Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nathan Sharratt says Come Inside. Me.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Nathan Sharratt’s mother put him up for adoption when he was 5 years old. Ten minutes later, she adopted him back. Sharratt explains the situation in his artist statement for Come Inside. Me., his current exhibit installed in a vacant Summerhill bungalow: “Massachusetts law doesn’t allow for a child to be adopted who has a legal parent or guardian. So after my parents married, and my [non-biological] father wanted to adopt me, my mother had to give me up as a ward of the state, and then both parents jointly adopted me. I was an orphan for 10 minutes.”

Sharratt’s not telling you this so that you feel sorry for him. “We love each other, and that’s all that matters,” he says of his family in the statement. He’s telling you this so that you can get to know him a bit before stepping into the domestic dreamscape he’s created at 30 Ormond St., presented by Dashboard Co-op. Throughout the home’s seven rooms, Sharratt has deconstructed the narratives of various family members in an effort to better understand himself. While intensely personal (“I lost it at 13” reads a stainless steel plaque in the family room), there is plenty of space to consider certain universalities about family that exist even if you were never an orphan for 10 minutes. Like Ben Roosevelt’s The Blue Flame and Jason Kofke and Chris Chambers' The Ends, Come Inside. Me. offers a transportive experience, as if stepping through the wardrobe into a kind of American working-class Narnia.

A gabled roof protrudes from the far wall of an otherwise empty living room. There’s no house beneath it. No rooms. No doors. No windows. Just a partially shingled roof with a swoop of tarpaper rising like a plume of smoke onto the wall and ceiling. At first it appears as though some kind of hieroglyphics has been scrawled onto the paper. But a closer look reveals a purposeful series of scribbles overlaid with intermittent musings.

“This is sort of my dad’s room,” Sharratt says. “He told me how to do it. He’s built houses; I haven’t. This is the Frankenstein room also,” he explains of the book that partly inspired the show. “I created these tarpaper drawings of the spaces in between the words of the first 10 or 15 pages of Frankenstein because I was interested in the glue or the nails that hold the narrative together. But I wasn’t interested in [Mary Shelley’s] narrative; I was interested in mine. ... Without the spacing between the words we become this jumbled mess that would be indecipherable or lose its meaning.”

Breathe Together

A gasping sound creeps in from the adjacent bedroom where a massive tangle of clear oxygen tubes and their green extension cords dangle from the ceiling, swaying gently in the soft breeze of the ceiling fan. The labored breathing comes from a video screen embedded in the closet door that shows a frail older woman crumpled over in a hospital bed. The woman is Sharratt’s grandmother. She died at 4 a.m., Feb. 18, 2012. “She had COPD — Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder — from smoking all her life so she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t access the oxygen that was in the air,” Sharratt says. “That really got me thinking about things we take for granted and life and death and birth, renewal.”

With the permission of his family, Sharratt recorded his grandmother, whose breathing was so weak as to be inaudible. As a result, the breathing we hear is Sharratt’s, what he considers a performance aspect of the piece that he did in one taping, only breathing when she breathed onscreen and holding his breath otherwise.

The scene is surreal and the experience chilling. Sharratt’s grandfather paces back and forth at his dying wife’s bedside, looking at his feet, then the camera, then leaning over to whisper something at her. If you’ve ever had a loved one be stolen away by illness — temporarily or permanently — it’s difficult to avoid being taken to that moment in which you try to reconcile the person that you know with life’s hard biological truth.

Tonight is the show’s final night and will be celebrated with a closing reception from 7 to 9 p.m. with an artist’s tour at 8 p.m.

Come Inside. Me. 30 Ormond St. dashboardco-op.org.

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