Critics’ Picks

View of “Binary Lore,” 2013.

View of “Binary Lore,” 2013.


“Binary Lore”

Center for Contemporary Art & Culture
511 NW Broadway Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design
December 6, 2012–February 28, 2013

Outwardly, the work of Chicago’s Edie Fake and the Portland, Oregon, duo MSHR (Brenna Murphy and Birch Cooper, who are also part of the art collective Oregon Painting Society) seem to share little common ground. Fake, a meticulous draftsman, produces the serial zine Gaylord Phoenix, which showcases his drawings of Burroughsesque psychosexuality and violence. MSHR, on the other hand, create retro-futuristic installations that combine natural regional signifiers, such as moss and driftwood, with scroll-like sheets of intricately patterned rainbow holograms and interactive audio components. But in “Binary Lore,” their dissimilar work forms a cohesive demonstration of how cultural categorizations based on simplistic binary oppositions—for Fake, male and female, horror and lust; for MSHR, nature and technology, craft and code—are fast becoming the stuff of modern myth.

In addition to his zines, Fake here presents selections from the 2010 “City of Night” series––drawings of imagined versions of Chicago’s bygone landmarks of queer culture, including the Virgo and the Sex Garage. Mama Peaches, 2010, presents a dimensionless and rigidly patterned storefront: Its sherbet-colored brickwork and seafoam shutters conjure the pixilated graphics of 8-bit video games. Rather than preserve a lost history, Fake sublimates it into a site of personal desire.

In MSHR’s Terrestrial Senser, 2012, a darkened room contains a series of light boxes, whose surfaces shimmer with digitally rendered holographic patterns inspired by conch shells. Mounted mirrors bounce mounted green lasers overhead to produce a spatially disorienting effect, while low-end drones and shrieking frequencies oscillate based on a viewer’s position throughout the space. It’s maximally stimulating, like some arcane arcade, while approximating the infinite in its reflections and echoes. Like Fake’s drawings of storied clubs, MSHR not only enact an emphatic longing to connect with another realm, but materialize that interstitial space that exists somewhere between the known past and a possible future.