Spillchamber, 1987

By Billy Rubin
Published in Vox Vernacular
Feb. 25, 2014

Produced in New York and Japan in 1987, Spillchamber is bilingual and was later reworked numerous times in Europe and America. Languages as a palpable, corrosive force and as an element of sabotage are the central themes of this work. The installation is a free-floating narrative space, where corporate sabotage, rumor, and mythology combine in a toxic web of language. At the center of this immersive installation stands a towering pile of refuse illuminated with black light and splashed with day-glow paint, as are many of the walls. Unwanted, discarded, invasive words, objects and moving images are variously trapped and embedded within pools, lenses, crystal balls and infinity chambers. 

Spillchamber is divided into five sculptural forms: Psychometric Crest, The Contents, The Dump, Mutation Molecule and The Moon. Each of these forms is a source of modular narratives culled from interviews, psychic readings, modern folk tales, industrial misinformation and propaganda, and associated with a specific object or area according to their subject matter. In Psychometric Crest two psychics, performer and collaborator Karen Finley and the anonymous Christina, were recorded "reading" a number of figurines and collected refuse: a lottery ticket, beer and perfume bottles, pottery shards and objects of unknown function. The Contents, a generic rectangular box with large barcodes on four sides, is a composite product consisting of various household consumables. Piercing its center a scrolling videotext of collected contents is reflected to infinity within a mirrored shaft. The Dump is the centerpiece of this installation, a cone- like pile of refuse stacked to the ceiling with a video- reflecting pool of stagnant, bubbling water at its core. A number of vignettes taking the form of short reenactments from memory, movie reviews, computer graphic animations and dramatizations are played out on the pool's surface. Mutation Molecule is made up of transparent spheres that are set into the wall and act as fish-eye lenses focusing on a number of talking heads. These forgetful oracles contribute personal accounts of mass-media events, such as the Chicago Tylenol murders and a similar case in Japan, while viewing the movie The Exorcist. Finally, The Moon, a circular projection, was made in collaboration with writer Constance DeJong. It consists of a game-like structure devised to rename the geographic features of the moon.