M’Kenzy Cannon’s “Please Let Me In” at the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts is a haunted house of an exhibition.
Cannon, working with curator Maya Rubio in this latest installment of the Mills Gallery’s 1:1 Curatorial Initiative series, creates an installation that loosely mirrors a home and evokes an absent inhabitant. The piece toggles between tangible and intangible, analog and digital, literal and metaphorical.
There are two doors: a large, paint-chipped one missing a doorknob, and a photographic image of a much smaller door, like the entryway to a hobbit’s house.
A handout of a floor plan denotes one space with a photo of a castle or fortress, but the area is filled with mulch littered with scrap metal. Has the castle crumbled? Here, it becomes vividly clear we are not in someone’s home. We’re in someone’s psyche. Nearby, video projections of other domestic spaces — a dilapidated bathroom, a stairway — swim and morph. In smaller videos around the gallery, a masked woman wanders through the woods, vacuums, takes a bath.
Is she a ghost, or does she reside here? Or, somehow, both? And is she the same woman whose face appears in a photo early in the installation, her eyes tearing up?
The bedroom is nested at the rear of the installation. Viewers may open drawers and glean what they can from clothing, furniture, and keepsakes. Cannon’s sly implications are sweet and mildly menacing. There’s a creepy, gangly sock puppet-type of critter on the bed; the bedside table has a drawer with a butter knife and a ski mask inside. Sifting through a stranger’s drawers feels thrillingly illicit.
Cannon says in her bio that her practice involves “creative archiving — the intersection of research, art, and archival design, specifically in relation to digital realms and found objects.” In “Please Let Me In,” she uses old clothes, snapshots, and knickknacks to create a fictional archive of the belongings of this house’s resident.
The accumulation of these things, and the order she puts them in, leads us into a realm of our own projections. We’re already dreaming, and she introduces more hallucinatory imagery. It’s a trip. But Cannon’s novelist’s eye for granular detail is a mooring, so we may drift without losing our way.
M’KENZY CANNON: PLEASE LET ME IN
At Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, 551 Tremont St., through Sept. 10. www.bostonarts.org
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com.