Solipsism is the theory that only one’s own mind can be proven to exist. Artist Caitlin G. McCollom explores themes of the solipsistic self in contrast with one’s physical presence in the exhibition The Lustration, on display at Big Medium through September 28th. Her work plays off of the subtle line between absence and presence.
With very few materials, questions of reflexive identity are posed. It is conceptually dense while aesthetically uncomplicated. Bamboo skewers that penetrate a bare white wall state their physical presence. Slightly less obvious are the delicate shadows that are cast on the surface of the wall, their permanence in question. They serve as an indexical signifier; their existence is completely dependant on a physical object but also simultaneously prove the existence of that object. We can understand that the bamboo does exist because of the presence of the shadow. However, the shadow will never appear without the bamboo skewer and some sort of light source.
McCollom’s experimental paintings refute the action of seeing as evidence of existence. At first sight they appear as bare white paper contained in white frames. Closer inspection, or a glance over the title list, is required to notice the ink and varnish that grace the surface. The paintings display materials in pure form; they are cleansed of decorative devices.
The cinematic aspect of The Lustration was in the midst of installation at the time I visited the gallery. Parts of the completed whole hinted towards the experience of the physical body. Video projections progressed at a sedated pace as a milky substance seeped down a figure, assuring the physical nature of its existence. However, in the space of Big Medium, the physicality portrayed in the projection is mere illusion. While a body is evident, all the viewer really experiences is the arrangement of light on a white wall. McCollom questions her corporeal self through her performative piece The Lustration; the viewer is left skeptical of that physicality through the experience of projection.
The Lustration is a thought-provoking exhibition that poses many questions without offering any definitive conclusion. It is on view at Big Medium until the 28th of September. Don’t miss the opening reception on September 1st, 7-10pm.