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Arts and Entertainment

An experiential exhibit: Arts West opens new gallery

Art can be many things — a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, even a film. Rarely, though, is it a room with walls made of latex.
Well, not just latex. Three makeshift muslin walls, coated in latex, with eight-inch LCD screens in the center and one screen dangling from the ceiling make up the latest gallery installation in Arts West.

Artists Mark Robinson and Will Taylor have spent the last four years on the project and are now showcasing it at Elon. The gallery opened the evening of Oct. 8.

Each screen broadcasts a loop of overlaid film images tracked to a mélange of unearthly and disturbing sounds. Images of centipedes crawling over a rock are melded with an echocardiogram image, while shots of a prison, a spacewalk and a piano are superimposed upon each other.

Successfully viewing the images requires one to get very close to the screen, coupling the viewing experience with the stink of latex and the thudding music.

Taylor is a teacher of drawing at the North Carolina School of the Arts with a background in painting, while Robinson is the multimedia lab director at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Together, their varied backgrounds and interests create unique visual art borders on the philosophical. They insist that questions are the answers and that they wish viewers to question their art and walk away from a life-altering event.

“I don’t like the idea of the experience leaving you after you exit the gallery,” Taylor said.

It will be hard for any viewer to forget the experience of seeing this art. Viewing the gallery is a very personal experience, and the artists assured people at the opening event there was no right or wrong way to experience the exhibit.

Taylor likened the exhibit to an entity or a person.

“You can’t just go up to someone and say, ‘explain yourself,” he said.

The message the installation sends is exactly that — it cannot be explained. Trying to make linear sense out of the artwork is just as productive as hitting your head against a wall: All it will do is cause a headache.

The videos just are, in and of themselves, alone or all together. Everything, including the layout of the latex walls and position of the speakers, was done purposefully by the artists to create a mood. What that mood is, though, is entirely up to the patron to decide.

The music was intended to evoke a sad response, according to Robinson, but nausea and other unpleasant emotions can also be evoked.

Even the artists have different experiences with their own work. All  four of the videos were compiled at different times and are only now being viewed in conjunction. Taylor described one particular video alone as it reminded him of a painful memory, while Robinson simply claimed a melancholy or depressed feeling.

“I felt knocked off balance,” said senior Jim Hennon, who attended the gallery’s premiere. “We try to relate things we see to our own experiences when we see things that we haven’t experienced. We are kind of confused, and try to make sense of it. When you view (Robinson and Taylor’s art), you make a new construction in your mind.”

The exhibition runs until Nov. 5 and is open to the public.

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