It’s like a scene from an espionage film. Our intelligence officer is tracking a person of interest, and he has an address. But when the elevator doors slide open in that nondescript office building, the cavernous room that is revealed is empty. The corporation has vanished, or maybe it was never there. It was a dummy address, or a setup. And—is that a bomb?
The Portand, Ore.-based artist Aaron Flint Jamison has transferred Artists Space’s entire staff over to its Tribeca storefront, leaving its third-floor exhibition space almost entirely vacant. There are just a few objects here, and they are sleekly ominous. A LiDAR scanner sits atop a tripod, silently mapping the room, writing enormous files within a stack of black servers. An outdated IBM ThinkPad tracks its progress, displaying that classic pipe screensaver. It completes a scan in about two hours and then loops back to run the process again. Each day, the scanner is moved to a different location in the space. Files, with the most-minute differences, are accumulating. A few other minimal objects, handsomely made of wood and glass, offer no hints as to their uses.
There are no titles, no explanatory materials except for a mysterious, poetic instruction manual-type publication, but the gallery’s website hosts a spreadsheet with the show’s ledger, listing $33,844 in expenses (about $1,350 for Windows Server 2008, $20 for two Man of Steel tickets). Mr. Jamison is cycling between extreme opacity and an almost abject transparency that is ultimately just a mirage. He’s inviting you—daring you—to make inquiries. Before the show opened, he organized a concert by the experimental musician Kevin Drumm, an elliptical Helen DeWitt talk, a George Kuchar screening. It’s a rabbit hole of a show in that it grows odder, creepier and less intelligible the more time you spend with it. It’s about systems and technologies that we try, but fail, to understand, that work around and outflank us, and the ways in which such devices, objects and knowledge shape and color rooms and experiences.
As you puzzle it out, and perhaps question the gallery attendant, cool breezes waft through the open windows, and that unceasing scanner captures you for all time. (Through Nov. 10)