FALL RIVER — This small, post-industrial city is becoming fertile ground for art and artists.
In 2019, the city’s annual FABRIC arts festival debuted. The next year, the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art opened. Now Fall River welcomes a multiuse arts space, GATHER, presented by local partners including the museum, the nonprofit Fall River Arts & Culture Coalition and Selvage Southcoast, an initiative of Viva Fall River, a grant-funded, public/private tourism organization.
“HYPERBALLADS,” featuring many artists from the Portuguese diaspora (which has a strong presence in this city), is the ambitious first show in GATHER’s Ignition Space. Curator Jesse James explores notions of “hyper,” defining it in exhibition text as “giving life and expression to impossibility.” The works probe potentials of a consciousness we all share, whether through the digital ether or other incorporeal networks.
Such connections can be lovely or thorny. Eva Papamargariti’s tragic, engrossing HD video “Soft Touch” investigates the thinning veil between humans and our devices. Notes scribbled on Post-its attached to skin, written on hands, or floating through space read like messages in bottles from one distant body to another: “I love you as much as I love my phone.”
Another video, Beatriz Brum’s brilliant “Beyond Gazing,” straddles a dark corner of the gallery. The dreamy, color-rich abstraction is so still I grew impatient watching it. Then I noticed a pale light pulsing around a tiny heart at the center, and I began to perceive small, steady movements in my peripheral vision. Inviting something more dynamic than a gaze, Brum’s video calls for two skill sets of attention — focus and relaxed receptivity — together which set the stage for creative enterprise.
Yuli Yamagata’s sculptures “Harry Hairy Spider” and “Rushy Spider,” with plaid fabric limbs and hands or feet, comically hint at webs and hybrid beings. Sónia Almeida’s expansive jacquard-woven textile “Racket” hangs from the ceiling in a zigzag with paper booklets perforating its cotton panels. References shuttle from bodily sensation to spatial awareness, from diagrammatic thinking to the exchange in a tennis volley, describing antennae hardwired into our nervous systems that foster connection and communication.
We’re living in hyper times in so many ways. “HYPERBALLADS” reminds us that as we wade into the often frightening mystery we have anchors in our bodies and in each other.
At Ignition Space at GATHER, 44 Troy St., Fall River, through Nov. 18. www.fabricfallriver.com/Program/hyperballads