Over Here Not Yet at Royal NoneSuch Gallery

Review

Over Here Not Yet at Royal NoneSuch Gallery

By Dorothy Santos April 10, 2018

In a world where simulation has become a commodity, Renée Rhodes and Shaghayegh Cyrous’s exhibition Over Here Not Yet at Royal NoneSuch Gallery serves as a reminder that no lived experience can be wholly realized through digital mediation. A balance must be struck between creation, mediation, and output, contingent on human perception and experience. Through the use of digital technology, moving image, and the body, both artists explore the textures, abstractions, and essence of becoming one with, or at least adjacent to, the many nuances of life by virtual means. 

Renée Rhodes. Incorporations I, 2016 (still); single-channel HD video. Courtesy of the Artist and Royal NoneSuch Gallery.

In Rhodes’s work, the artist’s body becomes a part of the rock formations and lands she depicts, while still remaining distinguishable. Her presence is blatant in her video work Incorporations I (2016), where she is seen donning an oversize shirt—which pictures the landscape she seeks to insert herself within—and stretching her arms well above her chest to align herself with the edge of a mountain range. The artist’s body becomes part of an instantiation of the landscape, and when she slowly exits the frame, we are left with a short duration of only the landscape itself. In Incorporations II (2018), Rhodes vacillates between visibility and invisibility as her body moves in and out of view within a gridlike pattern. In this video, various still frames have been stitched together to create a kaleidoscopic moving image, giving the illusion of an overall uniform kinetic gesture.

Renée Rhodes. Incorporations II, 2018 (still); single-channel HD video. Courtesy of the Artist and Royal NoneSuch Gallery.

By contrast, in Cyrous’s work the central protagonist is the viewer’s body. In The Closest I Could Get to the Sun (2017), she enforces a synthetic environment by requiring the viewer to wear shoe coverings in order to keep the white vinyl floor as pristine as possible. The piece brings forth a provocative approach to the physical aspect of interactivity. After I put on the provided shoe coverings and headphones, I sat in the installation watching and listening to the specific, intimate narrative of the Iranian landscape. The following phrase stayed with me: “The sky opened to hold me in its arms.” Despite the artificiality of the tungsten sun rays—which beam down onto the floor and wall, creating an intricate pattern of shadows that cut into the awning of a swing set—the work indeed manages to lure viewers into an emotional and poignant space. This space is no less enigmatic and brings to the fore more questions than answers: How well does technology actually enable us to connect and get closer to the things we are unable to be present for and touch? The projections, at some point, cease to exist when the viewer turns to see the light source responsible for adorning the white floor and walls. Yet, for a few moments, we are brought into a space where the pale white surrounding, which borders on antiseptic, is warmed and activated by the human body.

Shaghayegh Cyrous. The Closest I Could Get to the Sun, 2017; multimedia installation. Courtesy of the Artist and Royal NoneSuch Gallery.

No matter how much technology may possess the ability to connect us to distant landscapes or loved ones, mediations get us only so close to experiencing what we might see and perhaps call out as our deepest yearning. However, we are always left with our bodily sensations as a residue of a previously recorded experience. Although digital media is both artists’ main mode, digital trickery or seamless simulation of experience is antithetical to the core of the works in this exhibition. Rather, Rhodes and Cyrous both show us how the imperfections and moments caused by a body’s presence in virtual space help to accentuate, articulate, and possibly enrich our experience of physical and emotional landscapes. Ultimately, Over Here Not Yet encourages the viewer to use all available senses to perceive and reach past and beyond screens and monitors.

Shaghayegh Cyrous. The Closest I Could Get to the Sun, 2017 (detail); multimedia installation. Courtesy of the Artist and Royal NoneSuch Gallery. 

Over Here Not Yet is on view at Royal NoneSuch Gallery in Oakland, CA through April 22, 2018.

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