The title of Dana Haugaard’s solo exhibition, That breeze just keeps blowing over me, at Swan Coach House Gallery suggests something barely tangible, pleasant and ephemeral, held in a strange loop. In this body of work, Haugaard plays with this idea of holding moments in time, and attempts to take what is fleeting—memory, pleasure, voice—and give it permanence. Ironically, this permanence is the very quality that robs such moments of the longed-for intimacy.
The eight works in the exhibition are untraditional portraits, created using a drawing machine called an Audiograph that transcribes spoken memories into marks on a surface. These marks were “sourced from recordings of people recalling stories that were formative to their sense of self, as well as the sensations that accompany these stories.” We see the “shape” of the memory appear, spiraling, drawn on paper on panels the colors of sunsets and sunrises, made extra vibrant by the black frame insets. It’s all very pretty—before even knowing the context and process behind the work, there’s something romantic about it all. The craftsmanship and skillful use of color, the soft, blobby shapes that are (mostly) devoid of sharp edges, all of this is lovely. Even many of the titles are rather overtly dreamy—I felt weightless and, like, in love [Lizzy], I was over the moon [Leigh], or Everything around me was nebulous and wispy (I remember just feeling everything) [Ryan]. These titles, presumably taken from clips from the memories recounted, are uncomfortably whimsical.
Aside from these portraits, there is also (An External Source of Movement),the large wood and steel bench that sits in the center of the space. It has an audio component—a 31-minute looping audio of a memory recounted—and a sensory component (it vibrates). The audio, the vibration, the use of the Audiograph in the artworks, all of these alternative ways of portraiture seem to reach for corporality.
By now, we are well acquainted with a world in which we cannot touch our loved ones, where the sound of a voice may be all we have. People in our lives have already taken different forms, flattening into the second dimension on our phones and laptops. In Haugaard’s works, that flattening, that lack, is valiantly pushed against as he explores new ways to manifest physicality. But fighting against the ephemeral often inadvertently serves to underscore what isn’t there, what can’t be there.
Dana Haugaard’s That breeze just keeps blowing over me is on view at Swan Coach House Gallery in Atlanta through May 20, 2021.