Critics’ Picks

View of “Accordion Thoughts and Everyday Superposition,” 2011.

View of “Accordion Thoughts and Everyday Superposition,” 2011.

New York

Katie Grinnan

Brennan & Griffin
122 Norfolk Street
September 14–October 30, 2011

To look at Brainwaves, 2011, one of the three sculptures in Katie Grinnan’s solo exhibition, is to witness the way environment shapes perception and vice versa—which, for Grinnan, is where individual subjectivity emerges. Brainwaves is a massive ovular orb made predominantly out of jagged shards of plastic and Plexiglas, which are layered on top of each other to roughly approximate the shape of a human brain.

Each of the shards features ink-jet prints of photographs Grinnan has taken over the past three years (her childhood home, a trip to India, cities she has lived in) alongside screenshots of websites and YouTube videos that she looked at while researching the brain and quantum mechanics. Many of the images have been partially, painstakingly erased in Photoshop and now resemble line drawings, while others have been painted in neon colors. Both tactics privilege the artist’s memory of the place rather than the place itself, emphasizing the ways in which fact and memory compete for prominence inside the mind, often supplanting each other. At the center of the sphere sits a projector that streams videos onto a white fabric form of someone turning his or her back. The relationship between the orb and the figure speaks to the way subjectivity is formed: We see, in real time, the brain actively filtering a maelstrom of data and images into a steady stream of memories, which are then transmitted into the world just as impressions of the exterior world continue to accumulate within the mind.

Facing the enormous, glittery ball of a brain is Mirage, 2011, a sinuous sculpture made of plastic and covered completely with sand. Composed of some one hundred casts Grinnan took of herself as she practiced yoga, the sculpture materializes the process of motion. By mapping the physical possibilities of the individual, the sensuous, earthy sculpture acts as a manifestation of Brainwaves, but one that is, as the title Mirage suggests, deeply ephemeral, always on the verge of vanishing, continually crumbling into a heap of sand.