RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 MY LACK OF REDNESS IS TRANSPARENT (top, oblique).jpg

SEEN / UNSEEN / NOT SEEN (INSTALLATION & SCULPTURE)

SEEN / UNSEEN / NOT SEEN (INSTALLATION & SCULPTURE)

SEEN / UNSEEN / NOT SEEN

September-October 2017, The Muted Horn, Cleveland Ohio.

This solo exhibition looked at problems of identity, ways to measure my identity, and ways of thinking about my body and its connections to land and to my family (past, present, and future).

Lineage is an abstract concept and heirlooms decay, the physical body is all that I have to think about identity, and, like everyone else, my body is my primary interface for how I experience the world. So I produced a set of reference scales calibrated by my bodily dimensions at this point in time.

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 DIMENSIONS VARIABLE (oblique).jpg

 

Some questions are better answered by culture than they are by science. With increased obsession with DNA testing to determine cultural heritage (including a white American fascination with indigenous heritage), I wanted to see if my body could give me a visual indicator of my degree of indigenous blood.  I explored and exposed moves toward settler innocence by tracing 17 generations in my ancestry to identify the last fully indigenous man and woman to produce a child. A physician drew two vials of my blood in the gallery which I then diluted with water by factors of four for each generation (since four gene pools converge in every child: maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, paternal grandfather). Next I used the diluted blood to write the names of my ancestors with their respective diluted blood ratios as my ink. Looking through the vials of blood moving from 100% blood to blood so diluted that it is crystal clear, it became visually evident that my lack of redness is transparent. My ratio of indigenous blood to settler blood is for every 1 drop of indigenous blood, there are 32,768 drops of settler blood running through my veins.

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 MY LACK OF REDNESS IS TRANSPARENT (top, oblique).jpg
RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 MY LACK OF REDNESS IS TRANSPARENT (side, oblique).jpg
RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 MY LACK OF REDNESS IS TRANSPARENT (face, oblique).jpg

Among the other works in this exhibition, I traced 148 feet of cracks in the gallery floor and filled them with a network of lamp-work glass tubing to make people aware of their bodies as they moved through the gallery. We typically ignore floors and cracks when we walk over them, but breaking the glass in a gallery made people think about their bodies in the space in a new way.

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 UNTITLED 2.jpg
RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 UNTITLED 6 (wide).jpg

Because of assimilation and moves toward whiteness in my recent family history I've felt the loss of cultural expression, and I explored this by producing an heirloom designed to consume itself slowly over the next 8,000 years. I found the scrap end of the cedar ridgepole from my grandfather's house and noticed that it still had the cut marks from when he used a saw to cut the beam during installation. Making the cut is an idiomatic expression that can be used to talk about approval dynamics and I wanted to see how this could be transformed into a ritual to explore parent-child relationship dynamics and the transmission of a family line. As a ritual process of grieving, I had my father use my grandfather's saw to replicate the saw cut that my grandfather had made on this beam. He cut only a saw-blade's thickness off of the beam, replicating the cut and effectively erasing the trace of my grandfather's cut. My father then collected the sawdust into a vessel. When my father dies I will perform the protocol and erase his cut. When I die, my child will perform the action and erase my cut. If this continues, based on the dimensions of the beam and the width of the saw blade, and assuming an average generation of 21 years, it will take 8,000 years to destroy itself as a record of lineage. 

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 MAKING THE CUT (wide, side, oblique).jpg

Each time a cut is made to the beam, a line is scribed into the polished aluminum plate that serves as the plinth for this cedar beam. You can read the number of cuts by counting the scribe lines on the plate and seeing how much of the beam has been cut away.

MAKING THE CUT (DETAIL) - SEEN / UNSEEN / NOT SEEN

The adze is one tool that has spontaneously developed around the world. I first learned to make adzes while living in the South Pacific, but adzes originate in multiple cultures, including some of the northern European cultures of my ancestors. I produced this adze as a way to understand the past tool making cultures in my heritage.

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 ADZE.jpg

A detail image of the lamp-work glass tubing filling cracks in the gallery floor. 

RYAN DEWEY - SEEN UNSEEN NOT SEEN - MUTED HORN GALLERY 2017 UNTITLED 7 (detail).jpg
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Finally, to think about empathy and my relationship to nature and the future of our environment, I embedded a terrarium in cement (a kind of Schrödinger's cat meets Tamagotchi pet) with an LED grow light that is activated by pushing down a tiny button on top of the cement cylinder (as seen on the exhibition postcard below).   


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