Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lotte Geeven's "Vigor" at the May Gallery

Linked by water in the form of shipping and flooding, New Orleans and the Netherlands share a long history. Our locally invented pumps, built to keep a wet city dry, were long ago adopted by the Dutch, but since then they have excelled in water management while we fell behind until Hurricane Katrina motivated us to adopt some of their techniques. Besides engineers, Dutch artists have increasingly visited, intrigued by the similarities and differences, and although much of their population also lives below sea level, the Netherlands is north European and orderly, whereas Nola is tropical, spontaneous and messy. Dutch artist Lotte Geeven brings scientific tidiness, as well as a cerebral sort of spontaneity, to her massive Vigor installation at May. The product of a two month residency funded by local and Dutch institutions, Vigor is very thorough, with its own print publications including a hefty softcover book and five issue newsletter in addition to the main installation and accompanying video.

That installation, The River, above, initially suggests a 30 x 38 foot swimming pool bisected into a multi-colored bar graph. In fact, those long, rectangular basins of colored water each represents a river that feeds into the Mississippi, bringing its own hues to the Big Muddy, seen here as the widest basin. The accompanying book contains excerpted lines of poetry pertaining to those rivers, while the newsletters document discussions that influenced the installation's conception. The video, top, features a group of people carrying above them a large, mysterious, silvery sphere in a nocturnal meander past the Roosevelt Hotel and on down Canal Street. This purposely ambiguous attempt to insert an alien element into the city's familiar environs reflects a technique sometimes used in psychogeography to cast the defining characteristics of a place into high relief, although here it may have simply been taken for yet another parade. But the ships on the river are also a parade, and Geeven's imaginative investigations insightfully reframe our familiar hometown in a poetic new light. ~Bookhardt

Vigor: Multimedia Installation by Lotte Geeven, Through June 27, May Gallery, Suite 105-2839 N. Robertson St, 316-3474.