Review: Robert Youds- Room Upgrade for a Pacific Northwest Afternoon at Deluge Contemporary Art
Laura Gildner, Critical Studies II
Exploring the ideas of time and space, Robert Youds' Room Upgrade For A Pacific Northwest Afternoon at Deluge is an experiment in perception. Departing from the traditional utilitarian functions of fluorescent light, Youds' use of the medium is prominent throughout the installations. At once powerful, reflective, and mesmerizing, Room Upgrade for a Pacific Northwest Afternoon creates a space where time becomes non-linear and perception must submit itself to the meditative and sometimes disorienting qualities of the atmosphere the show creates. By richly enhancing our sense of sight through the interactions of artificial and natural light in a controlled space, Youds challenges the way we perceive ourselves and our relationships to the self.
Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is most instinctively gravitated towards Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon, the show's title piece, a series of florescent light bulbs both resting against and framing a set of square wood panels. The panels, each varying slightly in size and forming a collective square backdrop, are reminiscent of a rustic and weathered structure. More organic in their raw, unfinished state, they form a stark contrast and platform upon which to display the prominent fluorescent bulbs of varying heights and sizes. These light sources are displayed in fragmented positions spaced at various distances from each other, instantly enveloping the viewer in their collective power. The pull of the light immediately forms a detachment from the world left outside the gallery, and time almost seems stand still as the viewer takes in its commanding yet tranquil glow. It is only after removing oneself from the light's hold that the awareness of its ability to momentarily suspend the self in what seems like an air pocket of time occurs.
Continuing counterclockwise through the gallery, the viewer is brought to wood is resilient in earthquakes. Formed with layers of grey and yellow plexiglass, wood is resilient in earthquakes sits low to the floor, it's brilliant yet graceful light source resting behind the layers of glass. Much smaller in scale than Room upgrade for Pacific Northwest afternoon, wood is resilient in earthquakes' light is nevertheless at once strong, glossy, and serene, glowing dynamically like a sunset over the water. The echoes and soft hums of its light source aid in creating a meditative stage upon which to reflect as thoughts are lost to the light. As soothing as it is sublime, wood is resilient in earthquakes gives the viewer a resting point between the intensity of Room upgrade and the awakening buzz of usonian cave.
Suspended from the ceiling much like a traditional lamp, usonian cave's function is anything but. The only kinetic piece in the exhibit, usonian cave is a collection of heavy, industrial chains printed on a layer of transparency rounded into a quasi lampshade. Adding a necessary tension to the otherwise static pieces of Room upgrade, usonian cave flashes rotating squares of neon light from beneath it's covering. Quietly mimicking the pace of life that exists outside the confines of the gallery walls, usonian cave is nevertheless unyielding in it's ability to remind the viewer of the power that can come from stillness. As hypnotizing as it is active, usonian cave toys with the viewer's sense of awareness and state of presence as they are led towards turn on your electric.
Perhaps the most pacifying of the installations in the gallery, turn on your electric sits eerily still before the cathedral-like windows of the gallery space. Interacting with the architecture in an almost ideological way, it exists as a moment frozen in time. Made up of two large panels consisting of an array of bright, multicolored plexiglass squares, turn on your electric orchestrates a projection of colour through the gallery as it connects with the natural light pouring in from behind. Two neon lights and a surfboard, presented preciously between the panels like an artifact from a museum of the mind, compete for the viewer's attention. These elements still fall short to the virtue of tremendous colour and luminoscity created by the natural light, however do serve as a tomb to the passing of time. Provoking a state of contemplation and introspection, turn on your electric seems to naturally free the viewer from its grasp once a state of reflection has been achieved. It is only then that an awareness of the self comes to the surface, and the viewer is brought back to the present.
Serving as a bridge back to the realities and rhythms of the real world whizzing by below the gallery, Erickson's cabin is the last piece of the exhibition. While possibly the least invasive to the senses, Erickson's cabin is also the most resonant. Muted and faded light glows steadily like an old memory under a thick box of frosted glass. Beneath it's shell, the viewer can almost sense the thought of a time experienced, unsure of of its importance. Feelings of nostalgia begin to develop before becoming interrupted by the recognition of a single cedar square placed atop of the object itself. The shingle, mirroring the wooden panels of Room upgrade, give the viewer a sense of resolution, of somehow coming around full circle to the exhibit’s experience in altered perception.
It is only after departing the gallery that the viewer can experience the full effects this show has on the psyche. Disorienting and surprising in it's immediate contrast, the repercussions in returning to the accelerated state of being outside this controlled space the leave the viewer feeling almost whiplashed back into reality. What truly resonates after experiencing Room upgrade, however, is the delicate moment in time that Youds' creates. His ability to produce an environment that transfixes the viewer into a state of surrender is truly powerful, and this beautiful escape from our perceived reality is well worth the visit.