By Elisa Gutiérrez Eriksen, May 14, 2023.
Lydian Stater Gallery
May 12 - June 10, 2023
As human coexistence takes place in language, learning to be human is learned simultaneously in a continuous intertwining of our language and emotions according to our lives. I call this intertwining of language and emotions conversing. This is why human living occurs, in fact, in conversing.
Entering the exhibition of Catalina Tuca (Chile, 1977) at Lydian Stater, one realizes that they’re entering a place of intimacy. An inner site in which multimedia work composed of video, sound, and objects conducts the viewer to a state of attention and awareness. One quickly perceives that while looking at a series of different works, these are presented as an orchestrated unity in which some works take the lead; still, as one spends time inside the space, other quiet elements emerge with a stronger presence, subtly taking up our entire attention.
The Sensitive Project (2020-present) emerges from Tuca's profound interest in what is human and her perspective on objects as projections of that humanness, with its differences, limits, and possibilities. Born amid the pandemic, it proposes practices of inner observation and connection to the body, feelings, and emotions explored through conversations later translated into the digital and physical worlds through interpretation, perception, and reproduction processes. These practices follow a series of steps defined and coordinated by the artist that depart from one-on-one conversations with a group of people to describe specific emotions through a series of questions designed by Tuca. The answers are recorded and sent to a wholly disconnected group of people to render that description digitally. In a third stage, Tuca brings the digital rendering into the material world through different sculptural techniques spanning 3d prints, resin, clay, and silicone rubber, at times made directly by Tuca and others commissioned to other artists and makers. The results are audiovisual and sculptural artworks that materialize the emotions' relationships with each participant in the conversation.
Tuca’s interest in human emotions is inspired by Humberto Maturana’s biological and philosophical theories on emotions, relations, and perception of organisms as dynamic systems that invariably function in relation to something or someone. Thus, The Sensitive Project is a humanistic inquiry into ancient consciousness and knowledge forms. It explores the liminal space between the realms of the intuitive and the objective as auto-referencing autonomous systems weaved through language and intuition. Besides all the attempts that philosophers and scientists have made in describing intuition, it remains a strange notion that we simply cannot express but just feel; it is fugitive in the sense that it changes and moves, appears and disappears; we’re unable to grasp it unless we use the tools of the senses and the language ascribed to them. Our conduit of connection to the world is in the body –we learn through our bodies– but is intuition something we access through our bodies or brains? Perhaps the answer is away from the cartesian division imposed by the white Western patriarchal ordering that establishes a conflict between feeling and thinking. For Tuca, the answer locates body and mind precisely as an integrated form of knowing and engaging with the world, and it not only exists through body and mind but also through connections with time and space. To be attuned to one’s feelings and integrate them as forms of knowing the world is, in the words of H. Maturana, “to be in the interior of the experience.”
The carefully installed exhibition defeats many of the classic display rules of museums and galleries; it is conducive for people to sit on the floor and be surrounded by these feelings. While the multiple videos with the rendered emotions are played simultaneously on five different screens, the audience hears only one voice at a time. As we adjust to the space, we listen to whispers from two pairs of headphones available to access other emotions' sounds. The small, darkened space augments the sense of awareness of the room and the intimacy felt in connection with those voices describing what is inside them. Many of the elements in the exhibition space require a sense of curiosity to be discovered, as not all are evenly lit. This gesture is intentional –it forces the viewer to look beyond what is evident to find the nuances that make emotions unique.
The series of intertwined relations is a distinct portrait of the complexities through which people grappled at the peak of the pandemic and a testimony of human coexistence. But mostly, they are representations that play with “the possibility of imagining as the impossibility of objectivity.” With this in mind, Tuca has arranged multiple dialogues that cross, collaborate and intersect in this exhibition to explore what is possible and what is not when speaking about humanity and our relations with each other and with the physical world. The list of works provided by the gallery gives an account of the number of allies involved in creating each emotion, inadvertently creating a support system. It also opens a small window to understand the complex weaving that took place for The Sensitive Project to exist as one orchestrated symphony of emotions that are described as complicated, ephemeral, heavy, volcanic, dense, rounded, airy, with fingers, pulsating, heavy, hollow, that turn into smoke, or that moves through different parts of a body.
Most importantly, for Tuca, the essence of the project is not in the resolved emotions that it presents but in the process of that resolution. The conversations she establishes with each participant at each project stage are the knots that tie together a collective representation that combines the internal and external configuration of a personal and collective ecosystem.
Lydian Stater is pleased to present an exhibition of new digital and sculptural works by Catalina Tuca, her first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Catalina Tuca is a lover of objects. She relishes in their presence; the space they occupy, the way light plays off their surfaces, the weight of them in her hands. Consequently, it is no surprise that she has spent much of her time since the pandemic undertaking the monumental task of translating something with no inherent physical presence into a thing with multiple presences; audial, visual, sculptural.
In The Sensitive Project (2020-Present), Tuca solicits detailed accounts of personal emotions from willing participants. These oral accounts are passed along to designers to create digital renderings of each emotion. Audio recordings are then paired with video of semi-static digital objects, rotating slowly or dancing within the frame.
In one work, Orsolya Gal (Romania) describes her emotion in visual terms, saying “It’s quite big. Changing between fifteen and twenty centimeters. This thing … it’s round and that is for sure. Even if it’s not a perfect sphere, towards a sphere … the surface is close like glass and it’s hard, but inside, the density, it’s less dense … The color of it, it’s blue towards gray, but it is changing on the surface.” Modeled as a 3D object by Ian Hill (USA), the resulting images are a distinct interpretation of the description given by the speaker.
But it is just one interpretation. As with many of Tuca’s previous projects, the artist transfers some of the decision-making process, playing with both the authorship of the works and relational aesthetic concerns in a global and decentralized art making process. And while the digital objects allow us to experience these personal emotions in a new way, Tuca wants and needs them to exist in the real world, off screen and in one’s hands. In one more reverse-sublimation, Tuca and her collaborators translate the digital renderings into sculptural works using 3D printing and analog methods.
Emerging from a time of uncertainty, these sculptures act as relics of a time both long ago yet omnipresent, allowing each emotion’s owner to have a physical record of their feelings of fear, vulnerability, and confusion. The Sensitive Project allowed Tuca to connect emotionally with others during a tumultuous pandemic and continue to beyond it. In this immersive audiovisual installation, Tuca extends this connection to her viewers, allowing them to be with one another, both in the physical space of the gallery and the liminal field produced by her works.