In an L-shaped gallery on North Avenue, Shannon Collis and Liz Donadio have recreated Miles Stafford Ralph’s 1975 Form Fountain. The original, located at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is at first glance a fair bit brighter than its virtual copy, more children’s playground than meditative space, and it seems at first that the artists have merely restored an outdated utopian vision. But by inviting us into their meditative work, Collis and Donadio have brought to light what we overlook when we reduce public space to a photograph, framed, concrete and empty, and that is our encounters within it. Their multiple layered physical experience instead exceeds the original’s limited utopian vision, offering Form Fountain a relevant place not just in the present but also securing it a place in the future.
The first encounter with Singular Space appears as if you are approaching it from a distance, perhaps from across a road, a two-dimensionally framed view that hints at the physical space within. The camera twists and turns pulling you in on the crest of a crashing wave, the sound of which turns out to be the flow of traffic in this hard-working city. And this is the beauty of Singular Space, just as the utopian soundscape and drifting images draw you in they quickly spit you out again, back to a physical reality. The message is clear from the outset, this space is real, relevant and its yours.
Step around the corner and you find yourself on the verge of Singular Space. The shift is subtle. Its not immediately clear what has happened until your eye catches shapes, strategically placed to catch images on their surfaces. I find myself looking down, into, and get caught in the motion carried up some steps (or is it down?) through the monument. Spend enough time here and you will notice the change in pace. The movement is calmer, the sound lighter, giving way to bird song and what sounds like a drop of water. An experience once grounded now has the quality of air but always looking towards that certain ground, the shifting plates that encourage you to move on and step in.
Which is what you do in the final act as your body interrupts the last of the five projections, your shadows cast, concrete, into the work. Even if you don’t choose to, you’ll find yourself there because this space is public space and it has been made for you.
Shannon Collis & Liz Donadio
Institute of Contemporary Art
16 West North Avenue, Baltimore, MD