The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and in It takes effort to put things together., Pam Yan-Santos includes the process of putting things together in the equation.
Spanning the entire second floor, It takes effort… explores the tension between the mind’s inclination for categorization and breaks down the process of getting there. In the upstairs gallery — a set-up that resembles a workshop — an installation of serigraphed monoprint collages on wood, cut into puzzle pieces, occupy one long wall. The pieces are an amalgamation of documents kept by the artist for a variety of reasons: college papers, children’s doodles, their first son’s recorded utterances, architectural drawings, letters, and discarded material from previous art projects. The pieces — 30 in total — represent the days in a month, tangible and personal recordings of the passage of time.
In the center of the space is a table and a stool, lit by a lamp. On the far end, a bundy clock with space to record time and labor. The makeshift workspace is an invitation of sorts, for the viewer to experience the effort of piecing together the different parts to create a unity, a whole. The act of putting together the puzzle pieces is a process that never seems to quite make sense until it does, when everything finds its rightful place. In putting things together, there is an effort to understand. Finding each specific place creates context and reveals the bigger picture.
In this wide expanse of a seemingly incomprehensible collection of data and memories, things will only make sense, perhaps, as each separate piece finds its place within the unified whole. One thing out of place changes the meaning or eradicates it entirely. The parts out of context may not mean anything by themselves, but working together in their own contextualized space, they can form and express the magnitude of the bigger picture. These represent the everyday negotiations between what can be done and what can be put off for a later time; what can fit in each limited space in a way that makes the best sense.
The workspace is paused on a moment of processing, the very act of putting things in place. On the table is a puzzle, in the middle of being solved and put away neatly in a box. This imitates how our minds are wired to find solutions for what is not immediately apparent. Outside, in the upstairs gallery, it is the mind’s chaotic nature made manifest.
Crossing the threshold into the video room echoes the labor of categorization. It houses the containers, with some puzzles already arranged together in the wooden boxes stacked on three steel shelves. These boxes are labeled in neat categories, numbered and put neatly away. Within these boxes, the “whole” is in sight, and there is a calm that accompanies the categorization of the separate pieces. Here, we find the objective: to keep things where they ought to be. In doing so, we are able to make sense of what may initially seem to be nonsensical.
Joining the two rooms — two disparate but overlapping spaces — together is the wall that makes space for the time cards and the bundy clock. Passing through that which stands for the time and labor of processing things, from the bigger space of disarray into the place of order, “neutral ground,” imitates the mind’s inclination to find solutions to make sense of the incomprehensible. It is proof of presence, a personal process and declaration made tangible: I was here, and this is what I know. — Carina Santos