Artist-curators Carey Lin and Sarah Hotchkiss conceived Stairwell's -- a series of temporary installations, publications, and off-site field trips -- as an opportunity to engage art audiences outside of traditional art settings. The focus shifts to familiar, though often-interstitial spaces such as staircases, as locations that -- when activated by visual art -- heighten our awareness of the commonplace.
For CORNERWAYS, the third exhibition in the now two-year-old series, artists Seth Curcio and Dan Swindel were tapped to temporarily alter a live/work space in the Boise Cascade Building, a former industrial complex in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. Through their intervention, our attention is drawn to spaces that often go overlooked, and to the possibility that our constructed environments are not as mundane as might appear.
Though resolutely minimal, the installation fully utilizes the unit's staircase and the positive and negative spaces it creates. On the face of the steps, the side seen when we walk up or down a set of stairs, Curcio installed black and white images of a mineshaft to create a dense, three-dimensional collage. Curcio's practice in part involves the use of found imagery sourced from Flickr. Hotchkiss emphasizes that Curcio seeks "bad" photography for use in his projects, the knowledge of which makes this installation that much more successful. Mounted on a flexible yet sturdy material, similar to foam core, that flexes when stepped on, the installation spans both segments of the short staircase, which was unfinished prior to the exhibition.
Walking up and then back down the stairs, I was only slightly concerned about falling down, an effect intensified by the malleable material beneath my feet. That tenuous feeling was heightened by the sound the panels make when stepped on. Not quite the alarming noise of brittle wood cracking under pressure, but very close. The sensory experience is rounded out by Curcio's complex collage, which becomes legible as a ladder in a mineshaft once you reach the second floor. Looking down the stairs, it appeared that I was at the bottom of the shaft, looking up toward a sliver of sky. For the briefest moment, the space seemed foreign, almost threatening, and it was thrilling.