For a few weekends in January, if you walked down the stairs to Dupont Underground, you’d see images projected onto the curved walls, shapes that only exist in artist John Colette’s virtual medium. Flowy white ribbons that a friend lovingly dubbed “vanilla soft serve,” prisms protruding like a spiked ball, and a nebulous sea of blue and red waves were among the sensory experiences in the subterranean art gallery.
The screens alternated from one image to the next, and sometimes blurry, black-and-white images of people emerged: a crowd in a town square, a Trump rally, silhouettes running from something and shadows walking across the screen. Colette’s exhibit, “(in)sensible,” asked viewers to ruminate on the ideas of both “becoming and unbecoming.”
Colette described the shapes as “pure simulation, managed within a purely computational void.” In this way, the shapes felt both foreign and recognizable all at once. It was hard not to compare them to our reality. They looked like atoms, cells, viruses – these little building blocks to life. When the screens switched to the shots of people walking or at rallies, the shift brought viewers back to the reality those building blocks had created.
Only one hallway was open, inspiring shorter visits. There were just a few of us, masked and distanced, watching the shapes move on the walls on a Saturday afternoon. Even with a small group, doors were open and the space provided necessary ventilation for the maximum 45 people allowed inside. As we focused on the screens, we were conscious of each other, the virus shape a reminder of the air around us.
Colette, who currently works at the Savannah College of Art and Design, wrote in an artist’s statement: “Dis-integration follows form. It is the collapse of form, its mirror image. It is the pattern recognition of overload and broken signals. We oscillate between these states.”
Watching the shapes move from white ribbons to waves to people milling in a town square, I felt that oscillation in our own D.C. community. We’ve been overloaded and in many ways have collapsed over the past year, but we’ve also adapted to create safe spaces where we can enjoy the city together. Dupont Underground hosting the “(in)sensible” exhibit opened up a new way to think of our oscillating society.
And starting this month, Dupont Underground will host “The February Install,” which will showcase Black artists’ and collective organizations’ creative endeavors during the pandemic. Set to open on Friday, February 12, “The February Install” will feature artists Kandi Boi Collective, Ismael Oates (Izzy), Born Universal, Freedom Futures Collective, Kenyssa Evans (KEN), Allen-Golder Carpenter and Jessica Udeh. There will also be performances by Yacine Tilala Fall, Sifu Sun and Java (Oracle).
Nora van Trotsenburg, Dupont Underground’s operations manager, shared that “[the] term ‘install’ refers to the act of taking space, building out and standing one’s ground.” In a time of so much fluctuation between breaking and remaking, and comfort and discomfort, “The February Install” should be the perfect follow up to “(in)sensible’s” call to consider our collective becoming and unbecoming.
“The February Install” will open February 12 from 4-8:30 p.m. and will be on view until March 21 at 19 Dupont Cir. NW, DC. For more about Dupont Underground’s safety protocols and upcoming shows, visit www.dupontunderground.org, and follow @dupontunderground on Instagram and @dupontundergrnd on Twitter.
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