A man picks his way across a wooded hillside, a curious reluctance in his step. In a small, two-door hatchback, pale mushrooms sprout from car seats. Drawings of edibles spread across the walls of a windowless room, where wooden furniture beckons to sit, linger, and enjoy the view. A dumpster doubles as a hot tub next to an arrangement of plywood benches and white ceramic tubs, inviting the weary to bathe their feet in salubrious salts. Close by, a set of coal-black bowls nestles into itself, while dust motes dance in a glow of orange light. Ladders and levels, carefully stacked and precariously balanced, take on a life of their own, remote from practical purpose. Paintings lazily lean against walls, carefully blending into the surrounding space as if designed to be inconspicuous. At the same time, they insist on drawing attention to the habitually overlooked: a piece of masking tape, a nail fastening a piece of paper to a wall, a thermostat’s hard plastic shell. The eight artists in “Human Pyramid” share an attraction to the ordinary, which, on closer inspection, appears anything but mundane. Emphatically antimonumental, the work on view examines quotidianobjects, habits, and relationships, transforming them into something eerily familiar that, at the same time, estranges what typically hovers right around the threshold of the noticed. While the direction toward embracing the ordinary has gained momentum in contemporary art since the mid-1990s,1 much of the art displayed in “Human Pyramid” inhabits the gallery space with an ease not necessarily characteristic of its creative predecessors. Rather than document interventions in the everyday, outside of the gallery, the artists create encounters inside the gallery, experiences that invite us to savor the delicate strangeness on display. Still, more is at stake than simply de-familiarizing what we may take for granted. The artists ask us to apprehend “the object as if it was unfamiliar, so that we can attend to the flow of perception itself.”2 Following Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, philosophers concerned with experience grounded in the body, “Human Pyramid” challenges the Cartesian hierarchy of mind over body and probes the flow of perception. The resulting work offers passages through the ordinary that are often poetic, sometimes gutsy, critical, and intimate.
Daniel Dean, et al., “Passages Through the Ordinary: Human Pyramid.” 2013 University of Minnesota Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition: Human Pyramid. 2013.