I went to Aurora: Area 3 in Dallas on opening weekend. Cars were lined up waiting to enter. This bodes well for Aurora, since the event is a fundraiser for Aurora’s Artist Relief Fund, dedicated to supporting local artists and vendors whose income has been affected by the pandemic.
As this was only my third art adventure since the pandemic began, I was psyched. Similar to previous Aurora iterations, this version included 15 regional artists working with light, sound and video installations. (Aurora is a public, outdoor new-media biennial staged in Dallas; it launched in 2010.)
What was unusual was the format: a drive-through, stay-in-your-car art experience. While this is a brilliant solution for a Covid-safe art happening, I admit to feeling frustrated with not having enough time to view each work. Although the cars were spaced, we had to keep moving, and didn’t have the luxury to process and reflect on the work. Also: I desperately wanted to get out of my car to look more closely at each installation. But overall, those were minor concerns.
Now on to the art. Some nice work in here.
Alicia Eggert’s projected text installation The Future Comes From Behind Our Backs cleverly resembles a car wash experience, minus the water and soap. As we enter the mitters (the long strands that normally slap your car), the car is bathed in purple, then red light. The space is engulfed by text that reads There Is No Beginning, The Future Comes From Behind Our Back and There Is No End. I interpret the words as a prophetic message: we are in grave danger of history repeating itself, despite the in-our-face warning lights.
Julie Libersat’s installation Golden Hour responds to the parking garage’s structure and function. Large screens depict a simulated-video driving experience through a parking garage, asking viewer and driver to question what is real and what is simulated.
Blake Weld’s Dryer’s on the fritz made me smile. The kinetic sculptural installation does not rely on lights and video projection for effect. Five dinged and dented clothes dryers rumble and bounce on wheels, sounding as if there’s a shoe stuck in the cycle.
Sacred City Plans: There Are Other Worlds by Francine Thirteen resembles an elaborate altarpiece. What I originally thought were figures are actually handwoven textiles that reference star systems, ancient civilizations and spiritual practices. Her artist statement mentions creating an energy vortex.
Purity Ball by Danielle Georgiou features a set of three drawn circles. Each circle houses a chair, TV set and a mirrored ball. The work references 19th-century séance rooms where people use haunted objects to connect to the spirit world. The title reminded me of a scene from Georgiou and Justin Locklear’s film The Savage Seconds where a young girl is forced to participate in a strange father/daughter dance that celebrates her purity.
The two installations Laser Wash by Melanie Clemmons & Zak Loyd, and EPHEMERAL, ephemeron by Brandy Michele Adams & Michael Moore & Robert Anthony, are trippy, and immerse viewers’ cars with color and light projections. The latter transported me to space, complete with stars and planets.
Zuyva Sevilla’s work Synistanai also references simulations of the universe. The 15-channel video installation uses 100 computer monitors to display morphing images that ebb, flow and evolve.
The Chamber by David Stout is a colorful, complex, site-specific video installation combining architecture, animation and sound symbolizing a funerary chamber that contains a threshold between loss and fear the leads to transformation and renewal. The work suggests ceremonial immersion as a means to facilitate hope and change.
Tramaine Townsend’s video projections, titled Suspense, feature silhouetted figures looking at phones. At first, I assumed it was a reflection upon our over-reliance on technology and disconnectedness from human interactions, exacerbated by Covid — but the glowing eyes added a more sinister context, suggesting an alien or zombified nature built into the human condition.
My favorite installation, CMD + Copy by Eric Trich and Taylor Cleveland, features an eerie, plastic-wrapped structural forest with large-scale projected images of A.I. generated human faces. The plastic wrap creates an unusual projection surface, distorting and distressing the human faces as they stare, smiling but unblinking, at the viewers.
The parking garage proved to be an interesting architectural space for the artists’ installations. It provided a dark environment without visual and auditory background distractions. If you’re in DFW, I’d consider Aurora: Area 3 a must-see event — one that is family friendly. For maximum viewing pleasure, bring the convertible with the top down. I plan to return for another visit before it closes.
On view through Jan. 1, 2021. Go here for information.