There might have been an opening reception, but artists Etta Lilienthal and Ben Zamora have not admitted to completing the commissioned work on view. Never Finished at Suyama Space suggests open-ended conversations, things in motion, unresolved conflict. In other words it’s an ongoing dialogue that stretches from floor to ceiling in one of Seattle’s largest and most inventive gallery spaces. The gallery acts as foyer to the well-known firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects. On one side of the wall, architectural professionals bent studiously over plans. On the other, Never Finished made up of over 300 fluorescent fixtures caught in a silent, whispering vortex.
Suyama Space invited artists from all over the world to create site-specific works in what was formerly an automotive garage—wide-planked floor boards and soaring overhead beams remain intact alongside the thriving to and fro of the architectural firm. The exhibit space, which hosts three installations per year, is forever morphing. NEVER FINISHED seems to mirror that fluidity—not just of geographic and architectural space – but of relationships as well.
As a creative team, the Seattle artists’ work has appeared alongside the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet and the punk inspired performance art of Degenerate Art Ensemble, whose work is described as “coming out of a deep desire for communion and soul-exchange through subconscious connection, collective vulnerability and transformation.” Their form of theater is anything but linear, making it a perfect dance partner for NEVER FINISHED, which operates by evocation instead of logic.
NEVER FINISHED is suggestive of what a layperson might imagine neurons to look like as they fire away. Or, more naively, as a jumble of pickup sticks suddenly flung during a childish dispute. It’s a mysterious work in that what appear to be random patterns falling from ceiling to floor also look like the workings of natural phenomena. Meaning? All but indecipherable. But it feels nevertheless familiar. Like an incoherent great aunt.
Lilienthal and Zamora put out a call to supporters to purchase the multitude of light fixtures needed to create NEVER FINISHED. Now the majority of lights are suspended in mid-air, some lit, others flickering. It’s the language of lights, of electricity, of stuttering communication within a Becket-like existence. The Irish avant-garde playwright famously wrote, “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” If ever completed, NEVER FINISHED might just be a beautiful attempt at failure.
NEVER FINISHED: Etta Lilienthal and Ben Zamora at Suyama Space through December 19, 2014
By Suzanne Beal