When Israeli artist Miri Chais moved to Los Angeles two years ago, she brought with her a universality in her art, which deals with the tension between the real and the virtual. Using existing materials -- found footage, software common among architects, MRI scans found online and medical commercials -- she explores in a series of works t how real and the virtual, the archives of the past now digitized and public...
"can be reconciled with the whole complex of emotions and perceptions that up until now have defined a human being."
Chais' current exhibition "Re:Mind," on exhibition at the USC Fisher Musuem of Art through November 15th, takes the viewer into a participatory word as images meld and shift. Within the exhbitions a the moss covered mounds, some suspended some merging up form the floor with peepholes into a prismatic, pixilated, pixie's world.
For Chais, the computers are central to her art, explaining that for us today, the computer is
the most basic tool that forms us and determines who we are. It brings the entire world into our immediate reach, into our own reality. The tension between the natural and the unnatural, the real and the unreal, the tangible and the abstract, are all embedded in this tool. Working directly with the computer, using the virtual brushes, layers and filters, brings me to an almost transcendent experience, like being on a fast lane on the highway. My connection to it is immediate and intense. It gives me the fullest freedom to express what I feel in the moment -- in the purest and most accurate way.
"Re:Mind" is Chais' first solo mixed media installation in the US, bringing together a number of works -- prints, paintings, sculptures to videos -- which show the range of her artistic vocabulary and aesthetics to the LA public. The exhibition was conceived as a cohesive environment, an immersive and sensory experience, allowing the viewer to explore the various themes on a number of levels, form Zen gardens to the Golem, the past and the future -- imagined and real.
Chais attended Hamidrasha, one of the two main art schools in Israel, focusing on painting and then gradually shifting to digital media, photography and installation. By her third year she began experimenting with casting and molding, fascinated with concept of creating a total experience in the exhibition space, including sound and light. Her move to Los Angeles came with certain shifts in her style, influence, and approach.
In LA my work became much bigger, adding more volume and three dimensionality. Conceptually, moving here inspired new and much more personal themes in my work, influenced by questions of identity ... In Israel we are focused on daily reality, which means that the art is often political. It is more about what you are saying than how you are saying it. Israelis are energetic and expressive, but also very direct. Their art tends to be conceptual and message-driven. In California, on the other hand, there is greater interest in style and technique -- the "how" rather than the "what". You have a long tradition here of exploring the elemental in art -- the Light and Space movement, for example. The art here tends to be more abstract and subtle, appealing to the emotions and spirituality.
The move also brought her closer to her 15-year old son Ari who composes the soundtracks for her installations.
Ari is familiar with my work in depth and we talk about it often at home. We started by watching the videos after rough editing, and by listening to various soundtracks, each evoking different moods and emotions. It brought us to talk about our own personal experiences, about moving to LA from Israel, and opened new channels of communication between us. For example, there is one video work that deals with childhood memories, based on a home-made video I found online. It was a journey that brought me to share my own childhood memories with Ari. Our connection and shared experience I feel is very real and true, and I hope the viewers will relate to it from their own private inner worlds.
With "Re:Mind," Chais has created a series of interconnected and mysterious worlds that allows the viewer to fall into meditative states and draw on their inner resources to fully experience the work. As Chais says:
My work, as an artist in the post-internet era, deals with technology-generated life experiences. It originates from a very personal place, thinking about our lives today and where they will lead, for us and our descendants ... Art that everybody gets is propaganda. It needs to work on the subjective as well as the objective level. When I see a work of art, I know it's good if I have an emotional response and a feeling of deep meaning, without necessarily being able to say exactly what that meaning is. That's when I know that the art is hitting at the right level. Of course, I have ideas about my art and what it means, but sometimes, someone will give me a completely different idea, and I'll like that one better. That's the beauty of art. There is no specific emotion or one-line thought I want the viewer to have about my work. I think that it should raise questions rather than answer them, and it is open to many different ways of experiencing it.
Miri Chair, "Re:Mind"
USC Fisher Museum of Art
823 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Tuesday through Friday, 12 noon to 5 PM and Saturday, 12 noon to 4 PM. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Enter campus at Exposition Blvd. and Watt Way. Inquire with attendant for directions to closest parking facility.
Or take the Metro to the Expo Park/USC station