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Okno, Fugitive Art Center by Susan W. Knowles
Art Papers, May / June 2001

Out of bounds, outside the margins, below the surface -- these were the themes of two of most important recent solo shows. Jim Haynes (Fugitive Art Center, September 9 - October 10, 2000), originally from Nashville and now living in San Francisco, created a gallery-sized installation that blended well with the haphazard edges of the white walled space. "Okno" was a group of visual sound pieces that included wall-mounted stereo system speakers components, removed from their cabinets, wired, and transmitting found sound. The look of naked technology, even that very far from today's high tech electronic circuitry, is unsettling. Haynes added to our unease by positioning the concave black speakers above and on either side of vertical stacks of sewn-together paper containing either photographic images or prints of various body parts -- the tall sheets were enough to suggest the presence of the human form. The imagery, which included numbers, contact prints of skin textures, close-ups of rust -- perhaps even dried blood seen under a microscope -- was dehumanizing. The sense that technology had sprung loose, and that the human touch is barely holding things together, intersected nicely with the rough floors, junction boxes, long forgotten electric wires, and steel support beams at Fugitive. One normally only sees things out of the corner of one's eye, since crisp white drywall has been placed over the wall surface and one's attention normally focuses on art on the walls or the floors here. Haynes' projected audio included droning sounds captured on the airwaves, the crackle and hum of moving electricity, gusts of wind, and dim computer-generated voices. With the sounds, Haynes adds to our unease, calling attention audibly to what is hovering on the edge of consciousness -- to the nondescript murmurs of technology, intellectually unrecognizable, and therefore, almost physically inaudible, since we cannot classify what we are hearing. The overwhelming impact of this work was a sense that humans are caught between expected patterns of everyday life and another reality that is just out of sight, out of earshot, outside of our ordinary experience. Haynes' powerful visual poetry, carefully composed and mounted on the wall, subtly reveals the ominousness of what we take for granted: the ubiquitous cellular towers now dotting our landscape, the potentially damaging impact of radio wave radiation, or high voltage power lines, and most of all, our seeming lack of control. His title, "Okno," suggests that we risk being complicit in our not knowing.