I love the fabric of personal and intimate information. You want to tell me something personal about yourself, I'm in. Recount that story in a way that adds cultural, historical and other references, and I'm captivated. Artists in the jampacked Locate/Navigate explore the territories of their emotional, physical and intellectual lives as they play out in the broader world.
Thoughtfully curated by Kate Hackman and tautological in nature, the exhibition maps how artists map. Mike Hill has retraced the history of heavy-metal music across the world from the 1970s to the present. In her targetlike drawings, Corrie Baldauf, who recently left Kansas City to attend graduate school at Michigan's Cranbrook Academy, records the stimuli of everyday living in tiny handwritten notes beside circles that also mimic the concentric rings of a bisected tree. "Michaela called," or "I think Dena is talking to Cristina," she writes, etching her domestic territory.
Anne Lindberg and Anne Pearce make similarly intimate gestures. In careful and obsessive drawings on top of photographs of her rumpled bed, Lindberg circumscribes the terrain of this discursive space in which anything — or nothing — can happen. Pearce's more active installation charts, through perambulations of multicolored watercolor-on-vellum dots in various sizes and intensities, the dynamics of a conversation between herself and another person. Installed on separate but contiguous panels, the piece suggests the topography of a relationship, how it rises and falls.
It seems natural that many of the pieces require us to interact with them, as if our mapping needs to be an extension of our physical selves. Andrea Flamini's "San Prassede" and "San Ignazio de Loyola" are two small, plain wood boxes containing recordings from inside the titular Italian churches. Viewers plug a set of headphones into the box, and the ambient sounds of these churches aurally diagram their interior and sacred spaces.
Moving from the interior to the wide-open exterior, Brian Collier's "The Highway Expedition" is one of the exhibition's best works. Incorporating memoir, performance and film, this multilayered and diaristic piece presents the kind of storytelling, experiential art that we — or I, anyway — don't get enough of. A new Kansas City Art Institute faculty member who just received his MFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Collier recorded his commute between Bloomington and Urbana/Champaign along Interstate 74, by documenting more than 115 miles in 27 walking excursions. His interactive installation contains a console table with a lighted topographical diagram of his route, a DVD of narrative moments along the route and handmade books with color photos.
Like a cabinet of curiosities, the framed video monitor isolates Collier's moments along the highway. Getting out of his car and into the grass provides Collier with a naturalist's relationship to this busy corridor. One scene shows the highway from a small animal's point of view: The camera is in the grass, fixed on the ear-splittingly loud highway, capturing a tension that's both beautiful and scary. Other recorded images of wild turkeys, red-winged blackbird fledglings and adult birds circling above the nest suggest that the local has meaning that radiates outside its own territory.
Like the other work in this exhibition, Collier's suggests that even our most banal experiences — conversations, curiosities, obsessive interests — become important components in the shifting terrain of the lives we live, inside and outside our heads.