Beyond Embodiment Gives Viewers a Look at the Future Woman – and Humankind
Brand Library & Art Center, Glendale
Written by Genie Davis
Curated by Laura Darlington and Selwa Sweidan, Beyond Embodiment opened at the Brand Library & Art Center at the end of January and is still awaiting a closing. In the interim, check out the show on line – the catalog of the artists and their works is viewable online.
The exhibition features the work of 25 female, non-binary, and trans artists. Thematically, their work involves a sense of presence above all else, from internal identity to physical presence to the virtual. Technology and all its cutting-edge rhythms is both a major part of the mediums represented here and the theme of the show, as the body is viewed both in conventional terms of form and as a portal from which to entertain a dialog about what it means to be human.
The wide variety of mediums employed include sculpture, photography, video, animation, painting, collage, ceramics, neon, bio-art, scent technology, interactive media, augmented reality, and performance. Take a moment to catch your breath and then dive in. The material is intrinsic to the beauty and mystery of this show, as viewers delve beyond the classic figurative portrayal of the body and truly “beyond” that embodiment.
There is a kind of irony in this theme, as the show, due to the current global unforeseen circumstances, is itself beyond the embodiment of a classic gallery presentation.
Each of the artists has exemplary, dynamic work here. Artists include Kelly Akashi, Symrin Chawla, Gisela Colon, Gilda Davidian,Sandra de la Loza,
M Eifler, Maru García, Dahn Gim, Sanglim Han, Claudia Hart, Xandra Ibarra,
Huntrezz Janos, Yuehao Jiang, Anna Kostanian, Qingyi Li, Jacki Morie, Kelly Nipper, Cindy Rehm, Silvia Rigon, Martine Syms, Hiromi Takizawa, Tiffany Trenda, VJ Um Amel, Lisa Diane Wedgeworth, and Amia Yokoyama.
Colon works in sculptural forms that are deceptively simple and deliciously complex. They glow, shift and change, sleekly undefinable, like living jewels from another planet or organisms that go beyond conventional boundaries of representation. Here, with her work image “Meta Trapezoid (Citrine Gold),” created from blow-molded acrylic, her minimalist but lustrous gem of a sculpture seems both alive and frozen in time, a capsule containing a radiant life unknown but potentially ecstatic.
Entirely different are Davidian’s photographic works, a part of her series “Say That You Are a Stone”, tracing how cultural identity that is transferred and understood generationally. In a sense, she is rewriting her own history, as well as that of others, she is an artist exploring the past to evocatively declare her independence for and from the future.
García’s innovative sculptural work is both science experiment and art. Her work here interprets “an interspecies relationship occurring inside a tank.” It is a mysterious world, one in which Garcia has experiential moments with microrganisms as they react to a variety of stimuli both aural and physical, playing music, speaking, introducing hairs to their environment. If they are the subjects at first, second, the subject is Garcia, as she places herself in the tank. The work, both performance and video art, combines video and physical documentation.
If that is not surreal and immersive enough, Han explores disembodied, fragmented, and interstitial bodies through 3D animations and interactive videos in “Venus Iteration.” Exploring the human body as its own ecosystem, the video projection utilizes models and animation, riffing on Botticelli’s Venus and inviting viewers to examine their own bodies through a digital microscope. Imagery of the enlarged body parts is then combined with a virtual ecosystem in real-time.
More conventional in form but equally rich and detailed, the “Untitled” ink jet print from Anna Kostanian uses lush, geometric patterns painted on the body and photographed. This is not decorative art but rather an embodiment of history and culture; the photographic images are the tool that both elevates and documents the art she creates on women’s bodies.
Morie leads viewers right back into unconventional mediums with her multi-sensory techniques for virtual reality. Here, her patented scent collar RemniSCENT™ brings a panoply of scents to a virtual space. The BlueTooth signal in the VR releases a scent that viewers experience. That scent is affected by our own perception of it, making a virtual event more resonant. Being unaware of the capability of this technology prior to this show made it all the more fascinating and quite literally, sweet.
Rehm, co-founder of the feminist-centered projects Craftswoman House and Feminist Love Letters here uses collage drawings in “The Formless is What Keeps Bleeding.” The body of a lifeless woman is presented as a composite of three women important in the life of artist Marcel Duchamp. Torn asunder, the combined image serves as an uncomfortable and thought-provoking tribute to the spirits of violated women. “She Came in Through the Gash” is all ruby reds and ragged shapes, an image both broken but unbowed, angry but triumphant.
Takizawa’s sculptural art is equally riveting. In “Shipment from California,” there is a mysteriously evocative combination of wood, neon, plexiglass, and blown glass that serves as a symbolic look at what makes up life in California. It is bubbles and light, the foamy sea in Big Sur, the transcendent mythology of motion pictures and beach life, street lights and headlights.
Opening night brought a performance by Tiffany Trenda to the exhibition, an in-person examination of the human body’s link to technology. The artist shifted between herself and a variety of screens including smart phone and computer; revealing our complex relationship to these “second skin” devices through which we interact and react, as our screens filter who we really are with who we want to be. In this new era of Zoom meetings and FaceTime love life, the relevance of this work is astute.
But then, the same could be said of the exhibition as a whole, another slam dunk from the Brand.