In Katja Loher’s latest body of work, video and sculpture compete for the foreground. Most pieces consist of blown-glass sculptures situated in front of a video screen, which they sometimes distort like ill-fitted lenses. It is difficult to say which prevails, video or sculpture, but what becomes clear through the composite effects of “What is the Color of Scent?” is that Loher’s work points to ways of seeing and to the lenses through which one views the world. More precisely, it points to the ways humans do not see the world.
On view at C24 Gallery in Chelsea through October 27, “What is the Color of Scent?” disrupts the normal viewing experience in a number of ways. Almost all the videos are shot from a bird’s eye perspective, the blown-glass sculptures distort the video content, and the videos themselves, for the most part, are collaged video clips of nature. The composite effect of these forms, techniques, and contents is a kind of disembodiment from the human perspective, which, as one might imagine, is jarring, confusing, overwhelming, frustrating, transcendent — all at once.
Take, as an example, “What do they call the flower that flies from bird to bird?,” 2018, which is composed of three glass eggs nestled inside a circular nest the size of a car tire. Inside of each egg, the yolk, if you will, consists of video screening clips of nature — at turns bright, grainy, fast-forwarded — but seemingly never on loop. An endless wave of collaged content drawn from nature. On top of this already chaotic imagery, green-screened dancers appear in aviary costumes with feathered wings and move, not so much flying as floating, between the glass eggs.
It is easy to be overwhelmed and perhaps impossible not to be. I stood over this nest, staring into the video pool, transfixed, waiting for the loop to end, and feeling very much like Alice on the precipice of Wonderland. Each glass egg was almost like a drop of morning dew that, by some mystical means, captured the imagery of one’s dreams before they were blinked away by black coffee.
Other artworks, like “Bee Manifesto,” 2017, and “Where does the rainbow end?,” 2016, also capture this lofty, dream-like state, but without the chaotic edginess. These are just two of several videos projected onto helium balloons of various sizes. In the dim light, these flickering balloons appear like heavenly bodies, endowed with a certain lightness of being. These floating orbs summon the viewer, as if they were moons kneading awakening the tides of our inner oceans.
From the pair of perfectly spherical glass lenses in “Do they feed on flooded dreams?,” 2018, to the organic-inspired, thorned glass in “There is a dying dancing tribe,” 2018, these sculptural aspects lend the videos a degree of depth they wouldn’t otherwise have. Without a blown-glass sculpture to interfere, distort, or enhance the video, “Fire Mandala,” 2018 is a round video projected onto a flat wall. The video content, which consists primarily of a kaleidoscopic blooming of symmetrical forms and superimposed choreographed dancers who occasionally look up and startle the viewer, soon becomes become nauseating and fails to hold its own.
Considering our selfie culture and the wide popularity of Instagram, we, as visual consumers, are particularly attuned to the first-person perspective. In light of this, it is perhaps not so remarkable that Loher was able to so violently disrupt our viewing habits. What is remarkable, however, is her subtle identification of this habit, how disorienting it is to adapt to another point of view, and her attempts to introduce us to a more “natural” or neutral point of view. This inspired introspection is certainly moving, but the psychedelic journey to get there is taxing. Perhaps it is best appreciated as a whole, from a bird’s eye view, where your retinas won’t burn out.
“What Is the Color of Scent?” with works by Katja Loher is on view at C24 Gallery through October 27. More information: http://www.c24gallery.com/
Founder: Louise Blouin