Critics’ Picks

View of “Seismic Reflection,” 2013.

View of “Seismic Reflection,” 2013.


Bethany Springer

75 Bennett St. Suite K1
April 11–May 24, 2013

Most of the works in Bethany Springer’s solo exhibition “Seismic Reflection” emerged from her month spent at the Full Tilt Creative Centre in McIvers, Newfoundland, attempting to record the movement of icebergs. Instead of creating the intended recordings, however, Springer constructed a site-specific installation, Tidal, 2012, (here represented by documentary photos), using rope purchased from a local hardware store. Among other works on view is a sprawling floor-bound sculpture, Seismic Reflection, 2013, created after the artist’s return to Arkansas, where she works and teaches.

For Tidal, the artist wove a bright yellow net and attached one end to her Newfoundland residence and the other to an adjoining wooden fence on the property. By virtue of its setting in an area where cod fishing had been the major industry for five centuries, the frail, unmonumental net gestures at the industry’s collapse in the early 1990s and the political rancor that ensued. Meanwhile, the work Seismic Reflection, after which the show is named, consists of a rambling, buckled sheet of galvanized mesh, on and around which are two lawn chairs (one with chrome-plated slats) and a small cluster of wax-covered Styrofoam chunks that resemble ice.

These works evoke a sense of a dysfunctional landscape, icy and cold. But a few of the works also seem constricted by the artist’s initial concept. The video Signal-to-Noise Ratio, 2012, which depicts a glass of water containing ice cubes from an iceberg, a common practice in that part of the world, is a case in point. Using time-lapse photography, the ice cubes melt and then regenerate as the video runs in reverse. At one point an oil tanker passes by in the background. The video clearly functions as a comment on diminishing natural resources, but its generic visual quality unchanging across a fifteen-minute running time renders it a somewhat flat illustration of that single idea. “Seismic Reflection” taps into important contemporary ideas, but is most effective where the particulars of a work’s execution move well beyond the ideas that generated them.