December 2007, Vanessa Albury, THE DISTANCE THAT KEEPS YOU @ SILVERMAN GALLERY, San Francisco


For her first solo exhibition in California, titled The Distance That Keeps You, Vanessa Albury selects photographs, videos, installations and sculptural objects themed around emotional and physical distance. Embodied in the works displayed, Albury’s personal experiences of remoteness from family, ex–partners, and the self are presented in a universal concept of the intrinsically difficult nature in dealing with loss, release, and trauma. The Distance that Keeps You is a dark, intimate, and poetic exhibition about the psychological effects of creating, opposing, and accepting boundaries between people.

Hidden in the title of the exhibition, time and space are essential aspects in the work of Vanessa Albury. Time and space are fundamental elements that determine our being. We are forced to construct our lives within these parameters. Less rooted in physical theories, time and space have also inspired philosophers to debate the human condition from a more abstract point of view. Albury’s artworks often elaborate on the discrepancies between metaphysical and symbolical interpretations of time, space and the experience of them versus how they are measured in society. In the installation titled The Weather Project, the artist consistently registers the weather forecast of Brooklyn, NY, where she lives, and Nashville, TN, where her father lives. Doing this for a period of 102 days, she additionally takes two pictures of the air everyday. The daily climatic differences between Brooklyn and Nashville are adopted to symbolize the physical distance between the artist and her family. The Weather Project combines clear-cut meteorological facts, adopting the lingo traditionally used to forecast the weather, with the romantic act of taking pictures of the air moving between the two cities. While The Weather Project is perhaps more embedded in the context of spatial distance, the video 12/17/05 to 6/5/06, 11/23/06 (Text Messages from Mark) is more closely related to the issue of time. In this work, the artist records herself reading, and consequently deleting old text messages sent to her from an ex–partner. As she recites the messages, her mood rapidly shifts from serious, to laughter, to crying while revisiting passed times with a beloved person that eventually led to a break up. Besides the personal communication between the two lovers, Text Messages from Mark uncomfortably exposes the deeply, emotionally-affected self, which initiates a performative aspect to the work.

Albury’s work originally stems from a conceptual and psychological concept of photography. Time, space and movement freeze in the photograph, capturing and isolating a single moment of life. The black and white photographic projection titled Funeral (Projection) has significant symbolic meaning. This covertly taken picture of the artist’s deceased grandma at her funerary service is strongly embedded in the (infamous) photography of death scenes in 19th Century America. The original purpose of these “Memento Mori’s” is to remind the viewer that death is an unavoidable part of life, something to be prepared for at all times.

The Distance that Keeps You leaves an intense, sincere and sometimes uncomfortably emotional impression on the viewer. Blending performance, photography, video and installation, the pieces shown in this exhibition relate to different forms of personal and communal distances between people. Time and space, past and present, life and death are all integral parts of our human condition. In The Distance that Keeps You, Vanessa Albury doesn’t offer any solutions, but exposes the slowly healing wounds caused by heartbreak, death, and rejection.

Jan Van Woensel

Jan Van Woensel

Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: 

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