Almost three years ago, Katelyn Halpern began work on the art installation, “disaster [place],” coming to Deep Space Gallery Thursday, Aug. 4 for for a four-day stint of programming built around it. Halpern, of Jersey City, finished it late summer of last year.
The installation consists of charcoal and India ink on lots of paper, the occasional candle, a clothing rack, curtains, tea service, and more – all of which building on a moment in upstate New York when Halpern “rolled out some craft paper on the kitchen floor, got on (her) knees, swept across the giant page with a screeching piece of charcoal,” according to a press release.
Despite the sound, Halpern found that the words fell “perfectly in a tumbling way.”
The words: “What I would like to say about this place is”
In an interview by email with The Jersey Journal, Halpern elaborated on just what “this place” refers to.
“It is as if there is an unwritten continuation of the line that says ‘this place [that I am], “Halpern said. “The ‘place’ I was trying to talk about in that first piece was impossible to put into words because it quickly became all places, internal and external as well as the specific location I started with. All of that slipperiness surfaces in the installation in questions about other universes, like “Is there a universe in which I can see inside of you? … Questions like this create a direct connection between oneself and the multiplicity of universes in space.
If mountain air is thinner, the space it provided gave Halpern a wider vantage point for [disaster] place.
“The density of the environment where I was working upstate was different from the city,” she said. “The ratio of rocks and trees to people is flipped, and words weigh something different. In that environment, I felt myself in a simpler way where I felt very clear, and was able to connect to these mainline ideas of relationship, precarity, and other universes.
For Halpern, ” the installation challenges the idea of what is ‘a place’ by using the same word to be very specific and external, specific and internal, and also expanding to imagining places beyond the known universe.
“At some point, I realized I was trying to be both completely expansive and extremely specific all in the same work. Moving within the expansive complexity of ‘this place’ became a central delight in the process.
As a title for the installation, “disaster [place]” is intentionally evocative.
“There’s a cosmic tension between creation and destruction that I suppose we could simply call change, and so to name anything as a ‘disaster’ is to tip your hand that you are talking about something from a particular perspective,” Halpern said. “Disaster is quite subjective, so to call anything a disaster is really to say something about yourself. Over time the sense of disaster slipped in and out of focus, usually in counterpoint to space of possibility (‘Is there a universe in which we do not make each other miserable?’). In the installation there is ambiguity about what is pleasant, unpleasant, hurtful, helpful. There is a slippery value system at work even in the title – disaster is an event, not a place, so what is going on here?”
A counterpoint for the idea of disaster is something idyllic, “but almost everything is more complex than that, even beloved places, people, ideas, and things,” Halpern said. “Our world, internal and external, is constantly coming apart and reforming. For someone who struggles with change, things, as a rule, will not feel idyllic.”
In some sense, it seems like Halpern is exploring time with a scope that belies how long-lived a disaster can often feel. But even disasters don’t last forever.
In addition to viewing hours for disaster [place]Deep Space is hosting a slate of events through the weekend, including an open mic.
“’The Disaster Stories’ open mic is the invention of Deep Space gallerists Jenna Geiger and Keith Van Pelt, something they are producing to accompany my installation,” Halpern said. “They wanted a way to connect the installation to the community in another way and get people talking about their own disaster stories. Benedicto Figueroa, local poet and performer and my co-artistic director at SMUSH Gallery, will be hosting. People can come with a story, poem, comedy, dance, music, or anything else to participate.”
The slate of events taking place at Deep Space Gallery, 77 Cornelison Ave, are as follows:
Thursday, Aug. 4 – Opening Reception, 7-11p
Friday, Aug. 5 – Viewing Hours, 7-11p
Friday, Aug. 5 – Disaster Stories Open Mic & Variety Show, Doors open 7 pm, Mic 8 pm
Saturday, Aug. 6 – Viewing Hours, 1 to 11 pm
Saturday, Aug. 6 – Pop Up Market, 1 to 6 pm
Saturday, Aug. 6 – DJs/Music, 8 to 10 pm
Sunday, Aug. 7 – Viewing Hours + Meet the Artist, 1 to 8 pm
The show is free with a suggested donation of $10 to 20. Find Halpern on Instagram @katelynhalperndotcom and Deep Space Gallery at www.deepspacejc.com.