Two commanding displays at Contemporary Arts Center — one wallpaper, the other video — offer spell-binding looks at both the technological mysteries of our world and the personal traumas that, all too often, remain hidden in our lives.
Marjolijn Dijkman’s photographic wallpaper, “Earthing Discharge,” stimulates the mind with its technological theme. Kadar Attia’s “A Thread of Light” plumbs the emotional recesses of the artist’s familial past. They punctuate current, larger exhibitions by Vhils Haze and Tania Candiani. But just like those, these two are not to be missed. They are, in a word, stunning.
Just inside the entrance and to the right of the CAC lobby, Dutch artist Dijkman’s welcoming wallpaper spans a 40 foot wall to greet visitors with images of the bursts and glows of electrical discharge, effects of man-made inventions. “Earthing Discharge” dazzles in blues and whites, close-up effects of electrostatic discharges that are rarely seen by the human eye. They are there for us to see until March 21, 2021.
Exploring the museum, visitors come upon French artist Kader Attia’s solemn video narrative, “A Thread of Light.” As disturbing as it is elegant, “A Thread of Light” is a nine-minute video that tells a chapter of his mother’s life in a solemn, if unorthodox, way. “A Thread of Light” is a visual representation of a memory from his mother’s childhood. We hear Attia’s voice, painstakingly narrating her story as he etches its text on a black scratchboard, revealing a tale of childhood servitude in the home of a guardian uncle. The uncle forbade her contact with other children and painted over the windows of the house with thick, industrial black paint to prevent her from seeing them go to school.
The film is a simple but powerful audio-visual narrative that presents an artistic, highly metaphorical glimpse into a long suppressed chapter of his mother’s life. The story is taken from interviews Attia conducted with his mother. Moments of silence punctuate the sounds of the scratching as, through the spoken words and text, Attia reveals how his mother, in a bold act of rebellion, scraped through the paint to see the possibilities that the world outside presented. “A Thread of Light” is at the CCAC through January 17, 2021.
Admission to the Contemporary Arts Center is free, but during the pandemic, capacity is limited. Visitors must call or go online to make an appointment for the window of time when they wish to attend. Visitors must wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Every two hours, the museum closes the galleries for 15 minutes to clean and sanitize. If you lack a mask, you can purchase one for $1 at the front desk. Visitors with children under 2 and those with medical conditions that make wearing a face mask impossible should call ahead to make arrangements.
Cincinnati native Carol Ellison recently returned home after living and working for 30 years as a writer/editor in New York and Boston. These days she plays with paint and pencils, and occasionally mashes them up with her word processor to teach writing to kids of all ages through a method she calls “art of the story.” In fact, you can reach her at email@example.com.