Review: HOUSE/DIVIDED at the Wex

The current economic crisis is something that’s constantly talked about, and yet not talked about much at all. It consumes media coverage but is somehow disconnected from those not experiencing its effects in an intimate, first-hand way. Shame comes with the loss of a job or home whether or not fault is a factor, so most people just don’t want to - or know how to - talk about it.

With HOUSE/DIVIDED, The Builders Association make the link between the headlines and the city of Columbus visceral. They use sawed off sections of an arson job on N. 4th Street, projections of the house in its former and current state on several rolling scrims, and stories from those with direct ties to home foreclosure. One interview subject, an MBA candidate at OSU who lost her home, speaks eloquently about the element of shame.

The local link is intercut with live segments from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and hauntingly beautiful projections of sepia-toned farmlands. His passages about the trials of migrant farmers in the 1930s offer an uncanny portrait of the circumstances of today. Also added are characters with an insider’s perspective on the banking meltdown - traders and derivative salesman surrounded by rows of ticker numbers in a speedy crawl.

It’s a thick, steady stream of words, sounds and imagery from beginning to end, and how smoothly it flows may depend somewhat on how familiar you are with the situation in the Weinland Park area and/or the nearly impenetrable workings of the financial crisis. Regardless, it’s true in art’s aim to instigate new ways of looking at the world around you, guided by the newly homeless in our own backyard, and the tenant farmers from seven decades ago who have some stories to swap.

Just one criticism: The company is experimenting with a smartphone app that offers an enhancement of the viewing experience. Even for this purpose, I just can’t hang with encouraging people to use their phones in a dark theater. And given the subject matter, it doesn’t seem fitting to erect a barrier between those who have a data plan and those who have not.