Video installation an allegory at Muhlenberg Martin Gallery
“the water between us remembers, so we carry this history on our skin. long for the sea-bath and hope the salt will heal what ails us …” greets the visitor to the darkened room where Deborah Jack’s video-sound installation plays in a continuous loop on three floor-to-ceiling projection screens. The video can also be viewed backwards behind of one of the screens, which makes it seem there are four places in the room to view the film.
The exhibit, “the water between us remembers,” continues through Oct. 15, Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.
Jack, assistant professor of art, New Jersey City University, handled all aspects of the project, including filming, editing, sound installation and still photography.
In her artist’s statement, she writes, “The project is an allegory where memory, migration, trans-Atlantic slavery, borders, re-generation are themes that run throughout the work. The island represents a place that is both disconnected and connected, both history and the present. The sea is a space of hidden and unknown depth …”
Her black and white photography can be seen occasionally when the screens are bright enough to send light their way.
“The idea is that the lighter parts of the video sort of create a little bit of illumination. You have to get close to the photos,” says Jack, “so the video you can experience by standing back and taking it all in. With the images, you have to get closer …”
An African-American woman dressed in white, Kiara Vanterpool, gracefully moves about the lush landscape of St. Martin in the allegorical video. She carries with her a bouquet of red-orange tree blossoms from St. Martin, the Caribbean island where the project originated. Toward the end of the film, she drops them in the ocean in tribute to the slaves who were lost during the Middle Passage and to those lost at sea during the international migrant crisis.
Jack edited the film so that different parts of it flash across each screen in different order, but are in synch with each other and the background music. It concludes with a close-up of the young woman’s face reflecting the flowers from the video, while appearing on all of the screens to a song sung by Clara Reyes.
“Ninety-nine percent of my work is shot in St. Martin. I grew up there. That’s where I’m from,” says Jack, “For me, that is where I get my source images.”
Deborah Jack discusses her work at an artist’s talk, 7 p.m. Sept. 14, Baker Center for the Arts.
Gallery hours: Noon - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday, Closed Sunday, Monday. Information: muhlenberg.edu/main/aboutus/gallery/, call 484-664-3467