”Waiting for Godot . . . has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps the audience glued to their seats. What’s more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice.” *
This quote, from Irish theater critic Vivian Mercier’s 1956 review of Samuel Beckett’s famous play, has quietly engaged artist Jane South’s imagination for many years. Her interest in Mercier’s review is extremely pertinent to the understanding ofFloor/Ceiling, the artist’s largest and most ambitious installation to date, and her first to incorporate lighting. South’s work has consistently been informed by her early years in the world of theater set design, particularly the period she spent in the late 1980s working with a company in London that focused almost exclusively on the plays of Beckett. This history has come full circle in the realization of Floor/Ceiling, a work that has two distinctly different acts: the view looking up from the Museum’s ground floor Project Space and the view looking down from the second floor Balcony Gallery.
South’s large-scale works are notable due to being made almost entirely out of painted, cut, and glued paper. Their façade-like character relates to the constructed and temporary nature of the environment of the theater, but Floor/Ceiling doesn’t really recall a stage set as much as something one shouldn’t focus on while attending a performance: the loft above the stage and audience.
The superstructure of Floor/Ceiling is fabricated out of wood, CNC milled particleboard, and steel cable. Like the lighting grid above a stage, the structural components are fairly matter-of-fact, while the attached paper elements are reminiscent of many things, but resemble nothing in particular. South’s paper objects may evoke the steely geometry of things that are industrially-made, but their decidedly handmade character humanizes them in a subtle and quirky manner.
Floor/Ceiling is not interactive in any traditional sense, but viewers, depending on their location in relation to South’s circular “stage,” might find themselves cast in the roles of actor, stagehand, or audience member.
Richard Klein, exhibitions director
*Italics added to the end of the quotation by the artist