Curatorial Statement

—The New Media Artspace Docent Team: Anya Ballantyne, Angela Bernabeo, Emily Chavez, Malcolm Charles, Maya Hilbert, Amanda Martinez, Leo Ng, Anika Rios, Josie Romano

Grounding—through dreaming, through connecting, through consciousness of place—is a much-needed practice today. Among other things, grounding rests us, and resting—letting the sun set and the city sleep—has become an act of defiance against the global systematic exploitation of self, time, and nature that fuels modernization.1 Every moment and resource is currency, and grounding yourself removes you from circulation: an unproductive, inefficient move. There are so many things you could be doing, but your time is unaccounted for, and in this way, you escape the system and become your own again—for a while. While taking yourself out of economic circulation, grounding also enters other circulations—in the paths of dreamspaces, in the rhythm of heartbeats, in the exchange of energy, and in the flow of time. These groundings are our escape.

The works in Grounding explore techniques for our escape. Sleep and slip into a dream, out of focus and control: wandering into the subconscious dream spaces visualized in Carrie Chen’s Dreams 梦境素描 or the 365 experimental dimensions of Dominika Jezewska’s A Year of Dreaming. Explore ways of awareness, consciousness, ways of grounding between reality and intangible worlds through the kaleidoscopic imagery in Sophie Capshaw-Mack’s visual poem, Here We Are, or the grounds and skies of your imagination in the surreal world of Hayden Clay’s Human Nature.

Return to your body and touch, feel, move. Connect to your touch and how your touch connects with the world in Tabitha Soren’s Surface Tension. Explore what it means to connect to your body and self on a digital plane in Jose Daniel Benitez and Puck de Haan’s Jose.exe. Crochet crip coverings that connect a Disabled body’s excess invisible labor to the surface of everyday objects in Hayden Stern’s Remediation. Ground yourself in the midst of inner chaos in Malcolm Charles’ Cooling Off, which offers spaces to find solace and comfort through the natural forces of rain and wind. Or, Come and Take a Seat, as the title of Mateusz Gawrysiak’s interactive photography work invites you; by clicking you connect two bodies of street photography to offer rest to passersby.

Take a walk and reintroduce yourself to the greenery surrounding you, running your fingers over the lush mosses in Jillian McDonald’s Sweet Spot or joining Kelly Niceley in her search for urban green in The Bronx is the Greenest Borough. Plant yourself in a recovering landfill immersed in a musical score that connects our hyper consuming culture to natural cycles in Sue Huang and Brian House’s Post-Natural Pastorale. Embark on the journey of Teaching Capitalism to Nature as Clint Sleeper captures the reading of classic capitalist literature to unimpressed natural landscapes, hyper-production in stark contrast to serene beauty. Discover the materiality of the digital world in your surroundings in The Cloud Rendered in Water & Blood, where Liam Wiesenberger reminds us of data’s roots in infrastructure and labor.

Tether a balloon to the ground and give it gravity. Route wires into the ground and discharge their negativity. Grow a garden, partake, enjoy, and then return it to the ground. At a time that feels so charged up, we offer Grounding—the grounding process releases an excess charge—and we are Grounding—we are conductive bodies, and as conductive bodies, we are like the earth.

1 For Jonathan Crary sleep remains "an uncompromising interruption of the theft of time from us by capitalism." Under conditions Crary has described as 24/7 capitalism, Tricia Hersey has proclaimed, "Rest is resistance."

Dreams 梦境素描 by Carrie Chen archives dreamscapes in moving images, immortalizing the ephemeral spaces that appear between sleeping and waking. Chen describes the ongoing series as “attempts to recall emotions such as confusion, nostalgia, dislocation, and excitement.” These recollections materialize through 3D renderings that feel startlingly present, more a neighboring reality than a fleeting impression. The dreams reach into the subconscious and mold the abstract into the tangible: bubbles you could reach out and pop, falling paper cranes you can feel on your face. The variety in style and subject matter makes the viewer acutely aware of the vastness of this universe, a strange other-world with unknown laws of nature that we have been invited to preview. In Chen’s grounding, she listens to her subconscious mind as an archivist preserving history and shares the recordings with the waking world.

Dominika Jezewska harnesses artist block and uses it as a tool to create art without limits in A Year of Dreaming. Through virtual reality and image manipulation, Jezewska produced a visual work every single day for a year, each one a deployment of creative production into a battle against expectations. The days are both iterative, sharing a language of crisp lines, airy colors, and recurring visual stories, and individual, each a glimpse into a unique world. They come together in a tapestry of raw artistic intention and open exploration. With no stretching timeline or larger plan, A Year of Dreaming takes one step at a time, grounding in the now and the self.

The visual poem Here We Are by Sophie Capshaw-Mack highlights the way consciousness ebbs and flows through Earth and everything present in it. The poem begins with “plants and machines, glowing, conscious like the algorithms” and continues on to weave the physical world we live in with the intangible world we surround ourselves with, inviting us into a dream-like state of grounding. Wordplays draw lines between natural phenomena and human creations, such as between clouds in the sky and cloud computing. Accompanying Capshaw-Mack’s handwritten poem is personal footage and kaleidoscopic graphics that amplify the relationship between ourselves and the worlds our mind takes us to. Here We Are opens up the possibility of grounding as a reciprocal relationship: we connect with the world, and the world connects with us.

Hayden Clay’s Human Nature explores how to ground ourselves to the earth through dreamscapes. What if we allowed ourselves to reconnect with nature by existing in the in-between? The series utilizes hyper realistic 3D renderings to amplify the sensations of being within nature to the extent we become one with it, the boundaries between the human body and natural bodies blurring as we feel the rooting grass and the flowing water. There is a sigh of relief in becoming one with the Earth, as though this entire time our bodies have been straining to maintain an artificial barrier. Human Nature invites us to lean into nature, grounding in a state that is more vast and quiet than we can know in our own body.

Tabitha Soren’s Surface Tension explores the intersection between the primal humanity within our skin and the expansive domain behind our screens. The encounter between our warm, tangible bodies and the cold, boundless digital realm is illuminated against photos pulled off the web. We swipe over a wildfire, tap through an ocean, and pinch into a vigil: our daily connections to the world around us available at our fingertips. The surface of our screens is a meeting place where we seek community and news; but the remnants of this interaction, left as smears and prints upon the screen, show a dubious connection that is one-sided and desperate in its grimy accumulation. Surface Tension brings us back to our bodies by exposing the surfaces of digital interactions.

Jose Daniel Benitez and Puck de Haan explore the relationship between the human body and the digital world in Jose.exe. A 3D scan of Jose’s body is given the ground he’s scanned in with, but left afloat in space. In a space that crosses fluidly between two and three dimensions, the ground and sky are no longer defined. The uncertain surroundings and glitching scan question the reproducibility of art and, more personally, our sense of self, in the digital age. Jose.exe invites us to think about our virtual embodiment: how our bodies interact with and within the digital environment and our surroundings. Referencing Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image,” and posthuman theory, Jose.exe searches for a new ground for virtual bodies.

In Remediation by Hayden Stern, music plays in the background as viewers watch the act of crocheting with white yarn. The hands, doubled through layering, belong to the artist: “Once I have reached my physical limit crocheting, I unravel the textile, leaving no evidence of my handiwork.” Stern explores the daily reality of a Disabled body through the intensive labor of moving through physical space, invisible when compared to the ease of others doing the same tasks. Handiwork like crochet can be a grounding activity: a practice for relaxation. Yet even this quiet practice of connecting mind, body, and surroundings is not effortless. Even this “rest” is labor seeped in the intent of production, and for many, there is no product: the labor of remaining physically present is endless. Hayden Stern’s Remediation reminds viewers that grounding unwinds differently for everyone.

Cooling Off, a series of illustrations by Malcolm Charles, explores themes of regulation, centeredness, and relationships. A flower, a man, and a bird burn through rain and wind. The flames are solitary and quiet, unaffected by the forces and figures around them: an aura of heat and light that persists in a cold, rainy park and in flight above the clouds. The three are marked, connected in their volatility, though alone in their environment. The series offers a space to meditate and let the fire burn.

Mateusz Gawrysiak’s Come and Take a Seat looks at moments of transition and connection: dichotomies of human and environment, movement and stillness, monochrome and color coming together in the randomized pairing of images from one photo series featuring walking figures and another featuring chairs in public spaces. Every empty chair is an anchoring opportunity, offering time for self-reflection, time for perspective, time without the expectation of moving forward. Every person is on a journey, with their own origin and destination and pauses along the way. These moments of sitting are punctuation in their journey, moments when they ponder what came before and await what will come after. Come and Take a Seat is a polite invitation to slow down, take a respite from going to and from, and reflect upon these journeys.

Sweet Spot by Jillian McDonald provides an intimate view of the relationship between humans and plants. Unfiltered, she strokes the moss with the care you would a friend or partner. Grounded in a tender, one-on-one human-to-plant relationship, the piece calls into question the expansively impersonal relationship of humanity to the natural world around us. This serial interspecies caress contrasts the lack of attention most give to nature day to day with an ecosexual approach to a nature walk, caring for the earth with the tenderness of a lover as opposed to the expectations of a mother.

Niceley seeks grounding in urban greenery in The Bronx is the Greenest Borough, a video and mixed media piece that takes viewers on a train ride to search for nature in the Bronx. As a Bronx resident, Niceley was inspired to create this piece after the discovery that despite living in what has been titled “New York City’s Greenest Borough,” sightings of greenery are rare in daily life. Thus, Niceley documents the green she sees from a train car as a window into the actual access of residents. The Bronx is the Greenest Borough mixed media accompaniment shows an alternate train window, one fully blanketed in leaves with all human presence and functionality obscured: a Bronx consumed by green. These striking moving visuals and textures come together with an immersive musical component to bring us into the grounding experience of a Bronxonian.

Sue Huang and Brian House’s Post-Natural Pastorale utilizes years of data from the Department of Sanitation to produce a 24-minute bass music composition. By developing and overlapping eight scores that reflect the changing state of the environment, they establish a connection between the scale of time in nature and human existence. Grounding oneself in an area known for deteriorating the Earth, an area that was once the largest municipal dump in the world, is an acceptance and mourning of the lasting impacts of global overproduction. The reversal of the landfill to a natural space attempts to reground the space and reverse time, but it is an imperfect reversal: this nature will be man-made and built upon a history of abuse. Post-Natural Pastorale exposes our past, present, and future effects on the Earth—all at once.

In the video series Teaching Capitalism to Nature, Clint Sleeper follows a man reading full-length capitalism classics to unimpressed landscapes, with the tongue-in-cheek mindset of, “Perhaps if we could teach our environment about the prosperity of a capitalist model, then nature might surrender its unreasonable demands, which have up to this point, inhibited economic growth.” Through continuous wind, snow, and muffled mics, Sleeper puts the hyper-production of the industrialized world in stark contrast to the ground itself and all it naturally encompasses. “The Wealth of Nations” labors and deforests, destroying the earth to fuel industrial expansion—and thus our opportunity to find peace, solitude, and grounding within it dwindles. Will nature ever surrender to our unreasonable demands or will we instead learn to be grounded in its peace?

Liam Wiesenberger’s The Cloud Rendered in Water & Blood explores the value of data and its cost, both for humanity and the natural world. The cloud seems like a distant, indistinct place, evoking summer skies, drifting and aimless. The metaphor encourages our mind to slide over the internal workings, a magical black box of information. Our data goes into the cloud, and out of our minds. The Cloud Rendered in Water & Blood reaches into this fog and grounds the cloud in the buildings, the servers, the cables, and the bodies that maintain it, demystifying the information that people and organizations produce and consume using this infrastructure. Gathering this data, storing it, and dispensing it is a resource-intensive process, all in an attempt to control information, and through information, us.