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The SMU faculty exhibition at the MAC just closed, but I wanted to report my experience of Jay Sullivan’s new work. From a distance, the installation looks like a geology display: a table of rocks. However, closer looking reveals something conspicuous … a few of these rocks are digital 3D manufactured forms, barely given away by their consistent powdery surface and “stair-step edges.”

This initial clue prompts further examination. Some of the other “rocks” are not rocks at all, but rather hunks of metal, bronze or something from a foundry (discarded). Man-made objects look like a natural formations and everything falls under suspicion.

In the next stage of awareness, found myself asking “why are there digital printouts of rocks sitting next to found objects …are there any ‘real’ rocks here?” The limits of the visual senses are quickly reached and I had to touch & pick something up. Each “rock” looks like it weighs 5lbs. But first one I pick up is PAPER … light as a feather!

I have to pick up another, just to find out. Actually, nobody can resist touching the rocks. Even kids squeal when they experience the visual conflict between perception and identity.

The next “rock” I picked up was a real rock … a mild surprise at this point. Nothing special about this except for the context it was in.

The next form was a hunk of bronze, very heavy. There was another identical bronze hunk (seemingly) beside it, which turned out to be folded tin. I felt like a little kid getting to know the world for the first time.

Everyone around the table became highly attuned to surface, edge and the weight distribution of each object (which is pretty amazing). And I found the destabilization of recognition to enhance the forms potential for metaphor.


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