Beholding the multimedia work in the “threads” exhibit at Gasp in Brookline, on view through March 11th, you might wonder if the mixed metaphors in the curatorial introduction were stitched into the sentences on purpose. After all, the four figures of speech (lens, thread, tissue, core) that complicate a single sentence of the blurb do somehow echo (to use a fifth!) the colorful clutter of the exhibit. In Gasp’s two tiny rooms, you see enough stuff, practically, to fill a warehouse at MASS MoCA.
Like the conceptual work you see at that museum, the work in this group exhibition could use more room to make its presence felt. In such cramped quarters, it’s easy to miss the Meat Sign in the front window, its electric white thread lights stitching out the word in lasso-like cursive, next to some steak-like pillows, a la Claes Oldenburg, made of extremely tacky fabric. If you’re not careful you might overlook, inside, the miniature, child-friendly diorama of Santa’s clothing (red trousers, jacket, and cap all trimmed with white) hung out to dry on a clothesline with his gift bag against a blue felt sky—or, near that, an installation that includes a pink and black hooded cloak, matching hand-sewn sewing kit, and somewhat incoherent complementary video about visitations of an “invented female aggressor”—the vampire missing from the cloak. You’ve got to look closely to see the brighter threads in the fabric of this exhibit.
You can’t miss, though, Leah Gauthier cooking in the front room for gallery visitors in the performance part of her and Halsey Burgund’s Variations on the Theme of Food. She and Burgund interviewed 25 people about their culinary cultures, weaving the narrative responses not just into the friendly sound piece you hear (interview samples against some soft, home-sewn music) but into the dishes she prepares on the spot for your aesthetic delectation and spiritual nutrition. Eating an Indian samosa, some Russian piroshki, or a chunk of Deep Southern cornbread, you can hear Gauthier explain that people from many cuisines—South Asian, African-American, Filipino, Russian, Chinese, Anglo-American—have found their way into the piece, and into you.
That’s roughly the number of metaphors you saw in the curatorial blurb—and roughly the number of international radio stations you’ll hear in Michael Sheridan’s Culture Catcher, another sound piece in the exhibit. You can hear the whole human world, standing there at Sheridan’s colorfully complicated, transparent wall of electronic gizmos that he uses to pick up “news and cultures of the global community.” If you’re lucky, in the midst of the evocative crackle and scratch of his shortwave radio’s democratic and all-inclusive static, you might be able to snatch, from two tiny speakers, a mind-altered raga from Mumbai, some talk-show babble from Manila, and an exhilarating burst of applause from a soccer game in Managua—all in the space of a few minutes, and each station, each culture, with its own special idiom of metaphors whose poetry, to quote Robert Frost, is, for better and worse, “lost in translation.”