Apples Turn to Water
SPRING/BREAK Art Show | Room 4014
Skylight at Moynihan Station (31st Street Entrance)
307 West 31 Street, NYC at 8th Avenue
March 4th-8th, 2015
March 3rd, VIP and Press Previews
curated by Kari Adelaide and Max Razdow
“Though the music was sometimes quite near she could not get out of the orchard, but wandered round as if she was pixy-led. At length, worn out with hunger and thirst, she plucked a beautiful golden plum from one of the trees, and began to eat it. It dissolved into bitter water in her mouth.” –Katharine Briggs, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature
Apples Turn to Water presents works which engage with the paradoxical transaction of gaining favor from the spirit world, where echoes arrive in our own sphere as vexing forms, sublime vision or intricate riddles. An exchange across this border involves a two-folded fate of luck or misfortune: one may be glamoured and enchanted, led astray, and entrapped as wanderer; or, one may be given rewards and imparted with magical knowledge, granted wishes, luck, and kindness to fulfill the tasks of the human world.
Stories of transactions with the supernatural are common in our understanding of creativity and the fantastic. In these myths or folktales, there is often an implicit sense of peril as well as reward in dealings that aim to capture divine spark. The myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods or supernatural tales of Robert Johnson learning the blues at the crossroads illustrates the dangers of dealing with the divine. However, the difficulty of this wager is not necessarily a given. In The Gift, Marcel Mauss describes potlatch ceremonies of gift giving as events where reciprocated value often has an incarnate relationship to the spirit world, in a place where “everything speaks” and “the magical house is built” not just by personal will or independent labor, but “also by one’s gods and ancestors.” The induction of immaterial spirit through objects in the potlatch operates pragmatically and helps to form bonds of belief between individuals, where generosity is considered a vital aspect of interrelation.
The concept of fairyland holds parallels and distinctions with these examples. An ultimately unattainable landscape-as-riddle, fairyland represents a form of personal escape within an unattainable spiritual enclosure. The benefits of any gifts from the fairies are said to eventually go back to the fairies themselves, as John Gregorson Campbell says, the “fruit of it goes into their own bodies,” a sublime re-enfolding of substance back into spirit. Bringing things back from beyond the borders of fairyland carries consequences and is perhaps impossible — to arrive at fairyland is one thing, but to return, one must escape. Tales of golden plums dissolving into water in the mouth, or other failed exchanges through fairyland, remind us that although one may be changed by the encounter, one’s plunder will surely turn to nothingness outside of its borders.
In Apples Turn to Water, artists navigate the worn but thorny path from the realm of the unknown to our own, sometimes with the pragmatic confidence of the potlatch, sometimes with the dubious outlook of a pixy-led wanderer. The resultant artworks leave a thread of process and experiment to trace, performing a kind of conversation which might persuade, as Mauss says, “nature to be ‘generous toward them.”
Image courtesy of Juliet Jacobson, Untitled (Cloud Drawing 3), 2013.
For more information, please contact The Sphinx at firstname.lastname@example.org or SPRING/BREAK.