Stability in a world of disorder is naturally craved, but will never be achieved, for each passing moment delivers unpredictable motions. The Reading Room is a container in which order attempts to quarantine chaos. The minimalistic installation created by Maria Raponi consists of several tables supporting thick threaded paper, which lay motionless under suspended exposed light bulbs. The evenly spaced furniture is paired with three miniature sculptures positioned deliberately in certain corners of the room. This setup creates a blurred border between the world of permanence and temporality.
Upon first glance, the space appears to be nothing more than a solemn workplace for artists. But a mute, motionless second sparks an epiphany: silence does not exist within these walls. Interrupting the gallery’s tranquil air are the sounds of two almost-synced clock-sculptures, echoing each other’s actions as they tick away. The ticking hands of each exposed clock eat away at the expected silence with every passing second, leaving behind temporal shadows. A hint of instability lingers.
Nearby tables display human outlines and ambiguous shapes threaded onto paper. Flipping through the sewn books illuminated by the still light, images begin to cast shadows, illustrating new forms, creating new perspectives. The thread that produces indentations on one side of the paper also creates puncture mounds on the other. These wounds, remnants of the ordered images carved on the opposing side, become the key players in the shadow puppetry, which is witnessed by the movement of paper under the hovering light. Order, which is threaded on one side of the paper, is quickly confronted by the chaos from the newly evolving shadows. The paper becomes the stage on which the shadows dance, and the audience becomes aware that they are now the directors of a spectacle, composers of chaos. The perfectly placed lights not only catalyze this paper play, but they also transform the gallery into its own show, a magnification of the threaded theater. The audience now witnesses the movement that they create with their own shadows against the structures of the room, and all of a sudden, chaos becomes apparent. Every movement manipulates the perception of the room, for shadows constantly morph throughout the atmosphere. Order still shows its face, struggling to compete with the audience’s chaotic embrace, but with each pulse of the clocks, the ability to recreate is notably lost. The quiet exhibit space flourishes with a keen awareness for movement and its causal manipulation. This war between stability and temperance is waged until the gallery is left alone, in harmonic peace, a balance in which an audience can only crave, and never obtain.
The initial serenity of the gallery quickly disintegrates as one begins to note the individual destructive elements it contains. Clock-bearing structures disrupt the silence while the audience ruins the pre-existing stillness by their mere existence within the space. Thus, The Reading Room is a template for order that quickly becomes a palette for chaos. Dropping the “e” in “the” and combining the two first words, the title becomes “Threading Room”: an entity in which connections seem to exist, but can never be precisely paved.
Photos by Arthur Kozlovski