Galleries have gallerinas that man (or woman) the front desk. They have three-ring binders on the desk chock-a-block full with artist data. They have walls with red dots and wall labels. They have lighting, walls (and floors and ceilings). Front offices, back offices, storage, and (hopefully), loos.
And they also have space dedicated, formally or not, to the viewing of art.
Perhaps the space part is taken as a given. As Didier Fiuza Faustino’s “Point Break,” a site-specific installation that applies conceptual vigor with a minimum of means to create a deceptively simple metaphor for the mechanics of the art viewing experience, demonstrates, it shouldn’t.
The installation consists of a swatch of chain link fence, capped with barbed wire. One end hangs high up on the gallery wall. As it cascades down, diagonally, across the space, Faustino twists it, as if he were making a Mobius Strip, so that it reaches the opposite wall upside down, so that the barbed wire faces the floor. In the middle is a small space through which a viewer, were she so inclined, might crawl.
It’s got that Cubist grid, found object feel, fabricated, urban, to which Faustino has added his own signature flourish, the twist. This in turn makes you think of those Escher drawings where disembodied hands sketch images of themselves. Not to mention the cheeky childhood delinquency of lifting up a circus tent to see what’s going on inside.
Considered in the context of Brian Doherty’s iteration of the gallery space as a white cube, the piece broaches questions of the accessibility of art. With the exception of the fence, the gallery is empty. The fence creates a buffer between the viewer and the walls. It allows the viewer to see the wall but prevents them from approaching it. The barbed wire at the top symbolizes the challenge of trying to get closer (physically, intellectually, emotionally) to the work.
It doesn’t steer us one way or another; it just clarifies the viewing space. He addresses casual Twitter/ADD/ opening-night glances at the same time that he encourages protracted gazes, by providing a view, through the chain link, and an ingress, under the fence, to let the work wash over – or whatever the hell it does - over the viewer.
Just as a monastery and its rituals sanctify space and time, so too does Faustino’s installation privilege the space in which we view art.
You may notice a church’s sensuous stuff - incense, music, candles – but that’s not the same thing as buying into the liturgy of whatever particular creed is being hosted.
Same with a gallery.
You can notice price lists, red dots, didactic panels or, existentially, you can say, fuck it, and consider the time it takes to consider the space contained therein for what it is, something created by a human being and, as such, to be treated as something which, at the bare minimum, can, if we crawl under the fence, tell us what it’s like to be human.