The works of Jeff Carter and Susan Giles explore the troubled vantage point of the contemporary tourist. Having traveled extensively in India, Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia since 1995, both artists bring this experience to bear in a body of witty, yet complex, sculptural and video works that make their own dislocated position as travelers central to their representations.
Jeff Carter's kinetic sculptures 'A Vague Sensation of Paradise', resemble large wooden packing crates of the kind that daily ship thousands of art works (among other commodities) around the globe. The top surfaces of Carter's crates are divided into small segments that, via a hidden mechanism, undulate gently in a wave-like pattern. By turning his attention to the supposedly neutral material of crates - rather than the implied value of what is contained within - the artist foregrounds cultural exchange as forever 'in-between', literally in transit. The reference to liquid in the crates' moving lids extends this sense of fluidity and circuitousness, denying any functional relationship of 'a to b'.
In 'Segment', 10 ft high PVC rods emulate the form of bamboo stalks. Again mechanized by the artist's custom-made motors and electronics, the rods move gently as if swayed by some warm evening breeze. Here, Carter reduces one fragmentary memory of the exotic down to its merest connotation, an exemplary robotic stand-in for the real thing.
Carter's 'Azimuth (Mecca)' is a glowing white sign in the shape of an arrow pointing the way to the holy city of Islam. In the context of the pristine white gallery space, however, and given the sign's functional construction in aluminum, Plexiglas and neon, the piece winds up resembling nothing more than an exit sign directed toward a blank wall. 'Azimuth (Mecca)', gestures both toward 'The East' - and backward toward our own inept attempts to understand it.
Susan Giles' work dramatizes the way in which video editing conventions tightly structure our relationship to documentary narratives that are often presented as natural or self-evident. Her double DVD projection 'Here and There', presented in the back space at the gallery, juxtaposes silent documentary footage of tourist destinations in Chicago, the artist's home town, and Bali, which she has visited. The clips are edited to emphasize formal similarities between the two sites - as well as the ways in which visitors (including Giles herself) move around within these sites. Here, the desire for freedom and the sense of losing oneself in another culture which travel would appear to promise, is revealed as subject to a strict set of codes and practices which serve to territorialize the traveler before he or she has even left home.
Jeff Carter and Susan Giles live and work in Chicago. As well as maintaining their own individual practices, the artists also create collaborative works together. Both artists have had solo exhibitions at Vedanta Gallery in Chicago, and they have also shown together at Vedanta Gallery, at Gallery 210 in St. Louis, and in 'De-Tourism' at The Renaissance Society, Chicago. Carter and Giles are currently taking part in 'Site Specific' at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Jeff Carter received his MFA in 1998 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, while Susan Giles graduated with an MFA from the Northwestern University, Department of Art Theory and Practice, Evanston, Illinois, in 2001.