If you go
What: Finishing School's "Bliss"
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and Sunday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; exhibit runs through Sept. 11
Where: Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St., Boulder
Cost: $1, free for children under 12
More info: bmoca.org
Like the obsolescence of paper maps and landlines, so goes anxiety's security blanket.
Much of humankind abides in obedience and evades criminal activity and spying, yet why in the tech revolution is there still a crushing feeling of surveillance? Most of us face anxiety over day-to-day safety in unfamiliar territory. Pills and substance abuse quell panic inadequately, so how can the physical being stay safe from an intelligence-thirsty world?
Finishing School, a California-based artist collective, explores this state of constant watch in an exhibit conceived for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. It's called " Bliss," after the U.S. military acronym BLISS: Blend in, keep a Low silhouette, build an Irregular shape, stay Small and find a Secluded location.
The acronym's clashing homograph, bliss (defined by Merriam-Webster as "complete happiness"), marries its acronym counterpart in a two-part social engagement project that is on display through Sept. 11.
Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are invited to crouch into any of the three interactive shelters that were hand-built with layers of Kevlar, frequency shielding and soundproofing. Take cover and evade contemporary physical surveillance — photos, digital communication, sound recording, infrared imaging. The cramped space offers a blanket of tranquility and allows us to temporarily escape bullets, cameras, radio frequency and data transmission. (As for dodging Big Brother, perhaps only true whistleblowers can grasp that bliss.)
Created in collaboration with artists from the University of Colorado, part two of the exhibit features a multi-media segment that delves into the movements of the military acronym. The CU students enact motion and gestures of survival via looped wall projections. Whether it's a version of the Army crawl — moving parallel to the floor by pushing with the toes and pulling with the fingers — or creating air gaps with hand movements across the face, the life-sized clips in the darkened back gallery at BMoCA amplifies the air of claustrophobia, while creating an uneasy feeling that we're invading their privacy.
As we live in an era where personal information is frequently exploited, "Bliss" thrives on the concept by temporarily blinding surveillance while simultaneously exploiting society's progress.
Now if only we could build 124.6 million household shelters — that's the number of American households in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census — then maybe our anxiety could finally curl up and take a sound snooze. Yet barring feasibility, there's always pharmaceuticals.