There is an otherworldliness to Bailey Ennig’s artwork, Nostalgia . In the manner of a
dream, it combines different modes of sensation that intermingle seamlessly. A complete experience is generated through disparate elements. And each element is pristine in its clarity: the landscape (created in material form by the artist -- sculpted dioramas), motion (a digital passage through images of these dioramas), and voice. The digital motion is a hovering disembodied floating, an impossibility of movement without motion. The landscape itself transports. It is the exaggerated landscape of childhood: clusters of pine needles and twigs are perceived as trees; clods of dirt, shadowed hillocks. The sensitized absorption of youth seeps through the atmosphere. The almost-technicolor sky, chirping birds, ethereal acceleration; they function in unison creating a just-aside-reality, a memory of childhood Oz from the remove of adult Kansas.
Ennig frames his work meticulously, recreating the setting of his childhood. A 1990’s era entertainment center complete with television screen, vcr, and nintendo console, houses the animation. It speaks out of this scene, the voice of the remembered past. The artist’s voice is the keystone of this work. Its spoken narrative alters the atmosphere, and reveals a gravitational vortex, an unapproachable mystery. For this nostalgia is riddled with amnesia. Nostalgia is an intense homesickness, a yearning for an unreachable place and a separate time. The longing can be so acute that it was once considered fatal. The artist is describing a time of trauma in his youth, bracketed by declarations of faulty memory. The trauma itself is a black-box, impenetrable. It is a sound-effect, an acknowledgement of anxiety and pain, but not a describable event. The conflict between the longing to return and the trauma that will be found, is the engine of the voice, an enigmatic propellor through the panorama of memory. The narrating voice is acousmatic, meaning a sound that exists without its cause being visible. This term originally came from the teaching method of Pythagoras. The legend was that he hid behind a black veil while teaching, so his students would not be distracted by the visual. There has since been debate that the veil was not physical, that the term was actually describing his use of language; the true meanings of his words were veiled to the uninitiated. Ennig’s artwork maintains the same aura of interpretive riddle. It is a confessional work that does not reveal itself overtly. Visual pleasure is mingled with the edges of a remembered wound; a woven poignance that resounds with the magic and terror of childhood.
- Michelle Weinstein
Film that switches from B&W to colour, when the main character enters the magical land of Oz. Directed by Victor Fleming, MGM, 1939. Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum.
Dolar, Mladen. A Voice and Nothing More . MIT Press, 2006.