Monday, September 20, 2010

REVIEW: Jonathan Harris at the Firehouse, Burlington

by Darby Parsons

Jonathan Harris’ show Inner Landscapes is in place at the Firehouse Gallery in Burlington until October 23rd. The internationally shown Vermont native has nine unique and relevant pieces on display. Several of the pieces are highly interactive and one should expect to be absorbed into some of the works for a time. Harris combines “anthropology, software development, complex systems analysis, graphic design and storytelling” artistically and eloquently. This is not a typical art experience.
We Feel Fine seeks to collect global evidence of human feelings. A large screen is filled with lists of feelings; each one is followed by little dots. If you click on a dot you will see a blog entry posted within the past 48 hours, and usually much more recent, most of them tell the sex, age and location of the original person who posted the entry. I click next topregnant and a young woman in Australia has recently posted “I can’t even believe what I’m feeling. Everyone keeps telling me I’m pregnant but I can’t believe it.” It’s simple and direct but the empathy and relation and complete non-relation to whichever entries you end up reading is striking. A large grid of postcard like photographs fills the wall next to the screen. Each photo is a seemingly randomly chosen shot with an emotion line printed onto them.
The Whale Hunt documents Harris’ journey on an Inupiat whale hunt in Alaska; his crisp, clean digital prints are vibrant as though you can touch the waves, the dead whale and feel the cold. A large screen near the photos offers a more interactive view. The photos move forward in chronological order. Harris took at least one photo every five minutes, except when his heart was beating faster and then he shot accordingly. The viewer can move along this heart rate line to different parts of the story.
Several of the conceptions would be difficult to explain and I can only hope I’ve interested you enough that you’ll go explore for yourself. So you have over a month, until October 23, to make it to Jonathan Harris’ show Inner Landscapes at the Firehouse Gallery on Church Street.