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Gildar Gallery, Denver, Colorado, USA
January 13, 2017 – February 18, 2017
Gildar Gallery presents Alien Linguistic Lab, the US solo debut of Berlin-based artist Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld. Schönfeld’s broad practice encompassing sculpture, performance, installation, and photography is informed as much by indigenous perspectivism as the spiritual dimension of science and technology.
In this exhibition, Schönfeld offers a series of treatments for our current state of high anxiety and alienation in a globalized society, specifically focussing on the technosociological conclusion that UFO’s are manifestations of nuclear anxiety, a thesis which gained prominence in the 1950s. The UFO incarnates for her the trickster spirit of information itself, constantly flip-flopping signal and noise. Schönfeld suggests that this manifestation of anxiety could be understood as imbalance in the spirit world and mental health issue alike. She examines several methods to escape, eliminate, include and defend this spirits or desease by comparing strategies like pharmacology, shamanism, psychotherapy, magic rituals, space travel, mythology and their different dimensions and potentialities.
The Alien Linguistic Lab (Flying Sorcerer) is an open workshop, an actualization of several mideval European and older South American traditions of intentionally destroying pottery, used in wedding and funeral rituals to scare bad spirits. Schönfeld reappropriates and costumizes this “technique” inviting the audience to throw saucers in the exhibition. Using gravity for a controlled way of flying and crashing, the shivers (shiver means equally trembling and a piece of pottery) will be restored after in an act of instant archaeology in order to hear and decode the self made alien message with a record player and a Morse App. The act of throwing objects as a domestic “reenactment” of the UFO phantasm, is supposed to enable us to get over the shiver and listen to the message of alienation. The complete product, now shattered, opens room for the metaphysical interpretation throughout its gaps.
This workshop is embedded in a presenation of imaginery tools and oracles, works developed by Schönfeld in the recent years.
In the new Shamans Coats of the series Shamanistic Space Travel Equipment, organic textures and cosmic imagery fuse into a single complex surface. Popular science-fiction film imagery and Nasa images, printed onto cowhide, combines frontier mythologies in a process of physical alchemy. This altered traditional ritual-wear becomes a surface of both cosmic-scientific gnosis and blockbuster entertainment -helping spirits merge with technology. In this series the artist proposes to imagine the mythological underworld, the metaphysical inner and scientific outer space as different human projections of other worlds, questioning the coordinates of the human cosmological view on imagination and reality.
In results from her Pharmaceutical Cosmology Lab, Schönfeld chemically transmogrifies in her work All You Can Feel a variety of anti-anxiety drugs to visually hypnotising portraits. Forging the photo chemical surface of the negative with these psychoactive medications, the resulting photographic reactions appear as glowing planets of induced calm.
Both works refer to the translation of cosmological metaphors of inner and outer space, as François Bucher puts it: “These new radio telescopes can only show us what they heard and saw by way of their own theater of artificial color-coded images, catered pedagogically for our human perceptual apparatus. So in a sense those images are yet another story, another mythology fabricated in order to hint at something that is essentially incomprehensible.”
Whether joining high-tech printing technology with raw cowhide, Xanax with exposed photonegative, or revealing the mystical potential of household consumer objects, Schönfeld’s choice of materials reflects the eclecticism of late-stage capitalism, where boundaries must be crossed to face complexity and the question of culture and nature has to be examined once more. Much like Joseph Beuys, material transformation leads toward transcendence, but Schönfeld trusts pop culture in a way Beuys did not.
In each of her works unexpected materials are playfully melded into specific perceptual treatments. With formal subtlety, the viewer’s senses are jostled until disciplinary boundaries selectively dissolve into conceptual portals, where loose threads cross, unsnarl, blend into new insights.