“I wanna be in an open relationship with you and life forever.”
This line is spelled out with letters cut from the paper below it, and propped up to pop out of the page. The piece is entitled “The Other Other Woman.” The artist, Karin Zuppiger, says I’m the second person—second woman, she clarifies—to tell her the sentiment resonated. This both comforts and disappoints me.
“The Other Other Woman” is comprised of three parts. A stack of books—self-help “in a sense,” Zuppiger says—with the cover of the top book flipped open, spell out the title of the piece. The aforementioned sheet of paper spells out not entirely coherent, but nevertheless relatable, thoughts. The long, dark shadows cast by the three-dimensional letters hauntingly underline sentences like, “just an ovary doing its egg business,” and “I will never laugh again ha ha.” A video completes the trifecta, showing black-and-white clips of movie scenes of one actor playing twins—effectively, people talking to themselves. They mutter unintelligibly to each other, until the montage is interrupted by statements. These, shown one word at a time in white letters against a black background, include: “And I sometimes ask myself like who are you” and “And why don’t you say what I’m really thinking.”
Zuppiger’s piece is one of three pieces tucked into a back nook of the Co-Prosperity Sphere, together with those of Valentina Vella and Hui-Min Tsen. This small section of the Sphere feels distinctly female, with soft lighting reflecting off Vella’s pink “Fuck Off” and “My House is Way Smarter than You” signs. It’s also chaotic and loud, with eleven pieces crammed into the area and audio from one of the three videos playing in the background. Though, depending on who you ask, “chaotic and loud” may reinforce the feminine atmosphere as much as the pink glow does.
Back in the main space of the gallery, the ambiance changes. In this show, every wall and corner has a different feel. But within each subsection of the room, something—in some cases something more overt than in others—ties the pieces together.
The show is called “Triangulation,” based on the geometric principle of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points along a baseline. In this spirit, the eleven current students of the Co-Prosperity School were asked to join their work with that of one former student and one person from their past outside of Chicago. Vella told Zuppiger—a friend from graduate school—and Tsen—a former Co-Prosperity student—that the theme was “otherness.” But different artists had different precepts by which they curated their mini-exhibits.
Current student Jessica Harvey chose her artists based on what she felt were common aesthetics. Her piece consists of five photos from her “100 Days of Grey” series, which she took while on a Fulbright scholarship in Iceland. They are simple shots of grey and cloud-filled skies, excepting the middle photograph, which is punctuated by a rainbow running diagonally across it. To the right of her selection, Skye Gilkerson’s “Ending Constellations” is shown in two panels. Initially, it looks like white dots on black paper. But, according to Harvey, Gilkerson cut out the punctuation from sheets of the New York Times and painted the sheets black. To the left of the “100 Days of Grey” excerpt, two of Christopher T. Wood’s works, entitled “Seventeen days on and under rocks and chain at Laugarnes,” and “Eight days under and between rocks and moss on Geldinganes Island,” are displayed. True to their names, the pieces were made by putting sheets of paper under rocks and letting dirt and glacial matter pass over them. Wood is a former Co-Prosperity student, and though he and Harvey were in Iceland at the same time, they have never met.
In planning the show, co-organizer Stephanie Burke said she and the artists “tried to look at what the school does and map that onto an exhibition.” The result, she said, is that the exhibit looks at “what making a network of artists would be.”
This broader theme is showcased in Tsen’s video, “Following Karin/Valentina.” Tsen stalked Valentina outside her Pilsen home and tried to locate Karin on Google Earth with only the knowledge of what she looked like and the name of the Montreal school where she works. The result is a mash-up of shaky camera work aimed at a window at night, and blurry, pixelated screen shots. It’s hard to say what angles are being measured between the women, but there’s something vaguely geometrical about this playful, slightly chilling work.
Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan St. Hours by appointment. (773) 837-0145. coprosperity.org