GHOSTS

2018
Installation, Counterpath, Denver CO
Excavation, flickering street lamp, black-flag curtain, discarded/found furniture sculptures, speakers, amp, mixer, audio sample, color print on canvas, video

With his exhibition Ghosts, Berlin-based, American artist Erik Smith focuses on the material traces of history and memory specific to the Counterpath site and surrounds of Denver’s East Colfax neighborhood, reconfiguring and collaging these to generate “new ambiances and new psychic possibilities” (Debord) for reconsidering the legacies of the area and its present-day meanings.

A temporary excavation of Counterpath’s outdoor lot exposing the former location of a buried oil tank, a long-defunct 1950s street lamp located in front of the building made to flicker at night, and a series of found/discarded furniture collected around the city, painted black, and embedded with speakers emitting the droning and crackling sounds of a flickering fluorescent light form the central sculptural and sonic components of the exhibition. In combination they establish a dichotomy between present and past, positive and void, inside and outside, gallery space and the lot surrounding the Counterpath building, a former auto repair shop built in 1954 and revamped as an exhibition and cultural venue in 2015.

The title, Ghosts, points not only to the partial reanimating of the site’s past identity but also to the many vacant and derelict commercial buildings of this portion of East Colfax Avenue, an area long associated with transience, drug addiction, and prostitution. Smith documented these structures and other abandoned homes while canvassing the area for materials and images, his form of “walking research,” creating a visual archive that reflects psychoanalyst and author Christopher Bollas’s assertion, in his essay on architecture and the unconscious, that “each city has its ghost towns.” These images are presented in the back room in the form of a video slideshow and paired with a dark ambient audio track created by Smith in his Berlin studio, adding a further layer of estrangement to a portrayal of the city at odds with the popular vision of economic boom times.

Themes of urban disaffection also resonate in another large-scale work installed inside the gallery: a series of black 3×5’ vinyl flags, sewn partially together to form a semi-contiguous whole, are presented as an abstract, non-functional domestic element spanning the main wall of the space. The black flags, a symbol rooted in anarchist movements of the nineteenth century, along with the void of the dig and the droning and crackling of the flickering light, allude not only to the precarious reality of neighborhoods, buildings, and domestic objects at the end of their use cycle but also the current political and social unease hanging over society at large. Ghosts are dead buildings as well as the death of ideals around community and a sense of shared destiny today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Din Virulent (Daniel Farrand) - sound
Michael Lowe - modular

Ghosts (flicker) is the live recording of two collaborative sound performances at the opening of artist Erik Smith’s exhibition Ghosts at Counterpath in Denver, CO on November 2, 2018. For the performances, Smith asked Din Virulent and Michael Lowe each to respond to the recording of a flickering fluorescent light that forms the main audio component of the installation by remixing this sample live into original compositions. The performances also pick up on and give sonic form to the themes of the exhibition Ghosts, which examines the history of the gallery building and surrounds of East Colfax Ave., excavating and reanimating various aspects of the Counterpath site, including a long-defunct street lamp modified to flicker at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://counterpathpress.org/erik-smith-ghosts-opening-friday-november-2-6-9pm

 

 

 

 

 

top | back