Sara Meltzer Gallery is pleased to present Enrichment, an exhibition of new works by Nina Katchadourian. Her second show at the gallery continues her longstanding exploration of the human relationship to the natural world. Consisting of two multi-channel video installations and a photographic work, Enrichment contemplates animal behavior as well as our behavior towards animals.
In the lingo of animal caretakers, “enrichment” refers to the process of providing a stimulating environment for zoo animals in order to demonstrate their typical behavior and enhance their well-being. This may include the replication of natural habitats through exhibition design, the introduction of scents and sounds from their natural environment, feeding that encourages natural foraging behavior and the introduction of objects, including “toys,” that mentally challenge animals. The existence of the term is also a tacit acknowledgement of the psychological difficulties animals face in captivity.
The gallery’s main space features a 14-channel video installation entitled Zoo. Working with footage shot in eight different zoos worldwide over the past six years, Katchadourian arranges images and sounds to create a zoo-like environment in the gallery space. The video footage, shown both as projections and on monitors, features details of animal bodies that are often mysterious and not immediately identifiable; sounds that seem to come out of the wrong animal body; vistas that appear to be outdoors but prove to be part of an indoor diorama. There are moments of expectation that give way to boredom, but also moments of boredom suddenly broken by spectacular drama. Most zoos place the viewer in a relationship to the animal that presupposes that we can know something about it by looking at it and learning from it. In Katchadourian’s Zoo, we never feel secure about what we are seeing, how big it is, how close we are to it, and even how safe we are from it.
In the upstairs gallery, a six-channel video entitled Fugitive depicts an orangutan at The National Zoo in Washington D.C. as it swings along cables and travels high above zoo visitors’ heads. In the installation, the footage travels from one TV image to the next, trapping the orangutan in a ring of six monitors as it circulates in a continuous and futile loop. Sharing the space is The Continuum of Cute, a photo-based wall installation that investigates the idea of “cuteness” via pictures of animals found on the Internet. The images are arranged from left to right in a spectrum ranging from the extremely “uncute” to the extremely cute, passing through intermediary or combinatory states in between. The wallet-sized pictures are mounted individually, and as such the entire spectrum is reconfigurable, not fixed in any absolute order, and therefore hints at the subjective hand that each viewer would bring to a rearrangement. With all the animals lined up side by side for comparison, The Continuum of Cute also has the uncomfortable air of a giant inter-species beauty contest.
The artist and Sara Meltzer Gallery give special thanks to Location 1 International Residency Program, New York, NY and the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY.
Nina Katchadourian lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She attended the Whitney Independent Studio Program, New York, NY, earned an MFA in Visual Art from The University of California, San Diego and a BA in Visual Arts and in Literature and Society at Brown University. In 2006 the Tang Museum at Skidmore College exhibited a 10-year survey of Katchadourian’s work with an accompanying monograph entitled All Forms of Attraction. Her work has been exhibited internationally at venues including PS1/Moma, Artists Space and Sculpture Center, all in New York, NY; Serpentine Gallery, London, England; Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; ArtPace, San Antonio, TX; Turku Art Museum, Turku, Finland; San Diego Museum of Contemporary, San Diego, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia and Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH. She is the recipient of several awards including The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, The Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award, Svenska Kulturfonden Support Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in video, and an Art Matters Grant. Upcoming exhibitions include Delicatessen at University Galleries, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL and We interrupt your program at Mills College Art Museum, Oakland. CA. Katchadourian’s work can be seen in the exhibitions Ensemble at Institute of Contemporary Art; Space is the Place at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, both in Philadelphia, PA and Seeing Things at Dorsky Gallery, Long Island City, NY.