By Jen Graves
Safety is a tricky business. This is Caleb Larsen’s The Safest Place on Earth. He used statistics from the UN to locate the safest location on the planet, then he took a geotagged image from Flickr to represent it.
Something in me is grateful for the simple recognition that this is a place I’ve been looking for. I don’t want to live there, I just want to know where it is and that I can get there if I have to. You know: safe place, and all that.
But this specific view creeps me out. If I were there I believe I would spend the entire time waiting for the arrival of my inevitable desire to leave. It reminds me of Switzerland, and I deeply distrust and dislike Switzerland (we go way back), or at least my version of Switzerland, which looks like this. (I apologize, real Switzerland.)
Instead of feeling fine looking at this, then, I feel suspicious of the U.N.’s definition of safety. There’s nobody around! Backing up, I wonder whether the artist did any of this supposed data-crunching anyway. I’m imagining the categories that might apply: poverty, housing, crime, criminal justice, social justice, mortality rates, education…is there anything that wouldn’t apply? How can such a social idea of safety result in such an empty spot?
And what about all this mental traveling via this conceptual object? Is abstraction the safest place on earth?
Larsen’s solo show—his first at Lawrimore Project; he made his debut there in a 2008 group show with a patch of frost growing on the wall for several weeks—is up through February 13. (Note: The gallery is closed this week and reopens Tuesday, January 26.) I haven’t spent enough time in it to give it a full review yet, but this photograph kept coming back to me.
Here’s a wild work by Larsen—A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter, whose home environment is over there on eBay—based on the Robert Morris Box with the Sound of its Own Making (which is plenty inspirational around here; SAM owns it); I dare you to be the collector who is willing to live with giving up what you’ve got, continually. (If you become this collector, I’d love it if you’d contact me.)
I can say for sure that Larsen’s work, plus the terrific ceramic show Wet and Leatherhard, are certainly worth your time and consideration. And here’s a 2008 podcast with Larsen.