In his latest curatorial effort, Scripps Humanities Institute associate professor Tran T. Kim-Trang assembled a group of artists who speak directly to the idea of secrecy–with the show’s statement pointing out the dual nature of the shadowy word: “Bound up in such concepts as sacredness, intimacy, danger and the forbidden, secrecy is something familiar to all of us. Commonly, we perceive secrets as guilty, conspiratorial or pathological, forgetting that secrets can also protect our identity, intentions, actions and property.” One man’s lie is another man’s safety, you see. Mark Lombardi delves into shadowy connections, attempting to link various political and economic entities via a circle and line family tree system on paper. It’s elaborate, but a bit confusing-especially when we really want to know where the "Afghan" terrorist cell connects! The Center for Tactical Magic shows history repeating itself in Witches’ Cradle, a life-sized gallows with leather pentagram dangling bag (and the swing set across from it with a similar bag) that connects the sensory deprivation practiced at Abu Ghraib with the methods used to torture holistic healing women back in Puritanical Salem. Other artists reveal to us things that are invisible to the eye both literally and figuratively: Trevor Paglen’s Other Night Sky shows us spy satellites orbiting our planet (189 in all), and the Visible Collective’s Disappeared in America shows us a series of photographs with immigration and citizenship reform laws that have probably never been read by the average American. It’s a small, courageous show, and may not have as many secrets as you’d like, but those that are on view are plenty ripe for discussion.
“Secrets in a Democracy” at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont, (909) 607-4690, www.scrippscollege.edu. Wed-Sun, 1-5PM. Thru Oct. 11. Free.