Embrace your doom

Dave Bryant takes his turn in the Roundhouse at Sala Diaz, as artist Randy Wallace provides the manpower. (Photos by Chuck Ramirez)

Randy Wallace's Sala Diaz installation creates a carnivalesque sensation

Wouldn't it be cool if America were like France and intellectuals were celebrities? That may never happen here, but on First Friday in December we came pretty close as the line to get into Sala Diaz's exhibition grew, filled the yard with interested and interesting people, and became, frankly, the place to be. With the continuous arrival of people, not everyone in line made it into the show by end of the night.

All those people waiting to see Roundhouse, Randy Wallace's sculptural installation at Sala Diaz, had to put their name on a waiting list with the chic young woman at the door and wait for her to call their name. The crowd applauded as one by one, participants entered the show.

What happened on the inside was a complete mental shift from the laughter and conversation outside. Stepping into Wallace's installation, without giving too much away, was like riding in a boat with Willy Wonka.

Fri, Jan 7
Sala Diaz
517 Stieren
Wallace has created an irregular environment, something unexpected but one in which all viewers have the same physical experience. The emotional experience, however, differs from person to person. When entering, viewers must part curtains and, essentially, step on stage. They unexpectedly become the main attraction, as well as the object acted upon. In that position they surrender the option of being bored or unmoved because their role is to react to unforeseen circumstances.

Wallace is the source of Roundhouse's momentum, with few and well-chosen actions that feel like theater of the absurd. The act of turning in circles is central to the piece. In Gyromancer, a sculptural performance piece that Wallace presented at Three Walls in 2002, viewers watched Wallace essentially walking on a wheel while lying on his side, his head resting on a block of melting ice. The artist's physical exertion, accompanied by a soulful and soothing audio piece, was the consumed object for viewers. The low, round wheel penned Wallace in, subject to our gaze. It made one feel rather lazy and unfairly warm standing there, just watching.

Roundhouse viewers are required to register with a chic door-woman and wait for their name to be called.
In Roundhouse, Wallace turns the axis. Gyromancer moved clockwise, sideways, and all eyes led to the artist. His Sala Diaz performance removes the viewer from the protective crowd and puts them into a centrifuge machine. It is also more visually stimulating. The installation's round walls swim with red and white stripes, a simple design tactic that creates vertigo. I heard some people call it carnivalesque; it does resemble a striped circus tent.

When the performance ends and viewers exit the installation, they come upon a large sunken table filled with canned beverages for the taking. The cans bizarrely spell out "DOOM" like members of a high school band at half time. Never mind the message, it's a refreshing beverage, right? Eventually the words are erased as viewers take drinks and, ultimately, the warning is just part of viewers' memories.

Doom is a complementary piece to Roundhouse. Both works play with large concepts in brief time, including fear, guilt, the gaze, and theater. Viewers are ejected from Roundhouse as quickly as they enter and Doom is ironically comforting: Of course you need a beverage. It's a positive physical experience that you alone control. Do I want a Tecate? Or a Bud Light?

Yet, participants controlled their entry into the installation in the first place and there were those, albeit only a few, that refused to go in. For those who missed participating the first time for whatever reason, Roundhouse's repeat performance will take place on First Friday, January 7. Come on, everybody's doing it.

By Catherine Walworth

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