The latest visual arts venue to grace Austin with its presence is a small house gallery organized by Brian Wiley and Thao Votang. Over the years, “house shows” have acquired a bad reputation. They typically lack the proper lighting, space organization and overall rarely achieve a decent balance between home space and gallery space. However, Tiny Park epitomizes a home that is a gallery.
Tiny’s inaugural exhibition featured an interactive installation, FEAR by Deborah Stratman and prints by UT grad student, Miguel Aragon. The small home turned gallery evokes awe upon crossing the threshold. Aragon’s work inhabits the main space of the home gallery. His prints are beautiful, ethereal, ghostly and violent. His prints are appropriated images of extreme drug war violence from the daily newspaper in his hometown of Juarez, Mexico. Aragon abstracts images into fragments that are reminiscent of shattered glass. And just like shattered glass, strewn about on the kitchen floor; we automatically begin to piece it back together again. While viewing his work, we mentally fill in the various spaces that the artists intentionally left blank. Every cut, burn, and imprints of the page is symbolic to the division, violence, and sadness that plagues Juarez on a daily basis. Like a newspaper, we read Aragon’s prints from left to right. We become outsiders looking into a broken world that we mentally scotch tape back together.
While Aragon’s violent yet ethereal prints greet the viewers at the front door, Stratman’s FEAR installation is in a room located to the left of the main space. Inside the room is an old wooden desk, a chair, a desk lamp and a red telephone. Do not be fooled by the lack of decoration. Everyone in the entire home gallery is interacting with the piece whether they know it or not. Stratman’s installation asks viewers to sit at the desk and dial a “fear” hotline where you will then confess your greatest fears. Confessing fear appeared to be more intense and uncertain than any of the viewers anticipated. Not uncertain of the installation, but uncertain of whether or not you are heard. Questions race through your mind, what if someone hears me? Will I be laughed at? Is it safe? Can my voice be tracked?? Sitting at the desk, participants become engrossed in the realization that they are alone with their fears. The noise of lingering gallery visitors in the main space becomes a faint soundtrack in the background as you wrestle with yourself about whether or not to confess. And as you wrestle with your own demons you can’t help but read the small card on the desk next to the telephone: The more you desire safety the more there is to fear.