Last month, museum patrons and passerby were able to watch artist Jason S. Yi turn common materials — duct tape and strips of wood — into a cavernous hollow that stands about 10 feet tall and 20 feet long and consumes the space of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s State Street Gallery.
Yi and his team assembled the piece titled “A Fragile Permanence” from Aug. 4 through Aug. 22 in front of anybody who cared to peer through the glass of the street-facing gallery
Those curious about the installation can visit the exhibit’s webpage for some short videos of this process, and the people-watchers among us will be thoroughly amused by a much larger collection of videos that appear to be candid recordings of people on State Street reacting to (“It’s a lot bigger than I expected … ” “It looks like a tent, you know?”) and analyzing (“that show Home Improvement … but, like, with lightning. Kind of — like, yeah … I know very little about installation art”) Yi’s exhibit.
The “lightning” being referred to is jagged lines of highly reflective silver tape. The metallic aesthetic brings a dose of color to an otherwise all-white sculpture. Its placement on the glass window facing State Street tells the viewer that this project was intended to be open to the public from start to finish.
The “tent” mentioned is Yi’s simultaneously massive, bulky, light and breakable sculpture is the core of “A Fragile Permanence.” Visitors will initially see a white mound with an asymmetrically and ruggedly-angled top that resembles distant mountains. Its presence is almost overwhelming and viewers feel pushed to the walls of the gallery.
White strips of duct tape compose the exterior and allow viewers to easily look into the sculpture. The tape is draped over thin pieces of wood that create the precarious scaffolding that gives the exhibit its fragile quality. While a viewer might be in awe of the size of the object and the power it invokes, it is also difficult to ignore the thought that someone could reach into it, pull out one of the sticks and cause the entire thing to collapse like a game of Jenga.
Vulnerability, largeness and transparency into the artistic process culminate in “A Fragile Permanence,” which allows viewers to appreciate the exhibit for both what it is and what it is not. It is not piles of tape and sticks sitting on shelves at a hardware store or lying on the floor of somebody’s garage. It is an intricately designed project that shows what can be done with simple tools and it expands upon ideas about how artwork should be consumed by the viewer.
Jason S. Yi’s “A Fragile Permanence” will be on display at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, located at 227 State St., until Nov. 9, 2014. For more information, visit MMoCA’s website.