I am not a particularly emotional person. Just ask my family, friends and colleagues who can attest to the fact that my stoic, Northern European roots run deep.
But this afternoon was different. Jason Dankel, the RMG Preparator, had installed the last work in the exhibition Moving Image. The lighting wasn’t done, nor the cards up, but the work was on the wall by mid-afternoon. I was in the space, on my own, and stood in front of Cuban-Canadian artist José Seoane’s Untitled oars that represented the experiences of those who risked their lives in small boats with handmade oars to make the treacherous trip across the open waters from Cuba to Miami. As I reflected on that work, the sound of avante-garde composer William Basinki’s video Disintegration Loop played behind me. Basinski had completed his composition on the morning of 9/11 and was playing it to a friend on the roof of his New York City apartment when the Twin Towers were hit. He set up a camera and recorded the waning hours of daylight with plumes of black smoke drifting across the sky as the sun set. He combined the music of the Disintegration Loops with the video to create an elegy to that unforgettable day.
So I listened to it, while looking at José’s oars, knowing that Abdullah Syed’s Rug of Drones, an installation of 107 planes in the exhibition Beyond Measure, and constructed of blades from box cutters—and which also clearly referenced 9/11, was on the other end of the gallery. And the oars were no longer specific to fleeing Cubans, but to the thousands of refugees who are risking it all to seek a safer and better life away from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya …
And the picture of a three year old boy flashed in my mind.
And how could one not be moved.
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Above Image: José Seoane’s, Untitled