With The Quadrangular Cloud the Warehouse Gallery challenges our notions of place
What do visitors to Syracuse think of our city? I often wonder if I’m looking at the answers when I visit the Warehouse Gallery. The gallery’s policy is to invite contemporary artists to visit and respond to the environment with unique artwork. The exhibitions must reflect somewhat on our hometown.
Kueng Caputo, the team of two Swiss design instructors whose work currently occupies the Warehouse, might provide the best insights yet. They consistently wrestle with just such questions, especially what it means to be “at home.” In an earlier work (2006) titled 72 Hours Hotel the duo created playful makeshift cardboard enclosures and installed them in a Zurich, Switzerland, train station to highlight the difference between public and private spaces. An adult could conceivably lounge around or bed down in one of the cardboard “suites” so long as they weren’t claustrophobic, and had no inhibitions and zero desire for privacy. Kueng Caputo transported this basic idea of a temporary home to Central New York for the more obliquely named The Quadrangular Cloud show.
If The Quadrangular Cloud represents a temporary hotel of some kind, it is more Baltic Avenue than Park Place, to put it in Monopoly terms. The capital investment in materials needed to mount the show must have numbered in the tens of dollars. But as any gashuffer can tell you, fun doesn’t always require a lot of money. All the pieces, humble in construction, require inquisitive humans to make them interesting.
Try them out. Gingerly crab walk yourself into a position, under gallery supervision, of course, where you may sit in the corner on a folded piece of green foam and tuck your head up inside a red foam dunce cap. With red swimming over your entire field of vision it will be easy to imagine blushing with embarrassment. Or stand with your head in the clouds inside what could be the quadrangular cloud itself, another rectangle of green foam curled into an off-kilter cylinder and suspended at about 5½ feet. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, another work consists of some white quilted foam tucked through a hole at the bottom of a wall. You can stuff yourself inside and know what it’s like to be eaten by a muppet. Each of these works makes you feel like the proverbial ostrich with its head in a hole, cluelessly blind and pathetically exposed.
Ready for more? Sneak back in the corner between some stacks of beer boxes cut in half, their contents achingly absent. After that kick back with some TV. No modern hotel would be complete without a boob tube. Here the need is met by a tiny set sitting inside a big white cone which only allows one viewer at a time. And there’s only one show on, an oldie with Buster Keaton trying desperately to correctly assemble a readymade home. Readers can alternately opt to plop down in an adjoining room and pour over one architecture text or another in one of a dozen plastic-wrapped plastic patio chairs. Interacting with the pieces yourself is one thing, but they really come alive when your neighbor checks them out. Whoever is interacting with the piece becomes part of the art for a moment. The fun is that you can watch them unseen and know that they are watching you in turn. This shared experience can lead to a rich discussion, even between strangers.
What can any of this say about how visitors see Syracuse? It’s certainly not a land of boundless riches. But maybe, like The Quadrangular Cloud, Syracuse’s virtues shine most clearly when its residents put skepticism aside, look for ways to participate and start conversations about what it means to be home. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the exhibit sports a rosecolored window that looks out onto the Creek Walk.
Kueng Caputo: The Quadrangular Cloud runs through May 14 at the Warehouse Gallery, 350 W. Fayette St. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 6p.m., and on Third Thursdays, the next being on Thursday, April 21, noon to 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 443-6450 or visit www.thewarehousegallery.syr.edu.
Cloud burst: Two installations from Kueng Caputo’s Warehouse exhibit The Quadrangular Cloud invite visitor interaction.