Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities at Fellows of Contemporary Art

Gelare Khoshgozaran. Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. Fellows of Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of curator Camella Daeun Kim.

Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities

Fellows of Contemporary Art

By Anna Garner

Through July 21st



The home is antithetical to the stranger; it is the known, the comfortable, the familiar, and familial.  But what of the domestic aesthetics of diaspora and migration that out of necessity adapt the unfamiliar into the familiar.  “Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities” peeks at these aesthetics with work from eight artists including sculpture, video, installation, and sound art. The title is a play on curator Camella Daeun Kim’s own O-1 visa status, provided to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary abilities in arts, science, business, education, or athletics. Maintaining in the show’s title the antediluvian term alien, the psychic impact of the label stranger is emphasized and challenged. Yet what is found in the collected works of the artists is anything but strange; instead it is the well-known, recognizable, and relatable, revealing not the strangeness of the other, but the stranger within.

In the exhibition, home is perceived through a sinking latex sofa, family photographs, a laundry line with abstract forms, and the unnerving din of radio noise.  It is home not relegated to the theoretical implications of gendered, docile domesticity and the confined expectations of home as subject in the arts, but as the poetics of human behavior within the known and unknown.

Ting Ying Han. Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. Fellows of Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of curator Camella Daeun Kim.

The complexities of this are well demonstrated in Ting Ying Han’s work, Exterior World of Internal Mind.  From the gallery entrance, the viewer sees the un-finished framework of a home, 2x4s gridded to form functional support; the structure’s interior is only seen after walking around the corner.  However the domestic space barely alludes to home; it is ghosted and muted, more akin to a stage set. It suggests walls, windows, and stairs, but belies the actual objects.  It imparts simultaneous longing and inaccessibility, showing the home as a stranger, the stranger as a home.

These dualities continue to be revealed through deliberate strategies of display that intersect, overlap, and plait the works together, including hanging one of Ann Le’s subversively patterned wallpapers on the exterior of Ting Ying Han’s installation.  Out of this, an empathetic relation is drawn that recognizes the stranger as a collective state, recalling the literary, philosophic, and religious archetype.  Within this, the stranger reveals the moral and ethical conditions of society and the self through the embodiment of their counterparts; consider Camus’ Mersault or Bulgakov’s Woland.

“Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities” considers the personal and psychological understandings of home for the immigrant, questioning the classifications of stranger and other through relatable domestic signifiers.  This conversation is especially germane to the art world, where the visual has been used to define and quantify the other, measuring against a Euro-centric lineage that stretches back to the ideal proportions of the Greek statue.  The branded status of other in art stubbornly endures with minimal mitigation, hindering forward movement in dialogue and discourse.  The works in this exhibition poetically and effectively speak to this dilemma, undoing and remaking designations of the other within society, art, and the self.  Again and again the works point to the stranger inside each of us, proving again the falsity of alien as other.


Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities

Fellows of Contemporary Art

May 20 – July 21st

970 N. Broadway, Suite 208, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Hours: M – F, 10am – 5pm


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