In this several-year project, Barber repeatedly runs into fog drenched landscapes and clambers up rocky outcroppings to add his voice to the harmonic sound of the San Francisco Bay’s foghorns. Mirroring the horns or adding a triad to their chord, the artist’s voice is a signal that attempts (but certainly fails) to help incoming ships navigate the rocky terrain. The absurdity and whimsy of the action is largely ignored by tourists, with the exception of children, who chime in to assist.
Make Me Change Me
In these four shorts, performers deliver surreal lines of text while enveloped by fantastical costumes or environments. Twin versions of a woman encased in glass speak of past lives; a man buried in rope complains of the rain; an austere woman spouts apocalyptic visions in a storm of red dust; and a man whose hands and feet are bound by shipping crates explains a dream. These videos were created while Barber was an artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s recycling and waste facility. All of the scripts were found in the trash, as were the costumes, sets, and materials to construct the camera equipment and lights.
Other Half Orbit (with Ingrid Rojas Contreras)
Full performance runtime 85’; edited documentation TRT 24’57”
This work is a collaboration between Barber and his partner, the novelist Ingrid Rojas Contreras. In 2007 Rojas Contreras was struck by a car and suffered a concussion and amnesia, three days before their wedding. The two performers host an unscripted conversation about the accident, memory loss, identity and dreams, and the limitations of knowing one another. In the installation, the performers are half-submerged in a pool of water so that the image of their bodies is completed by reflection. Their shadows are projected onto the wall by rectangles of light that bounce off the surface of the water. The two shiver through their recollections of the incident, the movement of their bodies and speech creating ripples that disrupt the reflection of the other.
In a flooded and decaying basement, Barber carries a sculptural replica of his own body made from rice paper and suspends it above a pool of water, lays below the body and sets it on fire. The reflection of the paper body burning aligns with the artists’ body below the water, creating a moment in which both appear to be consumed by the flames.
In this slow-motion video, Barber appears to be gently holding a paper replica of his head. It is in fact a paper lantern meant to float, but just as it begins to lift in an updraft, it suddenly catches fire. The artist is left reaching for the effigy as it dissipates.
Portrait of My Father Illuminated by Pounding Dry Ground
A 35mm photographic portrait of Barber’s father is projected into a dark landscape. The artist appears below the projection and begins to beat the ground. A cloud of dust rises as the performer’s action becomes more frantic, and the portrait grows larger, moving within the waves of dust.
Barber and his partner, the novelist Ingrid Rojas Contreras, drag each other’s collapsed bodies across the desert floor of Death Valley. Each carries the other until a point of exhaustion, then drops. The roles reverse and repeat. The discrepancy between their tasks (Barber’s deadweight is much greater) leads to moments of improvisation where the familiarity of the other becomes an odd burden to be accounted for. This is a durational work best viewed in a gallery exhibition setting.