Gray Area is a politically-minded nonprofit arts venue focused on dissolving boundaries between art and technology, performance and life. The End Of You, open through March 1, is an exemplar of their mission.
The immersive art exhibition, designed to take around an hour and experienced with a staggered stream of other people, is the product of 12 artists' work in Gray Area’s incubator, the Experiential Space Research Lab, a collaboration between Gray Area and Gaian Systems, a planetary cognition lab. Artists took leading roles on different installations. The result is a collection that functions as a chaotic, yet cohesive, whole exploring humanity’s abusive and inextricable relationship with the environment.
When you first enter, there is no clear path to follow, no indication of what you can and can’t touch. There’s information available—a fold-out pamphlet distributed at the door, a seated exhibition guide to answer questions—but the power of The End of You comes from the process and uncertainty of slowly discovering the space and unraveling your relationship and responsibility to nature through it.
Your first or last stop in the exhibition is likely the “RegisTree,” by lead artist Romie Littrell, a mutated bio-abstraction of a tree set off from the other two rooms. The “RegisTree” provides a photo of yourself blended with your choice of microscopic matter, a fun visual kickoff or cap-off that makes the overarching theme of the journey explicit. Past the tree, you find “The Room of Revelations,” by lead artist Kelly Skye, which is small and sterile, featuring a bizarre but entrancing mix of animal portraits, floating video panels with flowing images of wilderness, and printed legal news of efforts and successes to win protections and personhood for nature.
The main room begins with “The Luxuriant Prolific Undying,” by lead artist Yulia Pinkusevich, a slice of white-rock shore beneath red, fruit-like orbs hanging from the ceiling. It’s an otherworldly surface with two hunks of tree and roots suspended in the air. Grab a headset and sit down on a shaved stump, run the salt rocks through your fingers, and gaze out on the twisted colors and hallucinatory imagery of “The Uncanny Forest,” by lead artist Stephen Standridge. Experience large panels of abstract, psychedelic color like flowing lava. You’re led on a quasi-meditation by a strange ethereal voice, “Thoughts do not exist without bacteria.” The voice is omniscient and judgmental but nurturing. We’re reminded of our “stardust” beginnings, invited to re-examine the wasteful reality we participate in, and then are offered the freeing solace of considering our ultimate insignificance in the history of the universe.