Last week at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York, the artist Samara Golden was working on The Flat Side of the Knife, her new multi-tiered installation that opened Sunday, October 26 in the double-height Duplex Gallery, in which upside down beds, guitars, wheelchairs, and stairs to nowhere reflect back at the viewer from a mirrored floor. Petite and soft spoken, Golden is nonetheless firm about the words that are used to describe her hard-to-define art. "I hate the word ‘fantasy,’" she said. Later, she added that her use of illusion "is not for the sake of trickery."
The Flat Side of the Knife is one of Golden’s most personal works to date. Its elements come together to narrate the artist's near-death experience 10 years ago, when she suffered a potentially fatal bout of pneumonia, experiencing what she called “different layers of consciousness.” A peach-colored bed, installed near the ceiling and surrounded by video of calming oceans, represents the real world; a tier with surgical equipment surrounding an aqua bed, sculptures of wheelchairs, and guitars is the gateway between worlds; and the mirrors on the ground (an entirely new floor had to be built in the museum) presents a view inside her mind’s eye. The piece, which will be up through September, 2015, can be viewed from three different vantage points; Golden’s favorite is from the lowest level, where she has installed a beat-up plaid couch that she drove in from her home town in Michigan. The installation is the largest work she has ever made, the first for which she had to build a model. But, as Golden clarified, "it's more like the deepest.”