You’ll find toilets, tissues, and existential ennui in this meditation on patience at Hair + Nails Gallery. Waiting is such a common occurrence in modern life that it’s hardly something bearable to dwell on, only something to endure when it happens to us. However, this is not the case for Minneapolis artist and educator Emmett Ramstad. In his installation at Hair + Nails Gallery, titled Laying in Wait, he teases out what it means to wait in our society, where it places us physically and mentally. Despite a title that anticipates action of some kind — such as a capable predator waiting to spring — the installation’s warped take on waiting room aesthetics instead seem to imply a prone subject, waiting with unease.
The other works upstairs highlight the bizarreness and awkward falseness of these spaces with their offerings of comfort. On one wall, a picturesque calendar image is stretched to 12 feet (Until Tomorrow); on another, a ticket dispenser affixed to the wall is fitted into a white knitted coozy (Get Comfortable (This Might Take a While)). In the back room, Do you have a tissue? features an entire wall covered in pale blue tissue paper boxes, laid like bricks, with a tuft of tissue sticking out of each box, while a fake tree sits nearby and a hollow window glitters with a translucent faux fish tank. The stillness of the fish tank and that of the overbearing wall of tissues compound each other, stifling the room, submerging it in quiet even as the soundtrack “Waiting Rooms” (made in collaboration with Jacob Aaron Roske) plays through its loop of nauseating, indecipherable human chatter, soothing piano, and a stuttering, glitched-out sample of the sax part from “Careless Whisper.” Here Ramstad perfectly captures how the experience of waiting muffles and jumbles the sounds around you.
Maybe one can’t be productive in a waiting room, but perhaps it’s possible to find peace in the fact of idle time. Perhaps letting go of the need for entertainment or productivity and embracing boredom for half an hour is just another way to care for oneself. Enduring the awkwardness of the physical realm may just be an inescapable part of being a person with a body. It’s okay to wait for the rope on the pulley to reach you, its clothespin brimming with comfort-giving gifts, necessary items.