by Rachel Heidenry
A sleeping bag and bright blue shield mark the interior entrance of the Science Center at 35th and Market Streets. The pairing immediately transmits feelings of protection, fear, veneration, and shelter. An eerie familiarity is communicated as you begin to move through the space, gazing into portraits with fireworks transposed onto photographic surfaces.
The exhibition is Tiona McClodden’s Be Alarmed: The Black Americana Epic, Movement I – The Visions, on view at the Esther Klein Gallery through March 15. Co-presented by the Leeway Foundation, the Breadboard program at the Science Center and NextFab Studio, the exhibit is part of the Leeway Art+Technology Residency and features the first of four films by Philadelphia-based McClodden.
While the film is the main attraction, the viewer experiences objects first: a handmade shotgun, a Singer sewing machine, nails atop bullets, a silver grill. Craft mixes with violence in an enormously intriguing manner, prompting a feeling of paradoxical uncertainty. Dispersed among the objects are four film trailers–opportune glimpses into making sense of the objects on display. With provocative titles–”Family Tree,” “Spirit Away,” “Steal Away,” and “Initiation”–the trailers offer a look into the exhibition’s concept, propagating a sense of both intrigue and deprivation.