29 March 2011

oona Eiren's "You Are Sleeping" at PiRats

I first saw oona Eiren's work when she sent me a notecard expressing interest in building at Split Screen and inviting me to see one of her installations. I was immediately struck by her "retro-futuristic grunge" style, her use of sound and interactivity, and her tongue-in-cheek humor, and I invited her to Split Screen where she built "Live!" She's gone on to create several other impressive and fun installations, re-using and building upon various motifs (vacuum tube electronics, horns, TVs and hi-fi's, various sounds, etc), introducing new elements like video and motion-picture textures, and all in all, expanding in the general directions that struck me in the first place.

oona's newest installation, "You Are Sleeping" at PiRats La Manufacture Art Gallery, creates an enormous shift in tone. The humor that pervaded her previous works has been supplanted by a troubled sense of foreboding. Entering the piece, you hear the refrain "You are sleeping ... you do not want to believe" repeated over and over. The visitor is advised to wear a gas mask. At ground level you walk through a tunnel to a TP that brings you to the main build. Wind howls as you make your way through the fumes and gasses, to enter a room that seems like a cross between a lab and a manufacturing facility. At one side are five crates that seem to contain a person numbly floating and gesturing outward. At the other side, manikin-like figures with boxes for their eyes and images flashing across their bodies, are lined up along a wall as if on standby. A few of them slide about the room, perhaps attending to the crates with their human cargo; elsewhere, perhaps a couple dozen of these robot forms mill about, each seeming to have a purpose but as a whole producing a feeling of aimlessness. Even though several of oona's regular motifs are present, mostly at other levels and other sections of this large build, they are much curtailed. Overall, the work presents a world of disturbing dehumanization. You does not want to believe; you hope you are sleeping.

"You Are Sleeping" develops a much greater narrative sensibility than oona's previous builds, and I have no qualms about saying that it's her best work yet.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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