NATURE ANGST by VALERIE KEANE at HIGH ART [from 20220219 to 20220416]


In her book Volatile Bodies, Elizabeth Grosz describes bodily experience as osmotic: characterized by fluid borders capable of incorporating and rejecting external objects which “become, while they are being used, intimate, vital, even libidinally cathected parts of the body image.” The six works in Nature Angst evoke the osmotic, incorporating rigid, flamboyant, and membranous forms that maintain mutable relationships with their environments. Suspended so as to share the viewer’s space, they are hard not to perceive as bodily proxies, however alien. As such, they are subject to the viewer’s psychological projections: desires, fantasies, memories, and imagined selves. They are designed to modulate and harness those projections: while their spikiness and armored appearance imply a threat, the interference generated by the collision of light and material encourages architecture, viewer, and object to experientially collapse into one another. There is a certain violence to this experience, as to encounter these material presences is to be incorporated into their destabilizing logic of fracture and reassembly.

Keane generates and aggressively deploys ornament, using rhythmically patterned and iterated silhouettes to make blank industrial materials fractalize and vibrate into dense fabrications of the spontaneous and the cosmic. Structures, engineering principles, and motifs recombine and redistribute across the installed works. Intricate material translations and interactions improvise and adjust, dismember and reconstitute. Taking biomorphic, mechanical and living forms, the six suspensions in Nature Angst may appear as dismembered parts of an unconscious whole, recalling archetypal creation myths such as the sacrifice of Purusha described in the Rig Veda or the dismemberment and scattering of Osiris and his collection and reassembly by Isis. These myths tend to envision creation as a constant cycling between form and formlessness, parts and whole. The osmotic bodies Valerie creates take part in that same material flux. If they induce the violent experience of fracture, they also imply as its corollary the promise of healing reunion.

[Text: Elizabeth Englander]

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