series of events that will be happening in the gallery until May 10, when the exhibit closes.
■ Thursday, March 28 at 4 p.m., there will be a premiere screening of a video produced by Breckenridge, which will be shown continuously in the gallery at the back of the exhibit hall thereafter.
■ Wednesday, April 3 at 6 p.m., there will be a lecture by Suhaii Malik, with corresponding shadow puppet performance by Van C. Tran
■ Thursday, April 11 at 4 p.m., there will be a musical performance by Rachel Mason in collaboration with The Preuss School
■ Monday, April 22 at 4 p.m., there will be a lecture by artist Martha Rosler.
■ Thursday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a performance-based workshop by Liz Magic Lazer, in collaboration with actor Audrey Crabtree that draws upon the work of Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal.
In addition, the gallery has extended an invitation to all interested parties to propose an event to be included in the overall series. Such events could include a conference, performance, seminar gabfest and social gathering. E-mail the gallery at email@example.com to be considered.
There is a higher theoretical question behind the photographic exhibit, video, and all the events that are planned. It’s all about the question of hospitality and engagement — all the new ways art galleries are experimenting with to bring potential art patrons to their shows, including the use of social media.
Art galleries are also experimenting with trying to design the impact they will have on their guests and better control what their experiences will be like. The overall aim of this exhibit is to provide a forum for thinking about all the complexities involved in these issues.
When one considers the prominent role the UAG used to play in the art life of the La Jolla community 10 or 20 years ago, and compares it to the narrow elitist orbit it spins around today, it gives one pause for thought.
If you go■ What: ‘We’d Love your Company,’ new project with New York-based artist Ethan Breckenridge
■ When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays through May 10
■ Where: Mandeville Center, UC San Diego
■ Website: universityartgallery. ucsd.edu
■ Admission: Free
■ Related Events: March 28; April 3, 11 and 22; May 9. See story for details.