There were many worst parts of art school: everything was either a poignant gesture or a unique juxtaposition; everyone wanted to play "Home" by Edward Sharpe behind footage of their hometown; half the class left the critique early to go to the local vegan buffet and sip cosmos and light lagers. I am no saint — I stormed out of a critique a time or five after "my practice" was "disrespected", or because I was "sick".
The worst, though, were the constant "storytellers". Identifiable by the feathers woven into their hair and their dreamcatchers tattooed on their thighs, they showed up twenty minutes late to class with a half-finished joint smoldering behind their ear, a hangover pounding their foreheads, and a crumpled handful of polaroid photos in their hands from last night. After slapping the pictures on the wall with some haphazard thumbtacks, they slouch with the wall as a crutch and announce lazily, "I like to think of myself as a storyteller—but I want the viewer to write a story for themselves."
Naturally, a residual panic button goes off in my head when I hear "art" and "narrative" in the same sentence. "Episode 5: in the beginning" at insitu broke down any leftover weariness of storytelling art. With a strong selection of artists and pieces, the latest episode does not tell stories, but sinks the viewer into the storytelling process from start to finish.
The show is cleverly balanced. Whereas some pieces feel like the afterglow of an exciting story, others serve as the equally important fertile soil from which a story is sown. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the stunning "Entreakt" by Alexander Baumgartner (above, at the top). The chairs revolve around the near-life-sized print in a stunning freeze-frame — the viewer is immersed in the tension of the moment as the story takes a recess from unfolding.
In the next room over, "Operación pavo, version II" by the Austrian collective Mahony broods over a story that has already wrapped up. Kevin Schmidt's "A Sign in the Northwest Passage" presents the complete opposite: after placing a billboard that was heavy with warnings from the Book of Revelations in rural Canada, Schmidt allowed the text to disappear along with the melting of the winter season's ice. Schmidt started the story—where does it end?
The strength of insitu's latest episode is the strong balancing act it performs, striking the perfect balance of theme, topic, and tone. Schmidt's dark visions paired with Mahony's mystery are balanced by Sophie Jung's whimsical, personal, and personable "Owl" and Agnieszka Polska's jewel-thief thrilled "Plunderer's Dream". With the first year of insitu's episode cycle approaching its close, it's exciting to see the gallery's momentum grow as their story unfolds.
Episode 5: in the beginning
Alexandra Baumgartner / Robert Devriendt / Sophie Jung / Mahony / Agnieszka Polska / Kevin Schmidt