The last few years, there has been a palpable sense of urgency and dismay hanging in the air with the health and global climate crises, which are pushing us further into an isolated and individualistic mindset while separating us from natural ecosystems. A collective shift needs to move from this individuality mindset, toward one of interconnectedness.
“World That Awaits,” a group exhibition at Mu Gallery curated by Amay Kataria, addresses this. The work of six Chicago-based artists, FÁTIMA, Kayla Anderson, Cody Norman, Jungwoo Lee, Scott Kemp and Sofia Fernandez Diaz are featured. Each artist was chosen for the exploration of the complicated and intricate relationship between the artist, material and the world. The works force viewers to contemplate their own relationship to the ecosystem of all living things, both known and unknown.
Yet despite the urgency surrounding the state of the world, Kataria is not concerned with advocating for action—rather, quite the opposite. There is a push for acceptance rather than opposition to the changes around us. Cody Norman’s works “Ruga Glacies” and “Ruga Ignis” drive this narrative of contemplation. Fashioned from hand-dyed recycled PET plastic, Norman’s sculptural works mimic structures found in nature, while the plastic from which they are made removes them from their natural context, bringing them into the realm of man-made industrialization and thus presents the question—what happens to materials once we are finished with them, what new life do they take on?
This relationship between man and material is echoed in Scott Kemp’s “Influent Body.” The work is comprised of an inkjet image printed onto a wood panel, showing the result of microbial imprints left behind by a human hand, which were then grown in a petri dish. Every surface we touch becomes infused with our own ecosystems, which take on a life of their own, unknown to us. Our actions have consequences beyond our understanding and we lose our agency in what happens with them.
Jungwoo Lee’s “Am I a Flower?” further explores the limits of agency while questioning the individual’s role. Several motorized machines resembling flowers travel around a confined space, looking for the correct spot to bloom. The performance of the flowers asks viewers to consider what the agency of something as simple as a flower is. What type of existence is possible when we no longer view something as trivial as a flower in relation to our own lives but instead understand that it has a life of its own? “World That Awaits” does not offer the answers to its questions but instead asks viewers to look inward and consider our interactions with the world. When we embrace the ambiguity of agency and reject the binary of individual choice leading to individual consequence we can instead live more cohesively and work toward a more circular future. (Regan Dockery)
“World That Awaits” is on view at Mu Gallery, 1541 West Chicago, through September 17.