Interstices: MFA Thesis Exhibition
November 7 through 21, 2020 by appointment
By DANA NOTINE, JUNE SCALIA and ELIANA BLECHMAN, November 2020
An interstice is defined as a small intervention of space. An acknowledgment of the in-between, a gap, the liminal. Bearing the same name as the third installment of four thesis exhibitions by MFA students at Hunter College, Interstices opens at a moment when a sliver of light appears to have broken through the shadow of a horrific year.
With this, an unfamiliar appreciation for the in-between spaces becomes sacred. Through these breaks and interruptions of life’s unpredictability, we survive, recover, and harmonize with the cacophony.
The artists featured in Interstices investigate key themes of this phenomenon, exploring relationships of selfhood and otherness, manufactured truth, habitation and estrangement; the gasps for air that spare us from annihilation.
Split between her upbringing in Japan and a burgeoning life in New York, Kyoko Hamaguchi’s work investigates ideas of place and movement. The artist utilizes transient services, like the subway and delivery systems, as media. Most recently, in dialogue with French anthropologist Marc Augė’s theories of nonplace, Hamaguchi uses Airbnb as a medium to question what it means for a space to become a home. In two related works, the artist engages with the home-sharing platform, investigating spaces that oscillate between public and private, place and nonplace. In one work, a video records the darkroom development of analog photographs. The black and white images, sourced from public Airbnb listings, come into focus, revealing details of seemingly private domestic interiors, before turning completely black as the artist allows the film to overexpose itself. The fading images embody the transient nature of the home-sharing site while emphasizing the apparent paradox of private homes viewed on a public platform.
In the other work, fish tanks made from plexiglass cubes stand stacked on top of each other, resembling units of an apartment complex. The cubes are vacant—waiting to be rented via their Airbnb listings as a temporary occupancy for someone’s fish, or perhaps, just for someone’s thoughts. The deceptively simple multimedia installations build off the crisp industrial aesthetic of 1960’s minimalism, which itself was influenced by Japanese Zen, while employing systems specific to the 21st century. In the current pandemic environment, in which our hyper-mobile world has been stilled, Hamaguchi’s conceptually rich works welcome a mental exploration of space. As our thoughts continue to travel—to distant family, friends and environments—Hamaguchi’s timely works ask us to meditate on our own definition of home.
Sam Sherman uses the medium of television broadcast to question larger structures of contemporary political realities. Through his vocabulary of painting, printmaking, and most recently video, Sherman uses the remnants of newscasts from the early 2000s to investigate the collective memories and morals of a nation that is continually at war against an unknown enemy. Working primarily from YouTube scraps of recorded broadcasts, the artist uses the effectively second-hand detritus to reflect on the media's ability to shape, distort, and reaffirm political influence on daily life. Likewise, Sherman investigates the intersection of mass media with personal histories, through which he introduces subjective experience as a counterpoint to the spectacle of world events.
Within his practice, Sherman harnesses the anxiety of post-9/11 media by splicing together elements from past cable news broadcasts to comprehend the twisted elements of the present. Through the consideration of spectacle, “Shock and Awe,” and other tactics of the 24 hour news cycle, Sherman asks how the masses interpret far away worlds amid a climate of misinformation and propagandistic television networks. In other words, Sherman’s work distills institutional memory, with the institution in question being the American experiment.
In Today's News, the artist enlarges the most understated section of news broadcast visuals- the news ticker. Sherman multiplies the single band of continuous information into a cascade of “terror alerts” and financial updates; aggregating the banners of CNN, FOX, and MSNBC into an immersive projection. The tickers of Today’s News were sourced from newscasts of April 9, 2003, the day American soldiers toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square- a moment understood to symbolize the end of the Battle of Baghdad in the quagmire called Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Nurya Chana’s work considers the relationship of the body to its environment, investigating the supposed division between internal processes and their external manifestations. Through this practice, she traces possible sources of misunderstanding and conflict that arise in the search for understanding of the self and the other. Through an intuitive practice, Chana creates semi-abstract sculpture and painting as mechanisms of reconciliation between inner and outer, blurring separations between subject and object, representation and performativity.
Chana’s installation invites the viewer to enter an unknown space. Large paneled paintings, the artist’s largest wall-based works to date, encircle the viewer and Chana’s sculptures, wrapping the space with marks and notations emerging from the vivid content of somatic experience. Translucencies on and through the sculptures mimic and reflect the ways in which sensory information enters unseen into our physicality. Chana developed the sculptures’ materiality during a Covid quarantine practice that necessitated using packaging from items the body consumed. These packing and waste materials transformed into the skin and form of a sculpture that appears to be entering a state of pre-animation, offering the parallel function of keeping this nascent body safe with a protective skin-like coating to their former use as surrounding and protecting items in transit. Colored lighting and projections of the sculpture overlaid onto the surface of the work create an interplay of object, shadow, and light, calling into question the source-point, end, and origination of the material. The surrounding paintings envelop the viewer, asking them to absorb the artwork through the body, rather than exclusively as a visual object. Chana explores the impossibilities of knowing both ourselves and the other. She activates this impasse by shifting modes of viewing art and interlacing expressions of internal selves with external materials.
Text on Kyoko Hamaguchi by June Scalia.
Intro and text on Sam Sherman by Dana Notine.
Nurya Chana by Eliana Blechman. WM
(from left to right)
Dana Notine is an art historian and curator based in Brooklyn, NY.
Eliana Blechman is a curator and art historian based in Brooklyn, NY.
June Scalia is an art historian & writer specializing in 20th century sculpture.view all articles from this author