The earl grey front desk is slightly too high for creased elbows. You are assigned a number and consecutively suck on three peppermint candies skimmed from a shallow dish. An exhausted woman will reroute you–– or outrightly dismiss the sharp edges of your desperate appeal. You anxiously re-perform a one-way prayer that the shape they give you will fit. We don’t have a container for your specific fear. You settle for a placeholder, an extension, and a renewal. It does not satiate but nonetheless is a comfortable shell.
Empathy, in this case, is just a formal coincidence.
Municipal systems are typically established to clarify services and direct demands toward a governing structure with more absolute authority. The architecture’s patina assures you with the badge of a master it has never actually met; these degrees of separation leave you at the end of a dreadful queue. Cherisse Gray examines the bureaucrati- zation of emotional distances.
In Hello, Baby Terroir the central structure encloses a personal selection of objects which can only be observed through the night vision lens of black and white baby monitors. The structure’s single entry point is a door prohibi- tively positioned to face the sky. On the face of that door, a smaller opening, reminiscent of a dog door, suggests the possibility of non-human entry. Two heaving air conditioners pump cool air into the structure’s inaccessible interior, controlling the temperature to preserve the inanimate objects that reside inside.
Three wall works made of wrought iron window grates, Split Level Home, hover nearby at the height of an implied second story. Stripped from their windows, they no longer cling to a potential opening, but rather accentuate an impasse. The TSA bins arranged on the floor contain devices of measurement and translation. The US passport holder is a mimetic copy of its presumed contents, namely the permission to move freely. Here, tap shoes, a marker of femme preformativity, rest upside down in a prolonged pause, rendered unable to mark time through sound.
Strange New Developments, a found object arrangement, similarly addresses the complications of navigating through literal and symbolic barriers, this time the impossibility of communicating collective imperial histories. The seat of the broken moped becomes a locked vitrine for a document titled “Current Accumulated Research On The History of the Philippines: An Act of Learning and Self-Preservation Compiled from Birth to Present.” Here the artist has rendered “history” as generic — an impotent stack of papers which taunts the viewer with an opacity left to be filled with the projections of an outsider.
Modes of protection against a perceived violence cannot ascertain the exact shape, form, or color of a threat. Defensive surfaces wrap themselves around an imagined present moment, forming hollow vessels in which we can safely breathe with unknowingness. Comfort zones, toxic monogamy, border security, and other attempts at self-sovereignty are hard-won ideas which are often packaged inside feminized and domesticated containers. Through her multifaceted sculptural installation, Gray does not dismiss these affected veneers, but rather erects them as infrastructures in themselves, furthering their potential for refusal. The impulse to hide and protect is not perfectly responsive to its disciplinarian, which demands transparency. In these poetics of fear, the ultimatum can never be met; neither side in our imagined dichotomy has ever inhabited the same place, at the same time.