While I can’t answer Katja Loher’s question in her “Where Does Time Begin?” exhibit at Anya Tish Gallery, I do know that her videosculptures all begin with a moment of dreaming. Photographs fall short in capturing the depth and layering found in this New York-based Swiss artist’s three-dimensional works, which have been shown in Shanghai, Tokyo, São Paulo and Geneva.
Loher’s process, which begins with that big dream, involves elaborate costume making (think bees and ants), and months of pre-production with designers, dancers, music composers and choreographers. Using a bird’s eye view camera in a green screen studio, the costumed performers dance into letters, those letters become words, and the words become questions in strange and elaborate movements that only make sense on a macro level. Post-production involves blending in original scores, introducing backgrounds filmed along the Amazon River in Peru, and adding in sound waves converted into video imagery. Not content to rest on her laurels, her looped videos – ranging from five-and-a-half minutes to almost ten minutes – are then taken out of flat screens and made into objects inside acrylic hemispheres or cases, blown acrylic or glass bubbles, or projected onto the floor.
The double hemisphere Where Does Time Begin? two-channel video shows large and small winged actors climbing trees and flying, while the dual channels in the fused bubbles of What is the Color of the Air? seem almost like an optometrist’s exam, with the mirror image footage.
With a focus on the dangers stemming from disappearing populations of bees and butterflies – if we kill the pollinators we kills the fruits and vegetables – two of her sculptures display six-channel videos within oversized pill capsules. How does Honey Taste When It’s Made by Robot-Bees? and Can CO2 Be Eaten By Invisible Butterflies? deliver the message beautifully.
Her works become less technical and more organic in the three sculptures that take advantage of natural orifices found in hollowed out tree trunks. The smallest of the three, at 25” in height, speaks of the importance of water in both Spanish and English; the medium-sized 31” tall piece focuses on air (why do clouds cry?) and the 51” tall sculpture, entitled Do 3-D Printed Trees Provide Shade?, is devoted to earth and the preservation of insects.
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The video projected onto the floor, How Does Transparency Taste?, has been updated since it traveled here last. It is always mesmerizing, and is a delight for children when they realize that it’s touchable art.
The last piece in the show, Material Universe, is a completely different direction for the artist, but it really pays off. Inspired by an interactive art installation created and performed by Geoff Sobelle, scenes from “The Object Lesson” are featured in miniature in the two channels of her sculpture. The performance artist unpacks boxes of junk and interacts with the works – even chopping his salad with ice skates – as he delves deeper into the storage boxes and interacts with ordinary objects. Some of the scenes, viewed on a spinning record from both above and from the side, are magical and fascinating to watch.
“Where Does Time Begin?” continues through October 10 at Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-524-2299, anyatishgallery.com.