How this work of art by Olivia Croce managed to go from being primarily a sculpture to a dance is explained by the crucial experience of seeing it yourself. It will close the gap that previously existed between you and the art. A prime example of this gap would be seeing the work for the first time online, as I did. For anyone who thinks this is enough for them to claim that they have already seen the work…think again. Of course sometimes the press photograph will match up perfectly with what you will see and there is no surprise to be had. But with ‘Panic’ the reality is quite different.Some people, when presented with this difference, might feel cheated out of what they thought they were getting but, for me, it was a delightful surprise. I found the composition of the showcase installation far more compelling than the press photo.
Whereas the photo advertised the work, a collection of ceramic shark fins placed directly onto the floor, in a neatly arranged circle the showcase installation had no discernible pattern to them. As a result I was forced to weave in and out and around them. It was the physical relationship I started to have with the work that led me to consider Croce’s work as a dance piece. Making my way across what would normally, have been a simple, small room now resembled a tango consisting of a sequence of sharp turns, tight twists and quick steps amongst the fins. Their big, bold jet black curves tore up the banal space, carving into the floorboards a multitude of pathways. For me each turn and twist represented another option of interpretation, another way in which to go with the work. This fluidity of our minds is, literally, reflected in the shiny surface of the fins any movements nearby looming into view as if we are slick creatures of the deep darkness of the ocean.
The other feature of the installation that I would like to mention, though you could hardly fail to notice it, is the diving board. It juts out in a bizarre sensory partnership of calming sky blue colour and almost violent, sudden placement just above our line of sight. This provides another interesting break up of space but I found it to be an ingenious pseudo-narrative device which may or may not have been Croce’s intention. The positioning of the board above us is very clever for if it is above us that means the decision that rests at the tip of the diving board has been made. It seems it’s too late for us-we’ve already jumped. This is true as once I was in the room I couldn’t help but interact with the work, squeezing and sliding my way across the room.
The greatest success of Croce’s work is of course the animal she chose to symbolize. The shark is an icon of primal fear. It is when the shark is below the water, and all we can see is its’ fin, that our blood starts to run cold- but why? After all we can’t even see it. And that is precisely the point. We are never able to completely detect what a shark is thinking or predict its next move. They could turn on us at any moment. Yet similar to sharks that circle their prey we too circle with predatory curiosity around art. But on this occasion the art circles back with mixed appearances of a display of dominance or a mating dance. As if we were two strangers meeting for the first time we exchanged lingering looks. I left the showcase convinced that the work was a dance between art and audience but not entirely sure who was leading who.