Catching Joy Where We Can

Jasmine Golphin, Above|Below, installation view

It’s a bit surreal to park in Cleveland’s bustling Gordon Square Arts district and walk the short block to the Maelstrom Collaborative Arts’ storefront space, where Jasmine Golphin’s newest VR installation, Above|Below is being presented.  During a time of immeasurable fatigue, uncertainty, and political turmoil, the work invites us into another world. 

It’s a bit unnerving to see VR headsets, controllers, and a nearly empty room without really knowing, at first, what we’ll do there.

It’s nearly unimaginable, as I watch my friend gaze upward and walk her hands along a sky I cannot see, to think how a digitally constructed universe could quell my simmering unrest—now such a constant part of every day. 

But the threshold was easily crossed, and without reserve. After attending doctors appointments online, teaching classes through Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, having birthdays on Facebook, and conducting meetings from the dinner table, I have entirely released any claim to conventions. 

Golphin confidently fits the Oculus headset over my glasses and I am in. I see soft rolling hills and ribbon-like sculptures climbing as would magic beanstalks. The ground feels solid beneath my steps and the crisp expansive landscape invites me to wander. The leaves are unnaturally green, but still I reach for them. Nearby guideposts offer words on family, dreams, and conflict. I decide they are missives from the reality we’ve left behind. 

Besides a short introductory video, and the occasional reminder of how close I am to the wall or my neighbor, I am left mostly to my own devices. One of Golphin’s repeated themes mentions moving through discomfort. So, when I become disoriented by a rather vigorous pooling of fluid layers, I lean in. The swirl surrounds me and a light particle mist fills my view. 

Golphin describes Above|Below as “a meditative show about (life)cycles.” She says, “it’s a way to reflect on the very real, weird feelings that we’ve had to deal with these last few years.” The experience holds true to her words, allowing us to step out of the present so we can acknowledge what has passed. 

Viewers may reserve a one hour time-slot to experience the installation which runs at specified times from September 1st—5th at Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, 5403 Detroit Ave. in Cleveland, OH. Visit the website to purchase tickets. (

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.