In 1921, Hermann Rorschach invented the inkblot cards that became the eponymous Rorschach test. He used a set of 10 symmetrical abstract inkblots to study psychological interpretation, imagination, thought patterns and the subconscious. Like staring up at clouds on a sunny day, the shapes of the inkblot cards suggested recognizable shapes, revealing insights into our state of mind. What do you see here? And here? Rorschach recorded his methods and the 10 diagnostic images in his book Psychodiagnostik a year before his death in 1922.
Nearly a century later in New York City, Davis looks out of her studio across the water at the Statue of Liberty. Torch in hand since 1886 (2 years after Rorschach himself was born), Lady Liberty has long represented the great American dream, an icon of enlightenment, of freedom, of peace and of safe harbour.
In Fotopsychodiagnostik, Davis explores a new geo-political landscape outside her window. Twisting Rorschach’s test, she photographs the view from her studio and mirrors the image on both its vertical and horizontal axis. From her window on the water in Red Hook, directly facing the Statue of Liberty, the landscape is a symbolic one; here manipulated, reflected, doubled, and warped into an image that projects something altogether unnatural.
Like Rorschach’s inkblots, Davis’ new diagnostic tests beg interpretation. We attempt to reconcile the image with what we know it should represent and make it whole again, but in the process something goes terribly wrong. Within the symmetry, we see instead mushroom clouds and post-apocalyptic cities. They are all at once seductive, and deeply threatening.
Davis is showcasing these images in lightboxes, recalling an antique x-ray machine, her doubled landscapes suggest that all is not right with the environmental sublime. Fotopsychodiagnostik is the artist’s direct response to witnessing the well-weathered symbolic view from her studio window, while listening constantly to the news. The work is a result of the disconnect between beauty and disbelief.
Her work sheds light on the fundamental epistemological questions of our time, where knowledge is continuously diffused, reproduced and diversified through an impenetrable web on information and communication. Moving between photography, sculpture, film and collage, Davis’ artistic practice resists categorization, maintaining a consistent methodology and exploratory material process. She discusses her distinct methodology in “Machines for Thinking.”
Six channel video projection onto 6 satellite dishes, 3 steel tripod stands. Each dish 309 cm. 5 min.loop
"World Without Sun" is titled after Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle's underwater documentary of the first sea colony; a bubble or "flying saucer" manned by oceanauts. Filmed in 1964 this breathtaking glimpse of a world beneath resides within the imaginary of another era. In Davis' rendition the underwater world collides with its exterior-- propeller planes, environmental protest and views of the solar system -- as the work grapples with the radical interdependencies of life on this planet. Drawing from 19th C. biologist Jakob von Uexküll's concept of umwelt, or the perceptual world in which an organism exists and acts as a subject, "World Without Sun" considers our perceptual world (fuelled by human cycles of production and consumption) as that of communication.
Video installation, 274cm x 488cm wall, diamond dust, 488cm brass pole, HD projector. 5min. loop. Video projector, brass pole, sculptured diamond dust screen.
“As if his throat opened into the void of stars,” (2010) layers footage of volcanic eruption with pole dancing through a symbiotic digital interface. The moving images are set within a sound collage mixing DIMI synthesizer, Funk, Hildegard von Bingen, and helicopter blades. Along a path at once apocalyptic and serene, mystic and scientific, the work weaves a world where myth, daily news, distance and natural disaster are interconnected. Propelled by Ovid’s story of Erysichthon’s insatiable hunger (from which the title is derived) the project traces the predicament of a highly connected world environment where participation and alienation feel like the same thing. The unlikely conjunction of banning strip clubs in Iceland and subsequent activity of Eyjafjallajökull is both absurd causality and something far more disturbing in the environmental sublime.
The Euclid Project (2003 - 2018) Work-in-Progress
—Geometry begins in violence and in the sacred. (The Parasite, Michel Serres)
—Comprehending process involves the analysis of the interweaving of data, form, transition and issue… Rhythms of process produce pulsations, forming facts. Each fully realized fact has an infinitude of relations in the historic world. Thus any one pulsation of actuality consists of the full content of the antecedent universe as it exists in relevance to that pulsation. (Modes of Thought, Whitehead)
A performative archeology of media spanning Euclid’s “Elements,” the coloured edition printed in 1847, to a Virtual Reality cloister this work-in-progress examines our future present condition. The work’s trajectory moves from a baroque composite of data relying solely on material cultural to a virtual mise-en-abyme. Weaving a world where myth, daily news, desire, distance and immediate weather conditions are interconnected, The Euclid Project unfolded over 15 years in various studio locations the artist occupied. This research and experimentation process extensively maps shifts in the subjective process resulting from semio-capital’s harnessing of time and reliance on precarious — inner and intra —personal relations. Reinvigorating the social utility of obscurity and difficulty, the artist (experimental test subject perhaps) has worked off grid for three years to complete the project. Flying in the face of social dynamics built upon forces of consumption, flexibility and constant visibility, the work has evolved through a series of radical retreats and chosen disentanglements as a “thought and craft” experiment independent of the artist’s exhibited works.
The project, now nearing completion, creates a cosmology that includes subjective human values and scientific propositions. In the artist’s endeavour, the Euclidean proof is taken as a transformation/abstraction machine. The resulting morphological process of abstraction fails to distinguish geometric space from anthropological space. Ultimately the solidity of the Euclidean proposition collapses as a result of multiple contradictory transformations to reveal the stress and saturation of our current knowledge condition. The Euclid Project is both catastrophic End and future Organ. A functional sculpture or instrument, it is made to be played, and recorded; experienced collectively in performance and repeated in the solitude of Virtual Reality.
The project’s subtitle, "Knowledge of Life, or the Imagination is a Function without an Organ" is drawn from Georges Canguilhem, a philosopher and biologist who believed that the isolation of biology as a science would ideologically transform living beings into mechanical structures and could not account for the particularity of organisms or for the complexity of life. In his view a living organism must also be defined in relation to its sphere of life, as well as chemical and physical activity. In this sense — once activated by organic movement and breath — the work is a thermodynamic instrument performing the complex task of being alive.
The project is divided into two sections, each generated from a procedural interaction with a copy of the first illustrated version of Euclid’s “Elements.” In the first section - Recto - explanatory text is metamorphic rather than didactic— collaged line by line with fragments from the artist’s library— the Euclidean proposition is transformed into a struggle for immanence. In the second section - Verso - the excised diagram becomes a theatre: a stage set with figures and spaces where the trauma of history unfolds. Aptly, the back bone of Verso is a 1950’s trade paper sample book, “Specimens,” given to the artist’s grandfather who was a printer in Vancouver. Sent out by the Japan Paper Co. of America it portrays with flourish the rise of global economy and trade. Each “specimen” page is printed and designed to showcase different corporations and institutions on speciality paper. Similarly, a personal archive of collected scientific diagrams is cut and deployed. Traversing the series of panels, like actors in a morality play, are pages ripped from a 19th study of historical European costumes from Rudolph Valentino’s library. The astounding and complex array of patterns and cloth, draped in non-Euclidean folds, connect textile to global trade and colonialism along with paper and scientific knowledge.
Relations are simultaneously material (between things), semiotic (between concepts) and economic (between peoples) within the confines of “The Euclid Project.” The resulting chaosmotic drive is continuously in process — shifting rhythms, forming facts, pulsating — geometric and violent and sublime, at its core the work is a machine for thinking.
"Tlön, or How I held in my hands a vast methodical fragment of an unknown planet’s entire history", 2003. Slide dissolve projection onto suspended screed of Morpho Didius butterflies; honeycomb aluminum, cork, velvet, pins, Ektapros, Stumpfl Event Controller. 145 x 305 x 5 cm. 4min.loop, ed. of 2
The work is based on a Borges story, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbius Tertius”, which recounts the invention of a virtual cosmos, Uqbar, and its idealized knowledge system called Tlön, attributed to "the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia." A dissolve sequence of 24 astronomy slides is projected onto a suspended screen of Morpho butterflies pinned into a grid. Documentation of the heavens and classification of wildlife are overlaid in a system of ordering and symmetry that is at once mystical and sadistic, absurd and universal. In constant metamorphosis, light from stars is registered, projected and finally reflected by the tiny scales of the wings. Through micro and macro forces, "Tlön, or How I held in my hands a vast methodical fragment of an unknown planet’s entire history," explores the concept of time as transformation of change.
Etched steel and thread, 67 x 31.5 in each
The letters abbreviating nucleotides, A, C, G, T, that map the DNA sequence are individually etched on metal squares. Drawn from a neural (homeobox) sequence the squares are sewn into grids shaped like armor. This work explores a shift in biological science from a mechanical model of blood and guts to one based on communication. Linking knowledge, language and war, for this project the artist worked in a genetic lab, examining microscopic DNA (which looks like spaghetti) and followed its rendering into a string of letters. Focusing on this process of abstracting "the invisible life of life" by first reduction and then recombination, gene splicing is related to film splicing - making the body conform to the economy of the film strip - an animate narrative of inanimate parts - neither porous nor messy. The sequence sewing is ongoing, in pairs, and will be comprised of 20 forms once completed. The artist chose to work with a homeobox sequence (found in humans and animals) as it is a regulator - a sequence that exists solely to inform other parts of the code when to switch on and off.
35 mm colour film loop, copper mesh, 365cm wide, length variable, 1min 12s loop
Joining a 35mm film projector with a 19th century sewing machine, a short film loop of a veil dance choreographed by Loie Fuller is projected onto a double sided screen of translucent copper mesh. The image blazes with electric intensity. The dancer is surrounded with spiralling sheets of white silk manipulated by poles attached to the body. Creating forms that twist and fold in space the fabric appears to move the dancer in an uncanny spectacle that defies the laws of gravity. Image and screen meld in hybrid materiality; screen and space are inseparable as the copper cloth hits the floor and continues to roll out towards the spectator. The black and white film is intercut with flashes of dazzling red pure light - morse code.
Mixed media slide dissolve projection onto suspended screen of buttons, 2 mirrors, 4 projectors, 18min.
Words are projected in dissolve onto a screen dense with collected buttons of diverse shape, colour and era. Mirrors are suspended on either side of the ornate surface. The words above perform a segment of Beckett’s play, “Not I”. The passage below, from Simone Weil’s “Gravity and Grace”, is fragmented precisely like Beckett’s stuttering speech. The work moves through both French and English, with the translated text always projected in reverse. Different word pairings erupt within each language forcing points of intersection and disjuncture. The ornate words glittering in the dark are punctuated by the rhythm of the projectors.
Mixed media slide dissolve projection on screen of giant silk roses suspended with wire, 229 x 305 x 114 cm. 3min. loop
Endura Metallic Print, Edition of 3, 90x120 cm
Through slow slide dissolves a woman methodically eats the pages of a book, Alice in Wonderland. Her performance is documented with slides, edited to 24 frames and projected onto a cube sculpted of giant suspended roses on stems. The material density of the screen both forms and deforms the image. Through this work the artist continues her exploration of the projection apparatus as a living assemblage where support and image meld in a process of thickening that slides between perception, hallucination and cognition.
Slide dissolve projection on suspended screen of feathers, 230 x 345 x 1 cm. 5min. loop
The work reflects the artist's ongoing interest in Mallarme, in this instance the mechanical act of chance as a trapeze act is re-choreographed by slide projectors. Executing a twirl mid-air, the trapeze artist’s routine is sliced into stills and projected as a dissolve sequence onto a suspended screen of black feathers. Rupturing the integrity of the projected image a surface emerges whose plastic hybridity is in constant metamorphosis.
Hand-blown glass, steel harness, wire, theatrical spot light. 60 in.
Molded directly from a 1970’s Judy, a dressmaker’s dummy is hand-blown out of glass. The singular act of expelled breath creates a form arrested at its moment of inception. Paradoxically the dummy, intended as an instrument of mass production, is imperfectly materialized as a transparent and non-functional object that acquires a life of its own. Conceived from the artist's interest in the history of the automaton, and insistence on probing a relation between animate and inanimate, this work is a reflection upon "L'Ève future," by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam.
Installation, light box set into wall of cell shaped room.
The 308 contact lenses of the index are placed within a lightbox recessed into the wall of a small, cell-like room.
Twelve light tables, laser etched contact lenses, 111 x 34 x 34 cm.
An index of 308 words laser etched onto a series of coloured contact lenses is divided into pairs (right/left) and organized into 12 chess games that are displayed on light tables arranged in a circle. The words are taken from a dictionary published in Valencia during the Spanish inquisition. Mapped into a new historical relation by the operation of chance and prosthetic appearance the words are vividly modern and not easily dismissed as "of the past." The contact lens is like a skin-film on which trauma is condensed as both process and product - linking truth to the production of the visual. Paradoxically, the word is no longer readable if the lens is worn and, the inscribing laser is blinding if looked at. Like the prisoner in Kafka's "Penal Colony", the judgement is incised on the back of the victim and she/he can feel it but not read it. The work was produced in response to the rise of live televised trials ie. Rodney King and a sense that the artist/viewer is implicated in the process.
Endura chromogenic print, 180 x 112 cm, edition of 3.
Black and white slide projection, satin tufting, gilt frame, rope, pulleys, 203cm x 348cm. Photograph: silver-print, steel rulers, neon light, 46 x 61 cm.
Photographed during a screening of Pasolini’s “Salo,” a still subtitled "il n'ya rien a faire" is projected onto a suspended screen within the gallery. The brilliant white satin tufted surface of the screen melds with the chateau interior and ambiguous action. The work probes the relation between physical and moral space implicit within Pasolini's staging of fascism. Opposite is a small photograph of the artist standing on a book – Sade’s "les cingt vingt jours" opened to the passage the film portrays.
See "Configurations of the Gaze," Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Exhibition Catalogue
Silverprint, Carved Silverleaf Frame, 22" x 28", ed. of 3
Silver Print, Stainless Steel Rulers, 22" x 28"
Chromogenic print, 122 x 81 x 8 cm, edition of 3.
Endura Metallic Print on Aluminium, 36" x 60", ed. of 3
97% Carbon Ink Print on Japanese Paper, 48" x 72", ed. of 3.
Endura Chromogenic Print, 28cm x 41cm. ed of 3
Mix midea collage, 7 by 9 inches
Slide projector, orchid, sketchbooks.
A page from Euclid’s “Elements” is projected onto a potted orchid. The plant rests on a stack of blank books and is kept alive by the light of the projector - and intermittent sun. A fragile experiment in photosynthesis, the act of projection is materialized -- it sustains the orchid which in turn forms the image.
"Cleave," # 1 - 4 Cibachrome Print, ed. of 3, 24" x 36"