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murmuring beneath

To allow yourself to enter an artwork by Jaanika Peerna is to suddenly find yourself suspended between the microscopic and the macroscopic, to lose your perceptual footing and sense of scale, and be lost quite literally in space, floating between a swarming hive of the very smallest discrete building blocks of matter and the vast matter-speckled cloud of  the universe itself.  And in that space, the attentive viewer finds new vantages and perspectives, and unforeseen connections between the physical world and the subconscious realm.

In emergence 2, an ink-on-paper drawing, the organization of marks creates precisely this visual duality—and a conceptual one, as well.  To the eye, scale and perspective are rendered extraneous, unimportant; we could be looking at atoms or stars, and that ambiguity is it’s power, keeping our viewpoint in motion, fluid, subjective. In the brain, the image evokes both the organic, random feeling of a living colony as well as the sense of an inorganic, deliberate ordering of information—like a graphed field of data—creating a provocative tension between what we traditionally think of as “the natural world” and our current digitized perception of it. 

In murmuring, a video designed for circular projection, abstraction vies with emotion, again setting up a polarized space in which the work resonates. Here, a stream of images, unanchored in any identifiable reality, shimmers and ululates; perhaps because of the timing and patterning of the images, or perhaps because of the sensual contours of the forms themselves, the flow of images reaches past the retina, past cognition, and seems to tap directly into the stream of our subconscious, where flows our most sublime and powerful intimations, nameless ideas and inexpressible desires.

Many of this artist’s themes come together and find new levels of development in murmuring beneath, an on-floor video installation in which manipulated video plays through the center perforation of a large, polished metal disk.  The video’s watery, abstract images again play to the subconscious—a feeling enhanced  by the keyhole effect created by the disk, suggesting that we are being given a secret, privileged view into a private world.  This particularly engaging work satisfies our desire to see something that is vital and always close by but never visible, like the beating of a human heart.  As in much of Peerna’s work, there is contrast here—solid steel sculptural form vs. ethereal electronic imagery and, beyond that, a conceptual contrast between the levels of technology:  the circle-as-wheel is one of our species’ earliest technologic achievements, while video is one of our latest.  The content of the looped video program itself provides a comment on the sculptural form—a narrative of circular metamorphosis, it creates the video equivalent of the wheel surrounding it, echoing it’s shape.  It’s an eloquent statement of sculpture.

Peerna’s ongoing exploration and rendering of “particles” finds and reveals the repeating patterns in the organization of matter, and shows us the similarity between the architecture of nature and the architecture of the mind. The images often appear to be discrete bits of matter or digital data, but the result is a comment on the connectedness of it all. More than anything, though, Peerna’s work seems to be about opening up new perceptual space.  Her work’s polarities—combining micro and macro perspectives, splicing together technologies that emerged many millennia apart, putting abstract images in the service of intuition—all create a vast aesthetic space for the viewer to personally orient to the works and to the ideas and images they portray.  What happens to the viewer in that space—freedom or freefall—depends on the viewer’s experience and willingness to engage in the work, but I would venture that, in any and all cases, the viewer is kept in motion, set on a round trip journey to the rich inner life we all have but much too rarely visit.

                —Tim Young, murmuring beneath catalog essay, New York, 2005

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