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The Manson Family murders are so embedded in California consciousness that 40 years after their arrest in Death Valley, authorities attempted to unearth evidence of buried bodies. In the same desert, Katie Grinnan enacts an excavation of sorts, though the context is less Crime Scene Investigation and more Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory—a questionnaire used to measure the effects of meditation on its practitioner. Across this alien vista, Grinnan quarries the material possibilities of physicalizing her mental landscape through multiple sculptural and performative variations.
In her 3-channel video installation Electric Data Wave Serenade/Dissolving the Rock (2017-18) the artist carries a plastic cast of her sleeping body on her back as she hikes to Zabriskie Point. Another video tracks Grinnan’s EEG data as she meditates cross-legged on the desert floor; a third features a floating image of her sculptural body which is projected opposite the wall where her actual sculpture hangs. On the ground are three headless figures in yoga-like poses that are composed of repeated casts compressed together like layers of sedimentary rock. It is as if the human form embodied geological time.
In the same terrain in which Michelangelo Antonioni was threatened by California law enforcement for filming a hippie orgy (see Zabriskie Point, 1970), Grinnan interpolates her thoughts into a love song for the desert. With methodical obsession she converts one form of somatic information into another, like the EEG data of her brain activity processed into 3D printed landscapes in 5 Seconds of Dreaming (aggregate) (2017-18). In the gallery’s second room, Grinnan’s sculptural output is tenacious, though the works overstate technology’s capacity for psychic transmission. Fetishizing data visualization into repetitive forms is like digging for a body that was never buried. The Manson excavation uncovered nothing and the immorality charges against Antonioni proved fruitless; mining the topography of the mind is best concretized with the body present.
Katie Grinnan: Electric Data Wave Serenade runs May 12–June 23, 2018 at Commonwealth & Council (3006 W. 7th St., Suite 220, Los Angeles, CA 90005)