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Sink or Swim Review

September 13, 2012

Sink or Swim BYOBS (Bring Your Own Bathing Suit) was a party in the lush back yard surrounding the pool of the Ammon residence in Farmer’s Branch. It was a party far away from the design district, Deep Ellum or the Amsterdam bar. The feeling was more comfortable and hospitable than more orthodox gallery openings, with plenty of cushioned seating for good discussion and surfaces for drinks. It was a perfect setting for an art party. However, socialization stopped and the viewing began at poolside, when the viewers changed from party attire to swimming suits. To enter the exhibition, the conversation, drinks and phone were left at the perimeter, and the viewers immersed themselves in the gallery space physically.

The work presented in Sink or Swim was not meant for the white cube or imbued with consumptive desirability. It was however, meant to be viewed with one’s full attention. It is a common complaint of many art writers that the art show or exhibition becomes only a party, and the work is not granted sincerity.  But what is sincerity in the art world these days? It is true that many an emerging artist show is well lubricated with booze and favorably attended by young people in tight jeans. But is that really insincerity?

Most of the work was created by the members of S.C.A.B. The idea and initiative was conceived by Joshua Von Ammon and curated by Samantha McCurdy. With their opportunity, the participating artists made work to sink or swim as an exhibition. They made buis, used fish tank rocks, put concrete shoes on second-hand artwork and folded paintings into origami boats. Not afraid of a bad outcome or a sneer from someone across the internet media stream, bought a keg, invited people to enjoy the work, and made it happen.

Many at the event chatted on the patio to the side, sending glances to the floating and submerged pieces while two to four swam, continually submerging and coming up for air. Those in the pool did not divert away from the experience at hand and stayed focused to try to get a good look at each piece. This was the special thing that happened at Sink or Swim. People got physically into the show, engaged and tried to look at all the pieces. Some even coming back to look a few times more, and this especially happened with the sunken pieces. Here the viewer was restricted by the amount of time their breath could be held as well as the physical characteristics of their body. This drove the focus towards seeing the pieces completely again and again.

In order to see the sculptural works of Joshua Ammon and Alex Larson in the deep end, the swimmers would submerge and awkwardly try to hover near the side and then swim about it to see it in it’s entirety. The attempt at viewing underwater often took on the form of flailing to steady the body or to move about. Larson’s wooden buoy was buoyant and visible at the surface as well as below. Below it was an entanglement of wire fencing that hung from and surrounded the buoy. It gave the impression of a wreckage of signs set up in nature to communicate its accessibility to people. Sitting next to Larson’s buoy is Ammon’s sunken painting “BECAUSE”.  Anchored by a neon orange sledge-hammer the painting hovers above and repeats “BECAUSE” over several lines on the small canvas.

 As a member of S.C.A.B., this particular installation embodied the approach of the exhibition and represented the particular mind-set of the S.C.A.B. group. Rather than wait to be granted permission by the establishments, we take the reigns and move forward, actively searching out new ideas and territory.

Kelly Kroener

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