• Repression
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Artist's Statement

Repression comprised four spaces built out of the two rooms of the original gallery. Two new walls in the first area effectively divided it into three rooms. A third wall with two doors, built in the entry to the rear gallery space, created a fourth, enclosed room. These four spaces turned the original gallery into a visceral, kinesthetic, four-part narrative for viewers moving through it.

At first glance the installation was almost indistinguishable from the Arts Commission offices, except that it was compulsively neat and a ticking sound emanated from a partially open desk drawer containing a (model) handgun. The bookshelf behind the desk was filled exclusively with instruction books and manuals of all sorts plus a framed reproduction of a medieval Madonna holding an adult-proportioned Christ child reading a book. A globe sat upon the desk beside a neat row of pens. The theme of the room was control.

A formal gallery-within-a-gallery dead-ended to the left of the office. It contained Cradle/Coffin, Pair of Closed Shutters, and the Forget series of lead sheets impressed with words and the forms of guns and knives.

Walking to the right of the gallery, behind the bookshelves, visitors passed a toilet and entered a kind of junkyard. There lay a fragmented office chair surrounded by glass shards, stones, and broken toys. In the corner sat a garbage can full of empty alcohol bottles.

The last space was behind the rubble, through the door marked "Exit." Fifty-three Clocks with Hands Removed rested along the top ledges of the walls which were painted indigo blue. Book with the Hands from 53 Clocks rested open on a coffee table in front of a couch with a teddy bear.

The space was quietly filled with odd clicking, buzzing sounds. Suggestive of dozens of electric clocks, these sounds were in fact the cries of myriads of microscopic aquatic insects as recorded by David Dunn. The soundtrack was a loop of Dunn's bioacoustic piece, Chaos & the Emergent Mind of the Pond, 1992, from his album Angels and Insects, used with Dunn's permission.

While I was working on this installation, my mother lived in a nearby nursing home. She died on March 20, 1993, twelve days before my exhibition opened on April 1st. In Repression I was reconsidering her life and my experiences of childhood as her daughter. I presented a narrative of a tightly controlled life, continually teetering on the verge of violence, trying to ignore the damage behind the bookcases and the overly tidy desk. The art gallery contained the consequences of such attempts at denial.

The blue room, abounding with time and comfort, represented an alternative, a place of well-being reachable only after passing through the rubble behind the office.

The title of Repression and the concepts underlying the narrative of the piece were inspired by the theories of the Swiss psychologist Alice Miller.

It was not important to me for visitors to get a specific message. I wanted only to engage them and give them an opportunity to notice their sensations and feelings as they navigated through the installation.

— Ingrid Lahti, 1993