If you grew up in suburbia, the hairs on the back of your neck are apt to stand up as you make your way through the creepy Proustian labyrinth that is Stephen Scott Smith’s Seeyouyousee. The installation meticulously distills the physical and emotional essences of a typical suburban home, and it’s not a happy place. It took Smith 60 days to construct this faux domestic interior inside Breeze Block Gallery’s project space. With its gray walls and white baseboards, innocuous carpeting and lone potted plant, it’s a dreary simulacrum of the middle-class American dream—except it’s not appointed with furniture, appliances or bric-a-brac like a real house. Instead, its mostly spartan halls are punctuated with odd, simplified objects that spur common childhood memories. A black rectangle mounted on a pedestal stands in for a stereo speaker or the family TV; steel-capped fir planks lean against a wall like oversized crayons; and a furry black cowhide hangs from a hook, an abstraction of some garment you might come across in your parents’ closet.
In a cramped side room, a video monitor in the floor plays a slowly moving image of an explosion, evoking the churning tectonics of childhood growth itself. There is no privacy here: The home has no doors; walls are cut through with slats; and closed-circuit cameras simulcast your every move to screens in other rooms, so you better not jack off or smoke weed in your room. Smith heightens this paranoid atmosphere with an eerie soundtrack that drones from the rafters with staticky ambient sounds, just below the threshold of recognizability.
In a 2011 installation called These Dreams,
Smith dealt with nostalgia in a cozier fashion, re-creating a 1980s
teenager’s bedroom, complete with Madonna and Prince LPs. His current
exhibit offers no such footholds for specific memories. It is a past
whose contours have blurred and blunted, a haunted house whose bogeymen
have no faces. In this unsettling installation, Smith implicitly replies
to Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again with a resounding “Why on earth would you want to?”
SEE IT: Seeyouyousee is at Breeze Block Gallery, 323 NW 6th Ave., 318-6228. Through April 20.