Circumscribing the Liminal
Naaman Rosen - Malak Helmy - Teresa Cunniff


May 20-June 18, 2011
reception for the artists,Saturday May 21, 7-10 pm

Liminality, marginality, and structural inferiority are conditions in which are frequently generated myths, symbols, rituals, philosophical systems, and works of art. These cultural forms provide men with a set of templates or models which are at one level periodical reclassifications of reality and man's relationship to society, nature, and culture. But they are more than classifications, since they incite men to action as well as to thought." -Victor Turner, "Liminality and Communitas"

Krowswork is pleased to present Circumscribing the Liminal, an exhibition of photography by Naaman Rosen, four video projects by Malak Helmy, and a video/sound installation by Teresa Cunniff. Each of these three artists has focused attention on a particular liminal, or in-between, though paradoxically bounded space -- Rosen, KOA Kampgrounds; Helmy, domestic "compounds"; Cunniff, an imagined Bardo plane -- whose thresholds seem to exist almost solely via a left-over or forced language and whose physical referent no longer necessarily corresponds to the original function or meaning.

This examination warns of the larger risk to meaning posed by treating non-structures as structures, while revealing the true liminal nature of this structural and linguistic breakdown--with its attendant potential for total reconfiguration, re-equalization, and transcendence.

By drawing their own shape-shifting visual language around these specific zones, Rosen, Helmy, and Cunniff are each in their own way circumscribing the liminal so that we may engage with these spaces in an actual way as a point of reintegration into the real.


Naaman Rosen took a road trip in the summer of 2010 across the U.S., during which he camped as often as possible in a KOA Kampground. This series of black and white photographs pictures these ubiquitous, iconic campgrounds frequently found alongside busy highways, in the middle of sweltering parking lots, or arbitrarily delineated from a fallow field. Only barely do these spaces conjure up the idea of "camping" or even notions of "the outdoors." Rosen, though, has found a way through the easy irony by recognizing and capturing the exquisite compositional potential found in this forced containment, thereby opening up a portal to the pathos of community and bizarre beauty found there.

Malak Helmy's precise yet elliptical videos indicate that she is acutely aware of the specific danger of liminal spaces if left unchecked or taken at face value. She identifies a series of "compounds" as she describes them, in which we--the metaphorical residents or visitors--are asked to be, to find meaning, to find transcendence. Yet the sameness of these spaces does not allow for the differences in our individual desires, nor do they any more describe a whole or healthy society. With visual references to the architecture and structures of her Egyptian and Middle Eastern roots, Helmy overlays this imagery with her own poetic language and language play in order to shift the damaging, false language of expectation that has been attached to these spaces--redefining the boundaries imposed by others, freeing them to become something new.

Teresa Cunniff presents a video and sound installation based on imagining extinct animals stuck forever in the Bardo plane (the intermediate step between death and rebirth as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead) because they don't have any bodies to reincarnate into. This paradoxical predicament serves to call attention to what happens when a liminal transition realm becomes instead closed loop, without the language or structure to reincorporate it into the larger cycle. The aural effect of Cunniff's installation is both lulling and chilling, while the spare visuals allow us to understand this dilemma in abstract, somatic form. View an excerpt here: