Acclaimed Brooklyn-based artist explores multicultural identity and consumerism in imaginative multimedia exhibition for Chrysler Museum's new media gallery.
The Chrysler Museum of Art becomes a hybridization laboratory of visual, audio and performing arts during In The Box: Saya Woolfalk. The conceptual artist debuts her newly reimagined ChimaTEK at the Museum’s next Third Thursday, November 20, 2014. Admission this evening is free for students with current school IDs, children, and Museum Members, and $5 for all others.
In her immersive installation, Woolfalk mixes biology, genetics, and anthropology with needlework, sculpture, glassblowing and video to create a vibrant new world that defies race, cultural labels, and easy definition.
Woolfalk’s sci-fi-inspired work is based on a group of imaginary women called the Empathics, who found an unusual fungus that transformed them into a hybrid species of humans and plants. Through their nonprofit Institute of Empathy the women studied their newfound ability to absorb the qualities of surrounding cultures. For several years, the Empathics shared their research on how to become chimera, in hopes of increasing worldwide compassion. Recently they decided to market their hybridization discoveries for at-home use.
“This exhibition for the Chrysler Museum finds the Empathics in a new stage of development, in which they translate their technology from its original nonprofit model into a for-profit corporation,” Woolfalk says. The site-specific installation is set up as a virtual trade show where the Empathics exhibit this technology, now sold by their new company, ChimaTEK.
The products use a rare, natural substance to transform consumers’ DNA, allowing them to become hybrid chimera. Woolfalk says, “ChimaTEK allows users to access a higher consciousness, but at a cost. The corporation’s technology is built using destructive fuel extraction methods, ultimately corrupting a utopian vision to turn a profit.”
The colorful trade show includes an advertising video that shows the Empathics on an expedition to collect the rare minerals they use in the hybridizing process and demonstrates how their products work. On display are two of ChimaTEK’s Life Products: a Combustion Chamber that contains vapors that prepare users to be remixed, and a high-tech Hybridization Machine that completes the transformation.
Woolfalk involved the Chrysler not just in the conceptualization of the exhibition, but in its creation as well. The artist collaborated with our team of artists at the Museum’s Perry Glass Studio to design and to create the multitiered, multicolored, multimedia sculpture that serves as ChimaTEK’s Combustion Chamber.
“We are delighted to be able to partner with Saya Woolfalk and help bring her vision to life at the Chrysler,” said Chief Curator Jeff Harrison. “Her imaginative work explores serious issues related to multiculturalism, corporations, the environment, and personal identity, but in a clever and interesting way. It is a thoughtful show that’s accessible—and will appeal to everyone.”
Woolfalk unveils her ChimaTEK exhibition on Third Thursday, the Chrysler’s monthly evening of eclectic events. The November 20 program starts in the Kaufman Theater with a special artist talk by Woolfalk. She will be joined by her musical collaborator Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, who will discuss and demo his own award-winning multimedia work. Both artists are interested in the intersection of the human and virtual worlds, and they explore the creative possibilities of remixed or hybrid multimedia. Afterward the talk, Woolfalk will meet the public in The Box, the Chrysler’s gallery dedicated to new media, where her exhibition is on view.
In The Box: Saya Woolfalk will be on view at the Chrysler Museum through May 31, 2015. Daytime admission to the Museum and its exhibitions is free.
For more information on the Chrysler Museum of Art, visit chrysler.org.