Julia Feyrer’s exhibition Background Actors at Catriona Jeffries Gallery explores the theme of human consciousness. Her work weaves our five senses and asks us to consider alternate modes of perception. In Background Actors, there is more than meets the eye, as the viewer is challenged to consider what lies beyond. The viewer is offered an opportunity to become a participant, and in turn, becomes a background actor themselves.
New Pedestrians is a video work that reflects on the limitations of science as a tool for measurement. New Pedestrians introduces the viewer to the concept of the background actor. Julia’s mother participates, walking contemplatively, or perhaps in a state of walking meditation. Much like one mirror facing another, the viewer considers and is invited to enter into a contemplative state as well.
Anonymous figures inhabit the video; one of them uses a crutch made up of rulers. Stripped of its conventional use, its alternative functions are demonstrated. New Pedestrians continues Feyrer’s contemplation regarding scientific measurement and the realm beyond what science is presently able to measure. There is also a satirical nature to the work, as the viewer mimics the meditative, contemplative actions of the actors in the video, removing the distinction between viewer and actor. Arguably, the entire exhibition is in itself another stage set for the next video to be created. Is our participation voluntary or involuntary?
The second work in the exhibition Corpse, Maiden, depicts a dummy life cast of the artist’s own body created from various miscellaneous items such as foam, marbles, mineral rocks and broken rulers. Corpse, Maiden, is a body without consciousness.
These works challenge our perception of sight—we are unable to see inside the corpse. However, Extra Rays provides the viewer with a key. This work is composed of a veterinarian size x-ray plate mounted on Plexiglas. Feyrer has put the corpse through an X-ray where we are able to see how Feyrer has substituted objects for organs. These two works explore how we perceive and evaluate the world, and ask the viewer to contemplate the difference between the physical body and human consciousness.
Installed behind Corpse Maiden are seven severed heads standing on what seem to be spikes. Each head is glass blown and includes the use of found objects such as lavender, broken light bulbs, sour kid’s candy, and broken rulers. Feyrer’s continuous use of rulers provides a sense of continuity among the works in her exhibition.
The exhibition culminates with Device for sensing habitable zones. It is a floor piece, a mound of objects and various sized globes. A metal mobile hangs above, rotating clockwise. Each arm of the mobile extends downwards, with a feather is attached to the end, softly stroking the objects below. As viewers encounter this work, a certain sense of unease is evoked from the manner in which this work is presented. This work echoes many of Feyrer’s previous works utilizing ‘gooey’ monstrous creatures.
Again, a satirical gesture is made towards the limitations of modern science to fully perceive and understand our presence. The sensors are unable to discern the household objects thus, acknowledge the limitations of science as a set of tools for perception.
Background Actors is a playful presentation of the human consciousness, and aptly explores both its limitations and potential. It displays the juxtaposition between what science is currently able to measure in our known world, and the possibility of exploring a sixth, or even seventh, sense. Background Actors is an experiment on perception and its potential to evolve.
Background Actors by Julia Feyrer ran at the Catriona Jeffries Gallery from March 16th to April 21st.