Jonathan Brilliant’s ‘Two Rooms’ interactive show on display
A new installation and sculpture exhibition by visiting artist Jonathan Brilliant opened last Thursday at Blackbridge Hall with a reception and a presentation by the artist. Entitled “Two Rooms”, Brilliant created the site-specific installation using pre- and post-consumer materials of the American to-go coffee shop culture.
In one room, Brilliant assembled an interactive piece with audio-enabled, viewer-activated coffee cups. The normally static to-go coffee cups vibrate and rattle in response to a viewer’s presence, creating a visually percussive experience of twitching coffee cups suddenly animated in response to their viewers.
In another room, Brilliant constructed an installation sculpture piece with coffee stirrer sticks woven together without the use of glue or adhesive or any type of bonding material, supported strictly by tension. Sprawling outward from a vent in the back of the room, the piece extends over much of the room creating spaces to walk in and around and under, making the art more of an experience and less of a simple observation.
Brilliant discussed his work at a presentation following the reception at the gallery, explaining his process and material choices as well as the background for this and other works.
“I want this to be representative of my time and experience in the space,” Brilliant said. “I want these to be my presence in a space.”
He explained that he wants his pieces to exist only in the space they were created, and that he uses his exhibitions to learn more about his work.
“In my mind, the idealized setting and experience of the gallery is intertwined with the perfect comfort provided by contemporary coffee shops,” Brilliant said.
The major question for many of the gallery visitors was how such a sculpture works. “One stick at a time,” Brilliant said. “Each stick holds about three or four other sticks, so I start with one and work from there.”
The exhibit and methods of Brilliant were well-recevied by those in attendance of the presentation.
“Hearing about his inspiration and process was interesting,” junior nursing major Aly Roxburgh said. “It’s great to see what a real artist out in the real world is doing.”
After attending the exhibition and the artist’s presentation, sophomore Desiree Martinez said, “The story behind a work of art always helps to make it more interesting; considering the context gives the work a kind of depth.”
Brilliant discussed the history of his intriguing stick-sculptures with a presentation of the other places he has created these installations, including New York, Germany, Seattle and South Carolina. He also discussed his percussive coffee-cup installations and their history in places like museums and other galleries.
Much of Brilliant’s work is temporary, site-specific creations.
“If you do temporary art, people never forget it. If you do permanent art it becomes like wallpaper; people eventually stop noticing it. But if it’s temporary, the memory can become bigger than the work,” Brilliant said.
His self-described “snarky, conceptual art” includes large-scale sculpture-weavings of to-go cups and water bottles, casts and prints of to-go cups, and installations involving other parts of the consumerist coffee culture like the lids, sleeves, stirrer sticks, and straws. “I’m really interested in what the limits of a material are,” Brilliant said.