November 19, 2016-January 21, 2017
Locust Projects is proud to present The Comet and the Glacier, a new video opera and immersive installation by Pittsburgh-based artist Alexis Gideon. Gideon’s musical compositions, sculpted clay reliefs, glass paintings, stop-motion animations, videos and live performances come to life in his first large-scale installation. These elements reinforce the complex narrative world of the artist’s invention, where reality and fiction are confused and interspersed along the many stratified layers of his story.
At the center of the exhibition is a multi-layered narrative surrounding a peculiar, fictional book titled The Almanac: an unpublished, nineteenth-century manuscript written by the imaginary Swiss author Fredrick Otto Bühler, and recently discovered in the home of his last living descendant. Narrated by an artist character named Alexis—based on Gideon himself—the story presents the dilemma of the protagonist’s impossible recollection of the book’s events. He somehow remembers having read these stories during his childhood in New York City. To test whether he had indeed encountered this mysterious text, the character Alexis writes and illustrates a narrative based on one of the chapters drawn from The Almanac’s table of contents: The Comet and the Glacier. Comparing his and Bühler’s versions, the story—and the project as a whole—approaches memory as a creative gesture. The exhibition draws the audience into the unsettling déjà vu of the base story, punctuating the project’s fiction with real historical events and aspects from Gideon’s own life.
The exhibition transforms Locust Projects into a surreal dreamscape, populated by the personal effects and relics from the creation of The Comet and the Glacier and Alexis’ own past, both real and fictive. The narrative is materialized through an immersive environment that brings to life Alexis’ childhood bedroom, where he recalls reading the text; his office, where he works on his own version of the story; and two medieval huts from the manuscript itself. The rooms are points of interaction where the audience encounters one of five interlocking films—mixing Super 8 film, HD video and stop motion animation—created by Gideon, which tell the story of The Comet and the Glacier from opposing perspectives: Bühler’s version, in a hut made of dirt, tells the story from the frame of the glacier and its people, watching as the comet approaches; and the character Alexis’ account, in the straw hut, recounts the narrative from the eyes of the people on the comet watching as the glacier nears.
The Comet and the Glacier, the exhibition, is entered through a museum-like display, which exhibits the glittering clay reliefs made by Gideon, used in the creation of his stop-motion animations. These sculptural works, treated in a wall text as early artifacts in the history of photography made by Bühler for the book, invent a historical timeline in which The Almanac and its creation are to be placed. This space is a gateway between reality and the narrative, where the world of Gideon’s invention bleeds into existence.
Gideon further pushes at the boundary between the real and the imagined with his live activation of the piece. He performs a musical arrangement that corresponds to the videos housed in each of the installation’s rooms, like chapters informing the overall narrative. In moments of virtuosity, the animated characters mouth along in sync to the lyrics sang and rapped by Gideon. He embodies the real and fictional Alexis at once, both part of the narrative and its creator, bridging all the interconnected layers of The Comet and the Glacier.
As a creative complement to The Comet and the Glacier, Locust Projects has published a same-titled illustrated book that vividly captures the colorful imagery of the work, featuring critical essays by three art historical scholars.
Alexis Gideon: The Comet and the Glacier is made possible with support from Citizens Interested in Arts, Kelley Johnson, Miami Salon Group, Peggy M. Hollander, and Locust Projects Exhibitionist Members.
ABOUT ALEXIS GIDEON
Alexis Gideon (b. 1980, New York, NY) trained as a composer and performer under the mentorship of avant-garde jazz legend Anthony Braxton. In 2013, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City paired Gideon with William Kentridge in a joint exhibition. The artist has performed his previous video operas at national institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; and internationally at Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga, Spain; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; and Time Zones Festival, Bari, Italy. His work is held in the collection of the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Lawrence; and a number of private collections. Gideon graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA in Musical Composition and Performance in 2003, and currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA.