Overhead, afterimage, December 2019 – January 2020
Presented at Untitled Space, Shanghai
Overhead, afterimage is an exhibition of new and past work exploring the distinction between the functional and the decorative, deconstructing commonplace objects associated with architecture, navigation, and the relationship between built and natural environments.
The first three works are graphite drawings on paper depicting abstract, contrasting patterns known as wave interference patterns. The physical process of wave interference is a phenomenon that occurs when two waves of light, audio, radio, or water are superimposed to create a resulting wave of greater or lesser amplitude. While these patterns exhibit an underlying principle of physical matter and energy, they are also visually mysterious and hypnotic. First iconically depicted using ripple tanks by the American documentary photographer Berenice Abbott, interference patterns suggest a shifting and illusory sense of reality in which opposition, polarization, and antiphase create blind spots and moments of invisibility.
In a related series of photographic prints on fabric, Ornamental objects and There is sanity at sea level combine images scanned from physics textbooks with documentary images of navigation lights and lighthouses. The images in these works show the optical technology and natural ecosystems of two lighthouses in Point Arena, California and Sula Island, Norway. Building upon photography’s indexical relationship to light, the works feature images of the curvilinear form of Fresnel lenses—compact lenses used in lighthouses and aboard ships, which were once cutting-edge maritime technology and key to shifting theories of the nature of light. Historically, fresnel lenses found in lighthouses split a line between function and ornament, and were often exhibited in spectacular displays at World Expos during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Arranged in a pyramidal arc in green and blue, the fabric prints evoke planted flags, much as a lighthouse might mark a location, boundary, or coastline.
A larger, 8 x 5 foot fabric print hangs backlit in the windows of the gallery, superimposing the images of three navigation lenses onto the exterior patio and surrounding building of Zhujiajiao. The title, “There is sanity at sea level,” borrows from a British colonial superstition based on pseudoscientific understandings of UV light.
The final work in the exhibition, AUX cassette fan coil unit, combines ceramic and other media in a deconstruction of an air conditioning unit. Ducts and electrical conduits are depicted with ceramic bamboo pipes and the body of the unit has been treated with powdered mistletoe, a parasitic plant that lives high up in the branches of trees and is associated with midwinter in European traditions. Inspired by the use of bamboo as a construction material in Zhujiajiao and the timing of the exhibition close to the winter solstice, the work applies the structures of natural organisms to an architectural, functional mechanism commonly found on the exterior of neighboring buildings.