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Milner's 'Wave' Exhibition Searches For Humanity

At the Emmanuel Gallery quirky and peculiar art will catch your eye, especially now with Adam Milner’s new experimental and conceptual art exhibit on display.

Adam Milner will admit that some of his objects could be seen as flat out weird – but there’s also more to the work.

“You see those ideas that I’m hoping I’ll get the viewer to think about, are things like, ‘What does it mean to be human today?’ or ‘What does it mean to be close with someone in a world where conceptions of distance are flattened?’,” said Milner.

It’s that close yet distant world of digital interaction where the exhibit’s title hails from, “Wave So I Know You’re Real.” It specifically grew from 25-year-old Milner’s experience with online video chatting.

“It would be very easy to loop a video of someone sitting at a computer, and so people would say stick out your tongue or wave,” he said. “I’d be proving my humanness to this person before I was allowed to interact with them. And I found that really interesting.”

Credit Carrie Saldo
'Licking Light, Etc. (Urinal Actions),' a single-channel video, featuring and created by artist Adam Milner for his exhibit 'Wave So I Know You're Real.'

Milner has verified his humanity in this exhibit by including a video of the himself trying to capture light on his tongue while poised in front of a urinal - which on reflection is oddly pacifying. Other ways include Polaroid pictures of the ocean and naked male bodies from the chest down, groupings of objects behind Plexiglas and abstract line sketches he creates as he drifts to sleep.

Paradoxically, given the digital infatuation, there are also handmade books with titles such as My Favorite Things and Things About Me I Have Gleaned From Text Messages I Have Received. There's also a lounge to read those books in.

“There is something about his work that is so personal,” said Emmanuel Gallery Director Sharon Corrigan. “It’s so romantic, it’s so touching that you almost feel like you are invading someone’s privacy. And I think that is a really titillating and fascinating aspect to his work.”

There’s also the challenge of Milner’s work, namely, what makes it art?

The aforementioned abstract ink-on-paper sketches, titled Every Night I am Alone, I Document My Body's Movement As It Drifts Off To Sleep, is one such example. Milner tapes a pen to his arm and captures his random movements prior to sleep.

One could argue these are merely squiggles on paper.

“This is where conceptually you have to understand what the artist is doing,” said Corrigan. “I personally am as much interested in the idea of the piece as I am the visual of the piece. But if you look at it, it is a striking installation.”

Throughout the exhibit Milner often appoints himself the subject matter.

Rather than narcissistic, the result is an opportunity to ponder the intersection of disparate worlds, both technological and physical, as well as our role in them.

“I am realizing that nothing matters more than you and I becoming close,” Milner writes in one of the postcards in the exhibit. “I present you with something private, a gift, and hope that intimacy is created. I am putting something small of myself on display for you. I’m going out on a limb. I want to be known personally and loved anyway.  By presenting you with personal artifacts from my life, I aim to create a relationship between us. Don’t be uncomfortable, everything is OK. Let’s be friends.”

Continuing his pursuit of experimental connection Milner will perform Stream, a new live work where he intends to speak unscripted for 24 hours. The Oct. 4 event is free and open to the public at the Emmanuel Gallery.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS, and KUVO.

A native of Stamford, VT, I call(ed) the Berkshires of western Massachusetts my home. The Berkshires are a culturally rich area -- I’m talking pass the butter and heavy cream -- rich.
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