Morgan Lehman Gallery presents Default State Network, a group exhibition curated by Ryan Wallace featuring:
Glen Baldridge, Jaq Chartier, N. Dash, Alex Dodge, Chris Duncan, Elise Ferguson, Joseph Hart, Keegan McHargue, Hilary Pecis, Andrew Schoultz, Ryan Wallace, Will Yackulic.
The problem of consciousness lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy.
Conscious experience is at once the most familiar thing in the world and the most mysterious. There is nothing we know about more directly than consciousness, but it is far from clear how to reconcile it with everything else we know.
-David J. Chalmers, The Conscious Mind In Search of a Fundamental Theory
This exhibition borrows its title from an area in the brain known as “the default state network”, a network of regions in the brain active when an individual is not focused on the outside world but rather in a wakeful-resting state such as daydreaming, speculating, or contemplating the past. It has been hypothesized that these regions play an essential role in creative thought. As Chalmers’ finds the definition of consciousness between philosophy and science, these artists’ works lead us to a similar border.
Combinations of craft, theory, humor, history and inventiveness are all used to effective ends. One would think that such criteria would be sufficient but it is not from the result of chemical properties or arrangements of pigment, manipulation of space, or dexterity of intellect alone that truly move us. The tone is more mysterious. Something is more ethereal. This something, as Chalmers describes, is so difficult to reconcile.
This group ponders the things that we are made of, the things that we believe in and the things that we do. Research begins at subatomic levels while cosmic and global themes are made evident elsewhere. Systems of archeology, physics, cognitive sciences as well as politics, sociology and niches of culture are examined. It might be said that these examinations play a role in and of consciousness. This data is filtered. This is the creative process. Perhaps the resulting actions of the inner workings of a default state network. These are works of perception, both in how the artists have “perceived” their subjects, as well as the internal states that this data provokes in both artist and viewer. In some examples translation from source information to image or object holds a similarity. In others a like-minded visual language is spoken. An inquisitive and mysterious tone remains constant.
It is attention to specificity that allows each artist’s work to strike us with a plausible familiarity from “the hidden power of every day things” to the most seemingly abstract. Plaster formalism stares at us with an intense gaze. The adolescent’s mind and the consumer’s impulse are mapped out. Landscape and figurative sculpture take on a spiritual tone. Ghosts of private performances become photographic. We are given glimpses into both the chance beginnings of life, and of life’s end sardonically reduced to that of a scratch ticket with whispers in between.
Imagine a childhood game of Telephone beginning with “rocks” and ending with “spiritual machines”. In the game the result of each turn is only slightly altered through each interpretation. We hear a great differential from beginning to end made through a series of mental blips and auditory errors. By listening to each participant’s contribution to the chain we see a much smaller divide between these poles. We can explain how we heard “clocks” and that turned into “colic”, “frock” or “rocks”, and point out these evolutions until the end of the line. These descriptions and recollections do not entirely explain the result. They describe it. The logic seems complete yet something is amiss, something else at play. Obvious but eluding a simple description. This apparent nonsense is the fun of the game. The mystery is the reason that children play it. As these artists make sense of the nonsense and logic of our world through their interests something is revealed beyond the sum of their works, something larger than these efforts. Something relevant beyond the role of any lone system.