Walking into Naomi Andree Campbell's intense and thoughtful installation The Consonant of Noise on ISCP's first floor the initial feeling is one of "Cave," especially because there are no windows in the space, no intrusions from the outside world. A cave has many connotations: a symbol of Nature, of the earth; a mythic, or liminal-prehistorical space; a reference to the Platonic allegory of ignorance.
When asked directly about certain aspects of the installation mean, the artist is mum. She prefers to create questions rather than give definitive answers. In her artistic statement Campbell announces:
"I am always looking for something more to be said, something that points to dialogue and questions where we are."
And the question here is, roughly, should we genetically modify food?
The subject of the piece is the intersection of Science and Art in the form of the global food crisis -- Agriculture and Humanitarianism, where they actually meet, how they inform one another. Divining the meaning is not easy and probably not meant to be definitive. And yet, despite the complexity of the work, the music, the muted gradations of shadow all conspire to put the observer at peace. Stained glass and metal sculptures spring forth from the ground like cornstalks in a field, albeit corn stalks that call to mind DNA structures. Materials organic (actual corn kernels, glass) and materials inorganic (x-rays) express in their curious interplay the fraught relationship between Science and Art.
My initial impression of "Cave," it turns out, was instinctively correct: the entire room, bathed in blue electronic light and shadow overlaid with ambient music, is an allegory of Plato's allegorical cave.
Is the GMO humanitarian narrative blind -- or at least shortsighted? Is technology Platonically virtuous? Can technology even be Platonically virtuous? Are GMO opponents merely a part of a necessary equation involving GMO enthusiasts?
There are no easy answers. This work though equally partaking in the forms of both Science and Art evokes many serious questions. Therein, perhaps in that particular engagement, between artist and participant, lies the meaning?
Naomi Andree Campbell is next exhibiting in Puerto Rico from February through March at the Peligro Amarillo in San Juan.