Get pulled inside as artist Laurie Kang asks you to unhinge yourself from your body
Kang's latest photography project pulls you into a dream-like space to consider the limits of the 'the body'
In A Body Knots, artist Laurie Kang invites us into her inner world.
Presented at Gallery TPW in conjunction with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Kang's installation pushes her audience to intimately experience the complex interplay of materiality and symbolic expression. It stages an enigmatic encounter with the artists' psychic life in order to "do away" with the body, and the spectator is refused contact with any conventional or commemorative photographic form. We are being invited to feel our way through the ambiguity of the work and allow ourselves to be moved by its abundant simplicity. Showcasing the interdisciplinary possibilities of photography, painting, sculpture and installation, A Body Knots is an important inquiry into the psychic and fleshy entanglements of biology, history and emotions.
In A Body Knots, two rooms are presented. The first room features five large stainless steel mixing bowls placed on the gallery's concrete floor, and each bowl is lined with a pigmented silicone that looks sticky to touch. Cast aluminum peach pits and lotus roots are some of the objects placed on the silicone's gummy surface. The silver bowls encircle each still life, creating a reflection of the colours and objects sitting inside.
Kang's work is playful and pulls the spectator into a dream-like space where her emotions elide the demands of language and are manifested in aesthetic forms.- Casey Mecija
The bowls are womb-like in how they securely hold each object. Kang says that some of these items are remnants of her childhood. The room is white walled and spacious and a metal, spine-like tendril climbs a steel frame. The sterility of the space is paired with the warmth and whimsy of the objects placed in its confines. The work feels cared for and protected.
The second room surprises in both scale and materials. Kang has created an impressive wall-like structure that divides the gigantic space. The spectator is pulled in by shiny, rose-taupe duratrans that are hung on 10-foot steel frames. The metal tendrils from the first room continue to crawl in a vine-like manner along and inside these frames. The spectator is then led to turn a corner and experience the other side of the wall. Four large sheets of unprocessed photographic paper are held up by magnetic ball bearings — and each sheet reveals the artist at play.
Playing with materials like dark room chemicals and experimenting with photographic processes, Kang has created imaginative methods for expressing her ideas and emotions. Splashes of chemicals create paint-like swirls and photograms of masking tape and lotus roots float like debris in an oceanic scene. It all feels like a dream.
Kang's work is playful and pulls the spectator into a dream-like space where her emotions elide the demands of language and are manifested in aesthetic forms. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein once suggested that "play" is an unconscious expression like that of dreaming. Studying child development, Klein believed that through play we are given insight into the emotional world of the child. Play is often understood as the site through which children work through difficult feelings. Artistic expression functions in a similar way: through play, the artist leaves their spectator with traces of their unconscious in service of repairing latent memories and feelings.
With A Body Knots, Kang uses play to beckon her audience inside in order to unhinge our imaginations from over-simplified ideas of flesh, skin and bone. With an interest in science — specifically epigenetics, the study of how our bodies are altered by the environment — she creates a space in which to consider the limits of "the body." What are the ways in which we become knotted together and pulled apart by genetic instruction? How can the study of epigenetics highlight the uneven distribution of violence and discrimination? What world becomes possible when the embodiment of ideas and emotions push against the structure of words or a knowable narrative? Kang is too humble to pretend she knows the answers. Rather, she creates art that provokes an emotional connection with ourselves and each other.
A Body Knots. Featuring work by Laurie Lang. Until June 9. Gallery TPW, Toronto. www.gallerytpw.ca