Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Staten Island art show 'Smell of a Critical Moment' to highlight the odors of Occupy Wall Street
Things got rank. Protesters — hundreds of them — spent days camped out in Zuccotti Park with little access to soap and water.
But that unwashed scent is nothing to be ashamed of. It carries "chemosensory messages" which united participants. And these fragrant transmissions constitute art, according to Gayil Nalls, a sculptor and interdisciplinary artist.
Her installation, "The Smell of a Critical Moment," is a clothes rack of 41 T-shirts worn by OWS protesters for one busy week last month. It’s in the tiny Doorway Gallery, 62 Van Duzer St., in Tompkinsville through Feb. 11.
How does it smell? Sharp. Not dirty or unsanitary exactly, but musky and strong.
Odor, the artist believes, works like language, "influencing our emotions, behavior and judgments, as well as our sense of beauty."
The show’s curator, 26-year-old Sophia Marisa Lucas, a masters (art history) candidate at Hunter College and a St. George resident, did much of the legwork for the show.
Last month, at OWS, she distributed 99 plain, white, V-necked cotton tee shirts in Ziplock bags with instructions: Wear for a week, refrain from laundering and return. She got 41 back, one or two with unsolicited decoration.
An OWS participant herself, she worked with the library committee and donned a "Critical Moment" tee. Participants were asked to supply profiles and short statements. Both are reproduced on tags pinned to the shirts.
"I was just walking by and I joined the protest," wrote one. Another cited a quotation from reggae musician Bob Marley: "The people that are trying to make then world worse never take a day off, why should I?"
At Doorway, the shirts are hung in a wide shallow alcove at the back of the gallery, a 400-square-ft. storefront. The alcove traps and concentrates the aroma. Photographs and a tape of a drum circle, recorded at the occupation, are part of the installation.Ms. Lucas became aware of Ms. Nalls two years ago when she was doing research at Snug Harbor’s Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art. Ms. Nalls, who is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Corcoran Gallery, participated in a group sculpture show (with an outdoor installation called "Three Squared") at the Harbor in 1990.
In the interim, Ms. Nalls has developed an interest in olfactory art. Her "World Sensorium" an explosion of scents, was detonated over Time Square on New Year’s Eve 2000. Ms. Lucas now works for Ms. Nalls part-time while she begins work on her masters thesis.
Ms. Nalls will give a talk Feb. 11 at a closing party (7 to 9 p.m.) for "The Smell of a Critical Moment." For an appointment to see/smell the show, call 617-285-6281.
The Doorway gallery is on the Second Saturdays circuit, a monthly schedule of contemporary art shows in small spaces (often private homes) in St. George/New Brighton/Tompkinsville.