Jacob Kassay at Ivory Tars

For “IT,” Jacob Kassay’s first solo show in Scotland, the front-door frame of Ivory Tars is plastered with two tiny adhesive labels, each marked with one of the titular letters in both a slanted print font and braille. The stickers exude a minuscule but determined presence. From the gallery exterior, you can catch the flickering of the lights inside, though the frosted glass of the windows interferes with perception, so that you almost second-guess the effect, like the first glimpse of lightning in a storm.

Inside, the starkness is jarring. The bulbs in the gallery’s ceiling lighting track flash haphazardly, while OSB boards are fitted into architectural recesses within the walls. Kassay has photographed these panels and printed the images back on their surfaces with a slight but deliberate misalignment. This simple gesture confuses the eye, triggering the viewer to perceive movement where there is none. The illusion is so intense you can almost hear your brain whirring: There is nothing in its database to process this.

In the back space of the gallery, a lit candle is suspended close to the floor, held in place by a metal clamp that looks like it may have been borrowed from a school science experiment. When the strength of the flame fluctuates (usually because of air displaced by someone walking around the gallery or by the front-door opening), it activates a sensor trained on the candle, which in turn affects the gallery lights.

With these interventions (all considered elements of a single installation, IT, 2023), Kassay digs further into his ongoing investigations into the act of looking, while also leaning into the liveness of the gallery. The interaction requires something so innately human. Are the art objects and their hierarchy useless without an observer? Does something need to be seen to exist? This is an eternal, existential question, one that Kassay addresses through small gestures that evoke significant bodily reactions.

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