Enter the Box: Phillip Scarpone's latest exhibit at Grizzly Grizzly


Whats that funky looking cross between the TARDIS and a bomb shelter box thats taking up residency inside Callowhill art studio Grizzly Grizzly? Its actually an interactive work by Delaware native Phillip Scarpone, a sculptor and mixed media artist who, with University City Station: Glassboro, has created a sensory structure based on a mash-up of architectural memories. We chatted with Scarpone to find out more about his thoughts on memory and what the heck UCity and Glassboro have in common.

So why did you choose these two spots, UCity and Glassboro, to play a part in this work?

The two locations I referenced in the piece were very unrelated at first. In 2013, I was living in Athens, Ga. and made a trip home to the Mid Atlantic region for the summer. I set out to photograph architectural elements unique to the area to bring back to my studio as reference images. The Glassboro image was taken of a bunker type pod in a scrap yard in Glassboro, N.J. and the University City Station image is of a dilapidated steam room along the regional rail line at that stop. The images sat around my studio for some time and eventually became two structures that I continually looked at together and overlapped in my head. Around that time I was reading two books Architecture of Fear by Nan Allen and Some Place Like Home by Toby Israel. Nan Allens book speaks to architecture and spatial design in how it is influenced by societys preoccupation with fear. Toby Israels book speaks about design psychology with the basis being that our sense of self and sense of the environment are very closely intertwined from seeds planted at childhood. The two spaces I photographed, University City Station and Glassboro, in some ways overlapped in my mind with the larger themes of those two books. The buildings dilapidated/weathered qualities became even more appealing to me looking at the images in a different region of the country (almost tying in to my sense of self or the region I grew up in) and the brutalist aesthetic of the buildings drew parallels to ideas of uneasiness or oppressive architecture.

How did these two memory locations come together?

They started to tie together in my mind as an abstraction or accumulation of fragments. The interior of the piece is somewhat referential to the interior of the Glassboro pod in that it was an extremely claustrophobic thing. To complete the interior, I also used loose memories of working in fan rooms, boiler rooms, tight corridors, attics, basements and industrial refrigeration units. The exterior more closely relates to the image of University City Station, which is a solid concrete block structure. The Glassboro pod also seemed to potentially be a refrigeration unit at one point, hence the air conditioner.

What, in terms of sensory experiences, can the visitor expect to experience?

Viewers can expect to experience temperature shifts in various parts of the gallery, white noise and shifts in lighting and color.

Is this your first installation like this?

I have built a number of installations in the past, but this is one of the few that becomes a full body, sensory experience once inside the structure

Whats your history with Grizzly Grizzly? Have you worked with them before?

I have not worked with the gallery before. I shared my work with them last year and they offered me the exhibition opportunity.

Do memories get mashed up with other memories?

This is a great question because photography has been a mechanism Ive used for a long time.

I certainly think that technology is creating a new kind of recollection. My cell phone bank of images is almost absurd since I use the camera on a daily basis as a tool to capture places, people or things that strike my interest for potential future works. Sometimes I feel like Im swiping through a black hole looking for an image I slightly remember taking.

There is a sort of preciousness that is lost from being able to capture so many images on a device in my pocket, as opposed to dealing with printing film. For instance, going to a family members house who pulls out a book or pile of family photographs. When you start sifting through the photos stories are told and memories are relived/preserved. The strong connection to the images might be because they are tangible, unique and prone to decay.

In an attempt to regain a precious quality in my cell phone or digital camera reference images, I add layers of information to create ambiguity. I do this by, diffusing, overlapping, drawing on top of them and re-photographing them through light tables. In my mind it brings them to a state of being slightly ambiguous, unique and personal so that they have a history and stronger story attached to them.

As far as memories becoming mashed up with other memories: the idea of fragmentation and building with fragments of recollection to create a new whole is something I explore quite a bit. I am interested in how recalling a moment, space or experience, diluting it and filtering it through a mental sieve, can create new poetry in what we find important.

Through July 24. Grizzly Grizzly, 319 N. 11th St. grizzlygrizzly.com


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