The word “Tattarrattat” was first birthed in James Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses. It’s the longest palindromic word in English literature and an unmistakable onomatopoeia that takes inalienable form only in a moment we can collectively imagine: a furious rapping at the door. Such phrases within Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake make him a legend amongst Modernist writers who are trepidatious about inventing words where none that was fitting existed.
Inspired by the cursory notion that the word embodies, Portland-based artist Leif Anderson presents work that considers the incongruous decisions that are made based on short-term needs. In particular, TATTARRATTAT, on view at Melanie Flood Projects, is a keen examination of provisional architecture. Anderson bends and creases photographic prints in the spaces between doors and windows, affecting them to near personification. The works scale the tops of demising walls and protrude from heights that liken them to furniture. The end result is an embarrassment of observational dexterity.
Anderson spent weeks in Flood’s empty gallery space—a third-floor walkup in downtown Portland—mapping and photographing architectural details that had uncertain practical value. The building, with its many charms, is a veritable labyrinth of poorly backfilled passageways and doors that no longer open. Window (2015) is a crisp photograph of one such detail—an architectural opening, now sealed with drywall, though fooling no one as to its previous state. Anderson’s version is installed near its reference, sandwiched between a door and doorframe that would open were it not for the need to house its copycat. The proximity is mocking, and the work is better for it.