Multimedia artist Nina Katchadourian’s exhibit Curiouser will be at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin until June 11, 2017
A child of transatlantic flights, raised by Armenian and Finnish parents, Nina Katchadourian is a conceptual artist steeped in mapping and translation. Her parents and brother figure into her pieces, appearing in video and audio works. They provide active and supportive participants for her rituals and mythologies which create unique order out of seemingly mundane, disparate items. For the viewer her multimedia pieces are playful, evocative and break down the molds imposed by popular culture and homogeneity.
Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #4
Studies have shown that the mind when subjected to chronic stress and conventional demands over a period of time, with no space for reflection or creative re-organization, can begin to suffer loss of memory. Parts of the brain, through both overuse and atrophy can see a shrinking of connections and activity. The visual arts can be valuable in that they force a separation from the rational world, providing a controlled space in which one can engage with playful exercises in fragmentation or contradiction. Whether through surrealistic juxtaposition, the absurd, or an exploration of childhood play revisited after 30 years, Katchadourian’s art is perfect for this. Her work engages in a natural disengagement from inherited conceptual categories. In one piece she takes apart all the countries on a Rand McNally map of the world and then pieces them back together, re-imagining geography. Her entire show resembles this process and is a welcome relief for our imagination. I saw groups of both children and adults delighting in the serendipity behind her creations. I can say with certainty that their minds grew and stretched happily in the process.
In some of her pieces, such as the Genealogy of the Supermarket, Katchadourian locates absurd links between unrelated images, building enormous webs of relationships between them that could exist, if the world followed different rules. In another she has observed a torn and abandoned spider web and she attempts to rebuild it with red thread.
The humor in her artworks is not a cynical humor, from a secure, knowing vantage point, ironically disrupting or challenging preconceptions in some cruel manner. Instead it is the humor of an outsider, traveler, or child who builds her own meaning and order, organizes and arranges collections that communicate relationships or patterns.
Katchadourian sees a world of languages and cultural objects and arranges them, repairing gaps like a broken spider web so they can communicate new stories. For the viewer, we are grateful for these changes to have our own static categories interrupted, challenged, and rebuilt. And for the modern mind, bogged down by repetition and tired structures, these new mythologies allow us to breathe and build new connections, maybe even with red thread.