April 29, 2019

Blind House at UMIH Gallery @Hyperallergic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An old proverb holds that eyes are the windows to the soul. A collection of images by Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, on display in  Blind House: Utopia and Dystopia in the Age of Radical Transparency, seems to extend this sentiment to architectural spaces, making a strong visual argument that the windows are the eyes of the house. On view at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery, each of these 17 photographs of houses in within commuting distance of New York City has been digitally altered to seamlessly mask the windows. These windowless houses come across as lacking souls — not just blind, as the title suggests, but eyeless.

We take features for granted, unaware of how the removal of a single feature transforms the familiar to the uncanny until we encounter, say, the occasional person without eyebrows. Missing parts of the body are unsettling, because they represent a variance from some kind of natural design. There is something similarly unsettling about seeing the excision of a common feature of built spaces. Even as far back as caves, human habitats included some kind of opening that enables a line of sight. A wall text by artist and gallery director Amanda Krugliak frames the artists’ choice to present windowless houses as “a metaphor for a new paradigm of opacity — a type of rigorous discretion, the inversion of glass house modernism.” Krugliak correlates the necessity of this total blackout in response to the ever-increasing pitch of digital disclosure — both what we volunteer through social media, and what is taken from us without our permissions. We may be conscious of being seen when we stand before our windows, but we are less inclined to consider who is peeking inside when we’re not there.

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