Shih Chieh Huang SIMULATION AND PRESERVATION: HOW THE INVENTED WORLDS OF POST-INTERNET ARTISTS ARE BRINGING US BACK TO EARTH

ArtAsiaPacific Aug 30, 2019

Weaving through the expanding and exhaling creatures of Shih Chieh Huang’s exhibition “Incubate” (2019) at New York’s Ronald Feldman Gallery, I found myself lulled into a meditative state. Huang’s motorized sculptures, composed of everyday objects such as plastic bags and tubes, pens and drinks bottles—the kind of detritus one might find discarded in a park or bobbing in a river—perform a balletic display of bending and unfurling. Suspended throughout the darkened space, Huang’s works emit a fluorescent glow. Whirring motors inflate and deflate imposing plastic appendages that stretch out like limbs. Although fabricated from familiar materials, Huang’s sculptures are alien, so that encountering the work can be as frightening as it is mesmerizing. As I circled the work, tuning in to the ambient drone of the motors, one pointed plastic tendril reached up, brushing my face and causing me to jump back, my own body suddenly rushing with adrenaline. By eliciting such feelings of curiosity and nervousness, Huang draws the viewer into the work’s delicate performance of passivity and activity. In “Incubate,” Huang simulates an encounter with unknown species whereby a rational understanding of the sculptures’ component parts is overtaken by a primal alertness, posing questions about what it means to be threatened and threatening. Yet the “creatures” are composed of the same disposable materials that pollute our natural world, highlighting how the real danger stems not from other species but from the continual conflict between humans and the environments they impact. In this way, it is the iridescent artificiality of the art that calls upon the viewer to consider their role in the construction and destruction of their actual surroundings.

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