(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.


26 March 2014

Between Light and Nowhere

Friday afternoon, it’s the second day of spring, sun is out in full, and the temperature is starting to rise, all of this makes meeting up with artist Brian Gonzalez (aka Taxiplasm) all the more pleasant. Coming out of such a harsh winter, and dwelling on the fact that I spent way too much time hiding away from the cold has me thinking: how many great conversations did I miss? Sitting in a booth at Cafe Colette, I look up from my book and in walks Brian. His hair perfect, with a silver, sparkly scarf wrapped around him, wearing spectacles that match his brainy, well-read personality, a defining characteristic of his video and performance projects.

He sits down and we get right to what we came here to talk about, Between Light and Nowhere, his new project that debuted during Armory arts week at The (UN)fair. Like his other projects (i.e. Seeds That Release) Between Light and Nowhere is a prototype of a larger idea. The title comes from a lyric in the hauntingly gorgeous song, “Hope There’s Someone” by Antony & The Johnsons: “Oh I'm scared of the middle place /Between light and nowhere /I don't want to be the one/ Left in there, left in there.” In this song, and the entire album, Antony sings from the heart in his distinct vibrato, showing his vulnerability through his voice and lyrics, the listener following along. And like when Antony sings, when Brian speaks about his work he, too, takes you on a trip through his mind, exposing his vulnerability. I try my best to keep up with his thought process as he quickly quotes this writer, that philosopher, this theory. It is exhilarating and tiring at the same time.

Brian is a natural at collaboration. Perhaps it is his background in film, what he calls “an inherently collaborative process,” or he simply “wants to make the work bigger and better than himself. Working with others not only expands the experience, it keeps the ideas in check.” With the help of Bradley Rothenberg of studioBRAD, Brian experiments with holography for the first time in this project. Akil Davis, one of the performers from the Seeds that Release, returns, as the man, beyond the hologram, moving steadfastly toward himself and the sun.


At (UN)fair I waited in line for Between Light and Nowhere for nearly forty-five minutes. Patiently, Brian explained the work to each person before entering the space, providing some background as to what they were about to walk into. His explanation was brief, as it should be, because the viewer is responsible for their experience. Poignantly, he imparts his concept: "the light you step into when you experience the piece, and the 'sun' that Akil is running toward are one in the same--he is motivated by the audience occupying the sun, bringing it to life, and subsequently, him to life." Standing now, next in line, I'm curious to what it looks like on the other side and how I will respond to the environment. Brené Brown's TED talk comes to mind and I think of her words: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”As I pass through the curtain, I begin my voyage into the staged darkness, I surrender myself to the somewhat unknown.

The room is narrow and dark. I walk to the center, stand in the light, and beyond the hologram, I see the performer Akil, painted midnight blue. At first, I simply watch Akil. He’s in constant motion, remaining on the treadmill for the entire 4 hours of the performance. The room is steeped in theatricality and all that exists in this space is myself and Akil (and musician Ian Thompson, but he’s out of sight). Unsure of what to do, without any influences of others around me, I raise my chin and stand as tall as I’m able on my toes. Akil does the same. I raise my left arm and the man before me mirrors my motions. The performance is a dialogue without words, a pantomime, where eye contact is key. As I experiment with my own movements, the music follows my lead.  Ian Thompson sets the stage for my own inner dialogue. As my mind wanders, Akil continues towards the sun, the origin of life and light. 

Once I’m a part of this all-encompassing space, I find a sense of tranquility, and although others are present in the room, a sense of solitude. I, too, drift off into my own world, into my own head, just as Akil runs towards his subconscious, holographic self. As part of our human experience, we yearn to connect, and when that connection is authentic, the world and everything that surrounds us seem to fall in place. Yet, without fail, there is always that middle ground, where calmness and a sense of yearning volley back and forth. I glance up at Akil, have one last look and turn my back on this stage that has been set for me and everyone else who enters. Sometimes before finding our serenity, we have to survive the emotional storm, which, in my own unique experience, existed in this space we know as Between Light and Nowhere. 

Brian’s next video project, a diptych titled Until I Know My Truth, will be exhibited at CUTLOG New York from May 8th-11th during Frieze arts week. In August he’ll be live streaming his performance Tell Me Your Secrets for a residency at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Check his website, TAXIPLASM, for updates closer to these events.


Between Light and Nowhere trailer from brian gonzalez / TAXIPLASM on Vimeo.