Brain Scratch

Oct 17 - Nov 21, 2014



“We do not perceive the world as it actually is, but as the brain computes it most probably to be.” - John Smythies. Space, Time and Consciousness

Brain Scratch observes an urge to interpret and find comfort in a world where an increasing amount of time is spent in virtual space. The exhibition title conjures a peculiar notion: it alludes to fervently scratching the head out of curiosity, to the point where scalp and bone are broken to reach the brain. The result is an etching that alters perception. The featured artists interpret a new way of being, one where reality and virtuality have converged, mutating perspectives of time, space, and body. The way the mind is hardwired has changed, Brain Scratch comments on what is, what may become.

The exhibition finds Edwin Abbott’s novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions as a primary inspiration. Although the narrative, about a two-dimensional square swept into a three- dimensional world, comments on mathematics and Victorian culture, it also holds another implication. The novel is a reflection on the limited capabilities of the mind. Abbott’s reference to a line from Hamlet, “O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!” makes this clear. The “wondrous strange” is also explored within the work of each artist in the exhibition.

Combining fantasy and mannerist aesthetics, Ryan Whittier Hale’s digital photographs and sculptures question the emotional capacity of artificial beings. Hale depicts desolate yet tranquil environments populated with indeterminate humanoids. Their delicate bodies lay on the edge of organic and synthetic. Although posed with dramatic gesture and idealized form, the smooth plastic skin and vacant expression of each android-like being exposes a failed attempt at true human intimacy and empathy. In this way Hale questions our identity and behavior as we continue to move deeper into the labyrinths of virtuality.

Emerging from Katie Torn’s animations are totems comprised of relics from consumer culture. Utilizing tools commonly employed in Hollywood films and commercials, Torn crafts hyper-real environments made of figures ranging from My Little Pony to bodiless Barbie dolls. The island-woman hybrid of Dream House appears as a landscape in which consumer debris continually accumulates, generating as if from thin air. Although the island contains elements of pop, it remains dystopian, surrounded by nothing but empty space. A monument to desire and waste – Torn comments on the value placed in materiality.

The biomorphic and otherworldly installations of Snow Yunxue Fu address humanity’s confrontation with the metaphysical as manifested through digital forms. The Gap 3 is a window into a parallel dimension that stimulates both consciousness and space. Elements of traditional Chinese landscape painting are referenced as Fu creates expressive topographies that exude imagination and contemplation. Conjuring spaces of billowing light and exotic matter, Fu’s hypnotizing and trance- inducing environments feel mysteriously familiar. As if depicting something organic within the body, or outward beyond Earth, the depths of The Gap 3 are truly unfathomable.

Siebren Versteeg’s algorithmically generated paintings meld computerized and artistic process into one. The paintings of the Sequential Array series are created through custom software that determines elements including brush movement, coloration, and viscosity. Grappling with agency and chance, the series alludes to a passing of time. The program could paint endlessly, but in the exhibition Versteeg selects ten compositions to print, stretch onto canvas, and bring into the real world. Minute idiosyncrasies appear in each consecutive painting – new lines, paint drips, and strokes – but the beginning and end of the series contains an uncanny resemblance. Impressionistic in style, the paintings comment on sameness, completion, and mark making.

Brain Scratch moves deeper into a new reality, scratching an irrepressible itch. For the artists of this exhibition the purpose is not to gain a relief or a complete understanding of the world. Rather, now that the physical and digital are sewn together the artists pick at the stitches in response to a  strange moment in time.

Snow Yunxue Fu. "The Gap 3", 2014.

Katie Torn. "Dream House", 2014.