Visual Arts Program

Friday, April 23, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.

Sam Van Aken

Opening Reception and Artist's Talk

Sam Van Aken - Opening Reception and Artist's Talk
Sam Van Aken - Opening Reception and Artist's Talk
Sam Van Aken - Opening Reception and Artist's Talk

Exhibition Opening: 8-11 p.m.
Artist's Talk: 8 p.m. in Hallwalls Cinema

"i am here today ..." are the words Charlie Chaplin inscribed on the inside of his iconic, battered derby. 

This ambiguous phrase, implying transition (possibly to be followed by the words "gone tomorrow"), also situates the speaker in place, in the present moment. It is an articualtion of both transience and permanence, of emphatic reality and ever-mutable futures. In early Hollywood, where the actor's own artifice is played out among the obvious falseness of crude stages and perfunctory props, this understated iteration of self is a reference point and lifeline within the layers of faux reality. When viewed in reality, any film set betrays its own absurd ruse, typically appearing utterly unconvincing in person. It is only through the filter of the film, the lense, and the projected image that the artifice vanishes and the narrative appears as convincing.

Sam Van Aken's project for Hallwalls entitled i am here today... takes place in the perceptual gaps between artifice and authentic experience. As in the deception of the eye in tromp l'oeil, in Van Aken's installation, things are not what they at first appear to be. Drawing on Orson Welles' 1939 War of the Worlds radio hoax Van Aken's intends to construct a space where our senses deceive us and what we perceive is not necessarily the truth. Van Aken brings forth the question of whether there is an element of artifice so convincing that it becomes mistaken for reality.

Cutting through the main gallery is a 32' steel constructed tower laying on its side. The tower is a "deception of the eye" that resulted during Orson Wells' 1939 radio hoax. Shortly after Welles' radio broadcast began, the residents of the town of Grover's Mills, N.J. descended on the crossroads at the center of town where it was reported (in the radio play) that aliens had landed. Standing in the yard of the Grover family property, some of the residents bearing firearms mistook this tower  (originally a windmill, then converted into a standpipe) for the alien ships as they were described in the broadcast. Accordingly, they opened fired on the water tower.

In the corner of the gallery, visitors will find a small sound stage. On a raised platform, sound props sit among stage lights, microphones, power cords, and cables. Broadcast by an FM transmitter and antenna, a looping radio hoax written by the artist and performed by actors will be playing. Inaudible to the viewer except within a sound booth positioned in the back of the gallery, the hoax becomes another layer of perceptual deception.

Born in Reading Pennsylvania, in 1972, Sam Van Aken received his undergraduate education in Communication Theory and Art. Immediately following his studies he lived and worked in Poland under the auspices of the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. Returning after several years in Europe, Van Aken received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2001.  Since this time his work has been exhibited nationally and internationally receiving numerous honors including an Association of International Curator's of Art award and a 2009 Creative Capital Grant.  Sam Van Aken is currently an Associate Professor and the Sculpture Program Director at Syracuse University.

San Van Aken appears courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Some publications related to this event:
April and May, 2010 - 2010