The Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery is two stories high. It’s airy with lots of windows, and you can see the art from several vantage points, which is one of the first things that excited and inspired Puerto Rican artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens. That, and the sheer size of the gallery, which allows for four distinct areas in her exhibition, including a small room, or tunnel that has both audio and visual art.
“Pretty much I decided to build this box or this room inside an installation. So it is part of the installation but it becomes like a tunnel or underground, underwater space. Because of the visuals that we are seeing, which are very watery or out of focus, ah, bluish type of imagery. And then the sound of water which is muted with a lot of bass, kind of the way things sound when you are underwater. It relates to the installation outside. We are standing in a large map with a lot of placards, with text, information, photographs, and as you begin reading through it you notice that it deals with air travel, underwater travel. If you start on one side you read about the Bermuda Triangle, or if you start on the other side you read about the Great Lakes Triangle. In my mind, the tunnel in the middle, it’s this tunnel that I created that starts deep undersea in the Caribbean and connects to Lake Michigan.”
The large map the artist is referring to takes up most of the exhibition space, extending to the ceiling on three sides. It includes curved lines made out of reflective tape on the walls, tiny objects sitting on small metal shelves, pictures and short bits of text. The artist says she designed it to be absorbed by the observer a little at a time.
Collazo-Llorens: As you keep navigating it goes into subjects that are related to navigation. I’m ultimately interested in how we navigate in our minds…how we do that navigation.
Lorraine Caron: How do we?
Collazo-Llorens: It’s non-linear, let’s start there. It’s fascinating, because it’s not only what we are reading or hearing, often at the same time, it’s what we are simultaneously thinking, what we might be smelling or touching. So, all the senses are involved in this process. And, how we edit without knowing, without noticing. All of these…I’m fascinated by it.
Collazo-Llorens tries to put herself in the shoes of the exhibition viewer. She says she loves watching people when they are in front of, or right in the midst of, her art.
“It’s seeing people react to it, and seeing them navigate it," she says. "Because there are several ways that you can do so. It’s sort of labyrinthian because of the two entrances to the tunnel, and the other space in the room. So, I’m intrigued when people come in and I see them smiling and pointing, and questioning whether some of the information is true. Or even what memory that may trigger. And, that’s what I’m going for.”
An Exercise in Numbness and Other Tales will be on display at the Richmond Center for the Visual Arts at WMU through October 5.