February 24, 2009

Wall to Wall: Tape Time at Tjaden

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Upon entering the Tjaden Experimental Gallery last week, one was greeted with an overwhelming sight: the formerly bare white walls were covered in lines upon unevenly spaced lines of blue tape, to a somewhat dizzying effect. Attempting to focus on a wall would be like viewing a Magic-Eye, while everything in the room appeared to be in constant movement. There were several disruptions to help one catch her bearings, however — a bare space on the wall where the tape diminishes around a corner, a clustered shape in an alcove or a gathering around an electrical socket. Remnants of the artist at work were left for the visitor to ponder, as well — a ladder, empty rolls of tape. As the eye wandered upward, the tape began again on small windows that look down into the room from the hallway above, which drew the viewer in from that area. The room was the vision of architecture student Lauren Valchuis ’12, who enlisted the help of friends to put together an installation that addressed the architecture of the room and used tape as a drawing medium, reflecting on how the media of the room and the tape work together in conversation.
Valchuis had previously worked with this medium on small works in her apartment, but wanted to bring the idea to a room of a larger scale for her first installation, in a space where she could overpower the viewer. Interested in structure and composition, Valchuis wanted to use the tape as a narration of the space. With a basic idea in mind, she and three helpers began constructing the space, with Valchuis open to their ideas and input. As a result, features of the design, such as a large J-shape in an alcove that fit perfectly with that section of the wall, were effects of her friends’ creativity. Thus the project began as a collective activity, but stemmed from Valchuis’ original idea, or “curiosity,” as she put it.
The not-entirely-planned nature of the room was evident in the uneven lines which occasionally broke at random, moving along the wall as though reflections of its imperfections. Electrical sockets, fire alarms and light switches were all occasions for “interruptions” in the architecture, which were highlighted by peculiar clusters of tape. However, there did not have to be an object obstructing the path of the tape in order to have a break — often the tape stopped to form an impromptu line made from empty white space down the wall, or to uncover peeling paint. In this way, the tape worked in harmony with the space, and exposed the story of the room. Fulfilling Valchuis’ idea that the tape could be used in the same manner as a pencil, the tape sketched out the space. When a visitor walked into this room, it was as though she were walking into a 3-D drawing.
The exhibition began as a collective activity, and it also ended that way. At the reception this past Friday for the show, Valchuis and her guests removed the tape from the walls and created a large tape ball. The visitors were able to participate and interact much in the same way that Valchuis’ friends were able to when constructing the installation, but this interaction undid the sketch. While Valchuis enjoyed this endeavor as her first installation, she says, “Next time I will be a bit more rigorous, or I might try to have two separate spaces in conversation with each other … I think it was a good start and it left me with a lot to think about.”