la Esquina main exhibition space featuring the work of Chris Daharsh (floor) and Gerry Trilling (wall). Installation view from gallery entrance.
Installation view of the "rises Zora" information hub and archive in the entryway of la Esquina.
Exterior view of Charlotte Street Foundation's exhibition space, la Esquina.
rises Zora: An Exploration of the Urban Labyrinth
Organized by Inaugural Charlotte Street Curator-In-Residence Jamilee Polson Lacy
la Esquina, Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri
May 10 - June 15, 2013
rises Zora, a multi-venue visual arts project organized by Charlotte Street Curator-In-Residence Jamilee Polson Lacy, allows Kansas City-based artists to illustrate and contribute to the multifaceted history, present and future of the labyrinth as a concept that encompasses nearly every aspect of urban experience. Sporadically staging installations, performances, public events and more across the Kansas City metro area, artists activate and connect the city’s dynamic spaces in their efforts to understand, emphasize, and travel the urban labyrinth.
The first-known labyrinth is the story of the Cretan Labyrinth told through Greek mythology. Designed by architect and thinker Daedalus to house Knossos the Minotaur, the Cretan Labyrinth is ultimately solved and the Minotaur conquered by Greek hero Theseus with the help of Ariadne’s guiding string. However, the Cretan labyrinth has no built reference (it survives as a mere half-truth or legend typical of mythology), meaning that any image alluding to this original labyrinth, from Greco-Latin Antiquity to present day, has inevitably been invented. Indeed, there are symbolic links between Ariadne’s guiding thread through the mythical Cretan labyrinth to cities’ organizational grid-like networks of alleys, one-way streets, plazas and architectural separations. Urbanites who interact and interpret the city must rely on memory and recognition to guide them on their infinite quest to know and experience the urban labyrinth.
In his Invisible Cities novel, Italo Calvino writes about a city called Zora, a city that no one, having seen it, can ever forget:
Beyond six rivers and three mountain ranges rises Zora… Zora has the quality of remaining in your memory point by point… Zora’s secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one after another... The man who knows by heart how Zora is made, if he is unable to sleep at night, can imagine he is walking along the streets and he remembers the order by which the copper clock follows the barber’s striped awning, then the fountain with the nine jets, the astronomer’s glass tower, the melon vendor’s kiosk, the stature of the hermit and the lion, the Turkish bath, the café at the corner, the alley that leads to the harbor. This city, which cannot be expunged from the mind, is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember… Between each idea and each point of the itinerary an affinity or a contrast can be established, serving an immediate aid to memory. So the world’s most learned men are those who have memorized Zora. (15-16)
The city of Zora embodies the labyrinth as a dynamic conception of space and ideas, rather than static perspective. But above all, Zora illustrates the Labyrinth as a structure or an idea for mental organization and creative method, wanderings and errors, passes and impasses, luminous breakaways and tragic seclusion, in the generalized mobility of the past, present and future (more apparent than real), the polemical debate of open and closed, of solitude and communion, of real and imagined. Using Zora, this city “which cannot be expunged from the mind” analogously with Kansas City, a city too consisting of “patterns following one after another,” and casting Kansas City’s artists and audiences in the symbiotic roles of Theseus and Ariadne, the rises Zora project conjures and considers the wide implications of labyrinthine narratives, forms and experiences specific to local urbanity. Cumulatively, rises Zora artistically reflects the philosophical and mystical implications of Kansas City, the metropolitan labyrinth, which by design determines singular and multiple courses of reality.
For the duration of rises Zora, Charlotte Street’s la Esquina exhibition space operates as an informational hub, archive and installation center.
All photographs by E.G. Schempf.