Confusement – The feeling of being stared at but no one can see who you are.
– Scott Berry
We hoped to collaboratively create an environment for the viewers to experience and make their own meaning.
-from the program accompanying Confusement
Scott Berry’s installation, Confusement, a collaboration with dozens of fellow members of the Nina Haggerty Collective, staff, volunteers and visitors, is a breathtaking mirror held up to each of us. Anyone who has spent time with people who are “different”, who have “disabilities” or “challenges” or “special needs” is familiar with the double takes, the brief or extended stares, the uncomfortable smiles that inevitably are directed their way. Berry has turned the tables on “us” with Confusement.
Here we are surrounded by thousands — possibly tens of thousands of unblinking eyes (and a few blinking ones). Voices are whispering around us, but its hard to catch any words. Bits of music float by, scales on a piano. A mirror faces us at the end of the entrance corridor – this is about us. Hands reach out from walls, ghostly figures (packing tape whole body casts of Collective artists) loom above us and around us. Just before turning the corner into the heart of Confusement – a party of ghostly figures in conversational knots surrounded by yet more eyes – one is mesmerized by Berry’s computer video of floating lidless eyeballs, staring, somehow blinking their irises, unpredictably and uncannily.
For all the Lovecraftian spookiness such a description might imply, Confusement is not frightening. It is certainly designed to confuse, to playfully unsettle, but also to amuse, pleasantly mystify, and stir us to beneficial thought. These eyes mean no harm. These unknowable figures are busy about their own affairs. The curtains of eyes are the environment we all move through every day, but some of us are forced to swim more deeply in that sea of benign, but too often unseeing eyes, the world of Confusement.
The day before the dismantling of the installation, I made two impromptu video walk-throughs. They do little justice to the powerful effect of the vision of Scott Berry and the Nina Haggerty Collective.
Confusement was at the Stollery Gallery of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts in Edmonton from February 12-27, 2015.