Monday, August 27, 2012


Under the Radar, 2012, located at Camp Hero, Montauk

Alice Hope
Under the Radar
Parrish Road Show 2012

detail, Under the Radar, 2012
Invisibility is not the most typical of aspects functioning within contemporary art, but for
Alice Hope, whose enigmatic Montauk installation Under the Radar is on view through August 31, it is often central to her work. It could be said, in fact, that Hope colonizes areas of meaning more than she creates site-specific art, inserting systems of thought, reactivity, growth and mutability into situations that are driven, at least in part, by a very silent -- sometimes dizzying -- scientific imperative. 

At Camp Hero in Montauk, the results are expansive, meditative and somehow, in spite of complete inaudibility, decidedly symphonic.

What's it all about? When Hope was invited to participate in The Parrish Road Show 2012, a tour de force series of off-site installations organized by curator Andrea Glover, she selected a derelict cement pad due north of the hulking AF/FPS-35 Radar tower that presides over the Atlantic at Long Island's southeast tip. Located inside Camp Hero, a reportedly not so defunct military station now operated by the National Park Service, the tower is key to the weirdness of this place and should you go there, it will surely be one of the stranger excursions you undertake this summer. 

I highly recommend it. 

Built in 1962, the radar tower remains the only one of some 12 of this kind that is still in existence. In its heyday it served as part of a state-of-the-art Air Force base that operated through the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis under the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) network and NORAD through which it conducted surveillance of the highest order.  Given Hope's interest in magnetism and electromagnetic fields, the seductions of this place were incalculable.

In the long shadow of what the artist referred to as a "monument to technological obsolescence," she assembled some 300,000 ferrite magnets on steel plates at a distinct north/south tangent off the radar. The organizing principle -- precise, rhythmic, architectonic -- structured the magnets like building blocks that stretch out in long lines spelling the word "NO" in binary (01101110 01101111) and Morse code. It's a grand shout-out that recalls other communication markers that face upward like the Nasca lines and those mysterious crop circles, the authorship of which has never been determined. 

Taken as a whole, at first glance the installation looks like the interior of a massive Steinway concert grand, its intricate, serial architecture unfolding like a Saturday night at the New York Hypnotic School. Minimalist and elastic in concept, the installation and its chain link parentheses evokes a meditation on nature and science, presence and absence, secrecy and codification.

The sense of oscillation, attraction/repulsion and the magnetic field created here commingle with language and embedded meaning. The results are almost operatic, splaying outward with the sort of "spooky action" that Quantum physics employs to address the space-time continuum.

Speaking of spooky -- conspiracy theories abound about this place, some 278 acres of a lot of "Do Not Enter" signs, concrete bunkers, artillery casements and underground tunnels. The rumors range from experiments in psychotronics to electromagnetic mind control to time travel and beyond. Follow the links to The Montauk Project, and I guarantee you won't sleep tonight.  

Back to Alice Hope...concurrent to Under the Radar and on view through October, the artist also assembled three separate but related works at one of East Hampton's favorite watering-holes, Nick and Toni's

Nick and Toni's on North Main Street, East Hampton

The scrims that hang in the restaurant entrance, visible from North Main Street, create shifting Moiré patterns that seem to modulate into various optical patterns with every movement. Flanked by a wall of beaded curtain in varying hues of green (below), the effect is a little hallucinatory -- chimerical -- like a counter-culture primer on particle physics.

Last, but most emphatically not least, in the outdoor dining area nearly 100 "lamps," each one handmade by Hope, are fitted with motion detecting lights that slowly flicker throughout the evening. Hovering above the heads of unsuspecting diners, the lights react to wait staff, walkthroughs and other movement as they sprinkle flashes of brilliance downward.

You don't want to miss these extraordinary works -- believe me. And bravo to Alice Hope for embarking on a summer journey of thinking and working outside the margins. 


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