Tivon Rice’s “Site Machines” Illuminates Suyama Space

Posted on February 04, 2014, 3:24 pm
4 mins


The Suyama Space exhibition area is a jewel in Belltown, nested inside the offices of Suyama Peterson Deguchi on 2nd Avenue by the Rendezvous Bar. The building was formerly a livery, a stable and a car garage, and its capacious central room between the front design gallery and the main offices has high ceilings that permit a diffuse natural light. Such a perfect setting for installation art is rare in Seattle, and each site-specific work responds to the space and its history in unique, unexpected ways.

Tivon Rice‘s Site Machines is arguably the most intimate examination of the space to date. It extends from the rafters to the basement of the building, which is typically out of the public’s view. It is where the firm stores architectural models, and a pair of cameras installed there by Rice pan across the balsa wood facades and crumbling brick around them. Another pair of cameras pans from floor to ceiling, while two more at ground level move across an x -axis, toward and away from each other with perfect symmetry, facing north. At the center of this assembly are two monitors, which, (when they display themselves as seen through the cameras) becomes a light, staticky blur.

In a stairwell on the west end of the space, two other monitors display a rotation of feeds from the three camera pairs, and the effect is striking. There are layers of representation and live production occurring, boiled down to a moving image that fans out evenly—not truly symmetrical, but close. Meanwhile, in the center of space, two rows of fluorescent light are arranged ascending and descending (depending on how you look at it) in diagonal lines from north to south. They blink on and off in succession, sometimes all lit, sometimes clicking on and off one-by-one. It’s a simple concept, but the precise execution and the way the installation documents and reacts to itself makes it something more than your usual light show.

During the opening—which was packed—the action of the cameras brought to mind matters of surveillance, which are a little more discomforting, but the dominant effect remained more aesthetic and spatial. (It was also the only occasion when people could see the space fully dark, which enhanced the light effects.) In the daylight, it is much calmer and you can appreciate the more musical aspects of the installation: the lightly percussive clicking of the lights, the whirr of the machines, an ambient drone.

Even in a more banal location than the storied and patinated Suyama Space, Rice’s Site Machines could induce a meditative state on the space and how we perceive it from such limited angles—how perspective is key no matter where one is or what one is seeing.

A different installation by Tivon Rice was displayed in the Seoul Museum of Art last year. You can see video from that below to get a taste of the tools that Rice uses, but do see Site Machines at Suyama Space while you can. In these dark months of the year (and at a time when surveillance is almost exclusively associated with negative connotations) it’s a truly cheerful symmetry.

Site Machines is on display through April 11, 2014 at Suyama Space (2324 Second Ave).

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.

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