Catalyst: New Projects by Meredith James, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Casey Tang
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
October 18 2015 - February 28, 2016
Meredith James is interested in perception-the way we see our immediate environment and ourselves inside it. Perception can work in ways that are habitual or biased, predefined or unpredictable. Working in video, sculpture, and theater, James experiments with the physical and optical anatomy of space, where perspective can be manipulated and observation influenced.
James' new project, Mobius City, 2015, is inspired by the Museum's Panorama of the City of New York, the gigantic miniature with nearly 900,000 individual structures rendered at a scale of 1:1,200. Originally commissioned for the 1964 New York World's Fair, the model may be a static, old-fashioned way of representing space, but it is unsurpassed in its ability to show an urban environment as a three-dimensional totality. James found her East Village apartment building on the Panorama, imagined her apartment in it, and pictured herself inside of it-like we all do! Mobius City is a fantastical daydream in the form of sculptural installation with video, staged in and structured around three real spaces: the artist's apartment in a 12-story building on 4th Avenue and 12th Street; its double as a near-life-size sculpture; and, the tiny model of the apartment building, standing two inches tall on the Panorama.
Made of wood and painstakingly painted, the apartment replica in the gallery is designed in the simplified style of the miniature buildings on the Panorama. The interior decor is an extrapolation of what it might look like if the building models on the Panorama had insides with the artist herself re-imagined as a moving wooden figure-what it might look like if the Panorama had a population. The looped video footage, running on a simplified replica of the large mirror in James' own apartment, is seamlessly composed of scenes filmed in, at, and outside of these versions of her habitat. This results in a visual Mobius strip* effect that brings the viewer in and out of the illusion. In doing so it expands and animates the optical relationship between real urban space and its doubles-the sculpturally reproduced artist's apartment and the miniature universe of the Panorama-in a hypnotic, infinite interplay of scale and illusion.
*Mobius strip: A one-sided surface that is constructed from a rectangle by holding one end fixed, rotating the opposite end through 180 degrees, and joining it to the first end.