Commonwealth and Council presents SUB, an exhibition of three recent video and sound works by Xavier Cha, shown together for the first time in Los Angeles.
What do I see when I look at myself? A body not my own. “abduct” deals with the horror and alienation of being self-aware in a physical body—how our very facial expressions seem to betray us, converting emotions into a wild neuromuscular grotesquery that plays over us like the strings of a marionette. We routinely exert editorial self-control over our own digital likenesses, yet this is a function of our broader capacity to be taken and possessed: subjected. Seeing the uncanny physical manifestations of our everyday emotions—the crease of a smile, the twitch of an eye, the furrow of an eyebrow—disturbs us, gives us away. Yet bodies also dissemble, encoding our every expression within a malleable corporeal-psycho-social system. We can’t connect with the self-seeing bodies in “abduct” because they are in disconnect with themselves, and we remember that "I" is always somebody else.
“Ruthless Logic” draws us into the illusory dream state of someone lost in thought while staring at clouds. This "real-time" perspective gets interrupted by stylized martial arts fight scenes representing the incessant mental gymnastics underway in the protagonist's subconscious mind as she copes with everyday depression, insecurity, self-sabotage, and suicidal thoughts. Cha disrupts the usual climactic arc of action sequences, instead establishing a sense of infinite loop, displacing the expected satisfaction and thrill with a study in unresolved processing taking place at two distinct levels of reality—a state of fraught simultaneity resembling schizophrenia or psychosis.
Cha works collaboratively, directing a host of specialized participants, generally from outside the art world, through intensely controlled scenarios grappling with architectures of subjectivity, illusions of agency, and the vexed human condition of our digital capitalist age—where we exist as both consumer and consumed. “abduct” was performed by (in order of appearance) Zac Porter, Mahalet Dejene, Aurelien Gaya, Claire Buckingham, Summer Bills, Robin Baker, and Eva Sólveig, with sound design by Aaron David Ross. Cha produced “Ruthless Logic” in Hong Kong at the legendary Shaw Studios, working with local film industry luminaries including action choreographer Jack Wai-Leung and cinematographer Kwan Pun Leung, and with martial artists German Cheung and Rafael Reynoso, who performed the kung fu fight scenes. The soundtrack is by Lawfandah, who also scored “Hypnobirth”—a participatory sound installation in which clinical hypnotherapist Bianca DeGroat recites a subliminal earworm across shared space to unlock the subconscious and guide us through the dream-like world within. Even this enigmatic terrain reveals the entangled economy of personal agency and external control. Sound engineering for “Hypnobirth” is by Ali Noori.
To reserve a 30-minute hypnotherapy session please contact Audrey Min at email@example.com. The sessions will be available throughout the duration of the exhibition during the gallery’s regular hours.
Xavier Cha (b. 1980, Los Angeles; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) received her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles and BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Empty Gallery, Hong Kong (2018); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2016); 47 Canal, New York (2015, 2012); Aspect / Ratio, Chicago (2013); and the Whitney Museum of American Art (2011), and has staged large scale performance works at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (2017); Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara (2015); INOVA, Milwaukee (2015); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2014); and the New Museum, New York (2013). Her work has shown in group exhibitions at ARCHIVE Bomm, Seoul (2017); High Line Art, New York (2017); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara (2015); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2014); and the 12th Biennale de Lyon (2013). Cha has received a Frieze Film Commission (2015) and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (2014) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2012).