METHOD‘s decision in the last year to show only installation art was a brilliant one. The work has been diverse, thoughtful and detailed. Julia Freeman‘s ambitious The Will to Synchronize is all of the above.
Freeman’s project began by asking big questions: Are we connected to people? How can we measure, store, process our connections? What of social media? How are our connections surveilled?
Rather than a clinical assessment, Freeman went phenomenological. She asked 65 people to briefly describe an object, memory, ritual or dream that gives them solace. Responses were recorded. The recordings were rendered into prints of soundwaves through a visualizer. Freeman lathe-carved rolls of polymer clay based on these images. In this game of telephone from breath to bytes to material object, there is a loss of data, of specificity—but is there a loss of sentiment?
The original sound cannot be reproduced. (Even a recording is imperfect.) Does it matter that even the original speaker may not know which object was generated from their recording? Even if the objects cannot reasonably signify the precise thought that was their genesis, they eloquently signify a fundamental search for peace despite our material frailty.
The little thought-objects look like rugose invertebrates—fragile and ready to irrevocably disappear, like a sound. Wires leading from each piece converge in a bundle within the dais atop which they are displayed. Each wire passes through another lump of clay bearing the impression of Freeman’s own hand. (Freeman clutches the clay with one hand while carving.)
The total is something between a nursery and a specimen display—and remarkably melancholy. The wires that conduct nothing, the silent fragments of strangers’ voices, who divulged their private peculiarities—everything bespeaks a sense of connectivity and intimacy that remains elusive. There is no real synchrony that is not imposed by the viewer. So it is with any multitude, and why we can feel our loneliest in a crowd, in an age of “connectivity.”
Sounds leak in the room from the street. A score by Spencer Ramsey beeps quietly then soars with synths at turns. Freeman’s work bench sits empty at the far end of the room, dusty and disordered beneath a single incandescent bulb.
The artist doesn’t offer answers to the big questions, but while pondering these questions and more, most metrics by which we might qualify or quantify human connection feel inadequate. Viewed another way, the measure of connection and synchrony is inconsequential. The pursuit, the will to peace and understanding, however, becomes everything, even if everything amounts to little more than a lump of clay.