Touching A New Intelligence – Exhibition of Work in Cut Paper

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Project Statement

This group of cut paper paintings is inspired by a short-story titled “Cruciger” by Erin Cashier. In this story, a massive and autonomous ship named Duxa voyages to a liquid planet inhabited by beings that communicate with glyphs on the surface of their skeleton-free bodies. Duxa arrives programmed with the task of refashioning this liquid world to ready it for human life. Duxa explores the native beings by treating them as play things as she experiments with them until they expire. However, after learning the creature’s glyph language, she communicates with them and becomes aware how complex they are and that her experiments are causing them great pain. Duxa experienced a shift in focus from seeing the liquid planet as a zone in need of refashioning, to a realm already inhabited by intelligent and important beings.

The work in this exhibition explores the relationship between the experimenter and the subject being experimented on. In these cut paper and painted worlds, devoid of gravity, a hesitant dialogue is taking place between the mechanical experimenter and its diaphanous and delicate subject. I’m imagining a time or a place when humanity may need to learn about life in a completely different context, and what instruments might we use to interact if faced with communication opportunities beyond our human capabilities. When building my cut paper compositions, I start with painted color fields that I imagine to be a mysterious liquid environment…something akin to the plasma world that Stanislaw Lem describes in his novel Solaris. From this environment, as if pulling rocks out of a nebula, cut paper structures begin to reveal themselves.

In this liquid environment, there are forms that appear vulnerable and there are forms capable of inflicting harm. Drawing on my love of the patterns and adornments in the traditional art of Papua New Guinea, I create the vulnerable forms by layering a variety of papers and then adding drawn and painted elements to enhance their color and surface. The sharper edged “harm inflicting” forms appear by jutting in from the periphery, or by encapsulating a test subject. These “mechanical instruments” are meant to record and interface with intelligent life, but they can just as easily destroy it.

In my own casual research on the intelligence of different animal species; from the octopus to the elephant to the raven, I’m interested in how intelligence manifests itself in startlingly diverse ways. I used to think that the branch of evolution that lead to human intelligence was the most complex on earth, but I’m now learning that there are other ancient departures from our common ancestors that have evolved into complex beings that manipulate their environments, communicate across great distances, participate in complex societies, and have memories. As Erin Cashier’s “Cruciger” so eloquently reminds us, we must tread lightly, and learn gently so that we do not destroy what we cannot understand.

– Jamie Treacy

Exhibition Information:

Solo Show of Work by Jamie Treacy
Curated by Demetri Broxton

City of Berkeley Customer Service Center Lobby
February 28 – May 16, 2014
1947 Center Street
Berkeley, CA 94704

Works are on view during the following hours:
Monday – Thursday – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

All Fridays – CLOSED