The large room at the Pasadena Museum of California Art that embraces Alex Kristselis’s art installation is dark. A set of bleachers dominates the room’s entrance.
A video — the room’s only light source— is projected on a wall beyond the bleachers, peeking above and through the gaps of the bleacher steps. The promise of light and kinetic imagery entices the viewer to mount the steps.
From the top, one looks down upon a perfect grid of 366 folded Los Angeles Times newspapers placed on the floor, illuminated only by the brightly lit wall. Each paper’s top half features the top news of the day.
Kritselis, formerly dean of the VAMS division at PCC, explains the installation’s title, “Above The Fold,” in a newspaper-like brochure.
“Above the fold [of a newspaper] you see policy established, biases exploited, myths debunked. War is declared and supported (or not),” he says.
Yet, the newspaper display tells of installation’s greater intent.
Placed in the upper-left corner of the orderly arrangement, the first newspaper is dated Sept. 11, 2001. To its right is the next days’ paper, and so on.
The newspaper grid, four weeks wide by 13 months deep, concludes with the date Sept. 11, 2002. The result: an opportunity to reckon with a sea of post-9/11 news headlines.
At first glance, the images projected on the wall above the papers immediately draw the eye to a looped video of an open heart surgery where, occasionally, a flame leaps from the surgical tools manipulating the heart. To its left and right, video of light and bubbles dancing on the surface of flowing water provides relief.
“I had to find a metaphor,” Kritselis said, “to express [what] I thought the people inside the [World Trade Center] towers had experienced,” he said.
“[Their hearts] continued to pulse [as they lived out] their lives in the most horrendous way … until the moment the towers came down,” Kritselis said.
The surgery’s flame is meant to convey the buildings’ inferno, he said, and the water is the fluidity in the moments that marked that fateful morning.
Daniel Carrillo, art and graphic design, was intrigued by the installation.
“It’s an interesting mix, the water, the heart and all of those newspapers,” Carrillo said, “[and] seeing the reflections on the water [and how they] reflect on the newspapers.”
He felt the newspapers illustrated how the world had been shaped by 9/11.
Lisa Sugimoto, PCC’s former interim president, found the installation both mesmerizing and intellectually stimulating.
“If you look at the array of papers, you see how long it took for people to transition from 9/11 to other things of importance,” she said.
Sugimoto said 9/11 was such an indelible memory for her that she’d forgotten the many important events that followed.
The water imagery evoked feelings of peace, purity and rebirth, Sugimoto said. It paralleled how the recent memorial events that marked 9/11’s tenth anniversary weren’t just about remembering, but moving forward, as well.
Kritselis said the newspaper collection began on the morning of 9/11.
“That day, I received the first paper which I did not read,” he said, and for each day after, he collected the newspapers but did not read them
Kritselis said he began to stack the newspapers in a corner. When the stack reached the ceiling, a second tower was started.
In 2002, while talking with a museum curator, Kritselis realized the papers’ artistic importance and “Above The Fold” was born.
“Above The Fold” will be on display at the PMCA until Jan. 8.
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