Swiss artist Katia Loher creates “miniverses”: compelling video works that make a statement about humanity in a quiet and elegant fashion. These tiny microcosms are inventive, poetic, and mesmerising to watch. Loher operates akin to a theatrical producer, beginning with her concept and then joins forces with a choreographer, costume designer, dancers, various video personnel and art fabricators. The idea is predicated on a concept of creating idealized artificial worlds that sit in harmony with our own allegedly unpleasant reality: tiny ethereal havens that at first glance seem amusing and quirky, but are also renditions of beautiful kaleidoscopic patterns constructed from dance formations. These are filmed from above and recall the complicity and harmony of synchronized swimmers.
She refers to her work as “aggressive beauty” but at face value these intriguing video dioramas are anything but aggressive. I would venture to guess that the oxymoronic label stems from the impulse to redefine beauty now lost in the annals of hipster art culture, as well as the attempt to release itself from the yoke to which it has succumbed in the contemporary art paradigm that treats the notion of beauty as banal, decorative and generally dissociated from meaning. Much of Loher’s work is indeed searching for, or attempting to imbue meaning to issues such as ecology and the future of humanity which is dependent on overlooked details such as the plight of bees, potential abuse of technology, and individual as well as collective consciousness. She offers us a viewpoint where championing beauty can be a simple yet valiant ambition especially when it concerns ecological systems which feed cycles of life sustaining processes.
Loher’s work reflects three essential aspects that are interesting and compelling: the miniature and what that encompasses as an experience for the viewer; her working method, which is one of collaboration in service of the miniature; and her use of text, or language in general encompassing the type with which we are familiar, and that with which we are not.
The first two points relate to one another. Collaborative projects such as these, involving input from myriad sources are generally prodigious undertakings whose output tend toward a larger-than-life scale, or at very least, sizably impressive. The diminutive scale of Loher’s ultimate statement in visual form in its beautifully crafted glass bubbles, presents the viewer with a challenge to surpass mere ocular titillation, by inviting us into a private experience instead. This private experience is not the artist’s but that which touches us all on a more global scale, with such ecological urgencies like the disappearance of the bee population. Collective effort can prevent ecological disaster but only if predicated by a sense of individual awareness and responsibility. Peering into the glass bubble is like having a conversation with oneself. The bubbles themselves also carry the suggestion of type of portal into another world or an alternate consciousness, or perhaps a suggestion of a crystal ball. Although in a separate darkened room, huge spheres onto which the videos were projected formed a part of the exhibition. These lacked potency and came across as more ordinary and prototypical of in-your-face delivery that characterizes the zeitgeist.
The third aspect of her work involves language: weaving together corporal language through dance, the written word, and the enigmatic communication of the animal kingdom. Loher’s troupe of performers sashay around whilst being filmed from above, in perfect unison reminiscent of synchronized swimming. These elfin dancers seem to mimic the somatic or sonar-type communication found in ant colonies, bee hives, or schools of fish, and further challenges mankind’s hubristic nature over animals by inspiring us to look for answers from another viewpoint.
It is a charming yet thought provoking set of works that is worth a visit at C24 gallery, 24th street in Chelsea, New York until 23rd August.
WORDS KAREN GARRATT, PHOTO COURTESY OF C24 GALLERY