11R hosts a solo exhibition by Mika Tajima, featuring a new series of mood light sculptures, abstract woven portraits, and transparent paintings that address the sensoriality of appearances and the imaging of bodily activities through material forms. Embody spans both gallery spaces at 195 Chrystie Street and is on view from February 13 – March 13, 2016.
The inside, the functional apparatus of the life process, is covered up by an outside which … has only one function, namely, to hide and protect it, to prevent its exposure to the light of an appearing world. If this inside were to appear, we would all look alike.[i]
Tajima’s recent work invokes technologies developed to control and affect the body, focusing on techniques that shape bodily experience of space and time in a built environment where work and leisure spaces have meshed. This is a space where the human body comes in tension with the machinic body and its constructionist logic of fragmentation and measurement. It is also where the diffused productive life energies and activities of individuals are processed as information to be scraped and decoded — the technological imperative to make a population visible and to bring everything to light. What remains hidden from this visual apparatus and what can body forth from these realms into the space of appearance?
The subjects of Tajima’s Negative Entropy textile works have been factories that employ industrial textile Jacquard looms and computer data center sites that comprise the infrastructure of the information economy. For this exhibition, Tajima expands to new locations and draws attention to the people at these sites and their roles at the intersection of information and material production. These portraits are of human mediators within the landscape of production: a systems engineer in a data center server room, a weaving designer at a 3D Jacquard loom textile mill, and a language translator at her desk. Their presence is represented in subtle and apparent pattern irregularities, woven as abstract traces in deeply saturated cotton, polyester and rayon yarns.[ii]
These Negative Entropy textiles become images of embodied activities mediated through the processes of material translations. Each work is made from field recordings that are digitally transmuted into images and physically interpreted by a weaving designer to produce a Jacquard fabric. Passing through different processes and hands, these textiles are woven on an industrial Jacquard loom, considered a predecessor to mass automated technology and a prototype for computers.
A new series of cocooned mood light sculptures, titled Meridian, creates different affective zones throughout the exhibition. Each Meridian sculpture is wrapped with a translucent skin made of thin resin threads spun onto an armature, allowing the changing light to illuminate its bodily cocoon form. The skeletal frame of the sculpture is shaped from a deconstructed ergonomic task chair, which uses the human spine as both its design reference and the shape to reform the body at work. Similarly, architectural lighting design creates environments that target human physiological and psychological experience.
In the East gallery, the color of the lights respond in real time to the aggregate sentiment of people in distant cities, scraped from thousands of Twitter feeds per second using linguistic software designed to detect the intensity of human emotion. The lights pulse and radiate colors as it responds to the feed of information, drawing on sentiment information from two cities – Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul. The mood light sculptures employ a language processing technology that uses computer algorithms to interpret the affective state of an individual or a group in industrial usages, as if there is a grammar of the sensing body contained in a body of text. Through this analysis, bodily intensities and sensations are rendered as sentiment information and emotional displays.
The second set of mood light sculptures, in the West gallery, respond in concert with the global sentiment for gold commodity, with real-time changes reflected in the shift of color temperature in the exhibition space — ranging from candle light to artificial daylight. As an exceptional material without intrinsic value, gold derives its value from the social perception of its qualities and its price on collective sentiment. Physical gold rarely changes hands but rather serves as the basis for the proliferation of derivatives. Gold’s fluid exchangeability as an untethered material and general equivalent echoes the “social evaporation of the tangible” of the modern age.[iii]
The spray enameled Furniture Art series featured on the gallery walls continue this material tension. The atomized paint mist contained in the transparent acrylic shell precipitates to form an opaque surface that reflects the light and objects in the exhibition space while concealing itself from full visibility. The paintings appear as black gradients that glimpse a chromatic undercurrent and the spaces beneath the surface. Each piece in this new ambient series is subtitled with the name of a deserted, remote island — the embodiment of the unreachable, unscrapable, and not yet knowable.