I am sitting in a room (different from the one you are in now), observing Ami Yamasaki attach hand-torn paper feathers along the walls according to the resonant frequencies of Proteus Gowanus.
Yamasaki orients the feathers to the acoustics of the space, which she tests by touching surfaces, tapping on pipes, whistling and trilling her voice like a whippoorwill. She then maps out the flow of sound, bringing the waves we know in our bodies as vibration and tension, the things we hear and hear past, to the attention of our eyes.
Taking in this process, my senses tune to this space (listening now to my own breathing, to Yamasaki’s fingers smoothing down the paper ends), I am thinking of perception, of the relativity of qualities like fragility, and of what it might be like to be a snail. How would it be to travel across these endless planes of still white waves? What languages might I intuit traveling across Braille paper after a lifetime of moving over mud and leaves?
Shifting scale, and in human form again, I now begin to feel the room charged with the pulse of an animal presence, as if sitting in the coil of a huge, feathery dragon tail. I imagine heat, and half-expect movement.
The paper feathers cannot be contained in one form, however, and they now take my thoughts outside where I can imagine them growing like ivy or crabgrass, up walls, around railings, and thriving, improbably, through cracks of an auto-body parking lot in Gowanus.
Now outside, my thoughts migrate over to the Lower East Side, to the Zipora Fried show at On Stellar Rays, where Fried’s monumental graphite drawings evoke a similar contrast of tranquility and turbulence. Suspension of time paired with the elegant implication of motion (subtle to my human eye, catastrophic to a snail) — a head about to turn, a bird about to take flight.
Attentive once again to the artist-songbird atop her ladder perch, the labor of her body as she covers walls and bookcases and doorways with swirling patterns of whites, and I am here, at Proteus. I am sitting in a room…