In Setting Out (an exhibition selected as part of apexart’s Unsolicited Proposal Program), the guest curators Shona Kitchen, Aly Ogasian, and Jennifer Dalton Vincent showcase works that reframe or enact the vocabularies, tools, and approaches of explorers and scientists. With many intriguing works on display, the most interesting render the Earth strange by observing it with fresh eyes, analogous to the wonder of seeing distant planets and places. As the artists fuse the structure and utility of science with their imaginative objectives and tools, they probe the way we understand place.
Claudia O’Steen’s video and sculpture, Arc of Invisibility (2015), sit amid a table filled with the curators’ and exhibition designer’s vinyl text—identifying topics of inquiry like dissemination, evidence, and illusion—and objects related to the artists’ projects, like maps, a stereopticon, and more. O’Steen partially bypasses the table’s clutter by projecting her video on the floor beneath while her homespun, wooden surveyor transit sits on top. Transits, typically consisting of a telescope with a crosshair, measure the relational distance and angle of objects for construction, landscaping, and geography. O’Steen’s transit differs from conventional ones by producing two images that are split along a vertical axis, one of which is upside-down. In O’Steen’s video, shot at South Shore Beach, Rhode Island (indicated as 41˚29’40.72″N, 71˚8’8.10″W), she walks toward the Atlantic Ocean, holding her transit. While the artist attempts to hold it level with the horizon line, her wobbly split-screen and partially upside-down imagery of the ocean is disorienting. Fashioned almost like a twin-lens reflex camera (with two openings, mirrors, and an eyepiece on the top), O’Steen’s transit combines the acts of looking outward toward the horizon and downward to the ground, such that her video shows the ocean along with beach pebbles and occasionally her feet in the background. With her quasi-scientific approach and tool, O’Steen’s project embraces futility and disorientation to envision the way we comprehend place.