Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental), 2016
Nylon, metal, concrete, shoes, fans, various papers
Installation view, Rhi Anima, Greene Naftali, New York, 2017
Greene Naftali is pleased to announce Paul Chan’s solo exhibition entitled Rhi Anima. This is his third solo exhibition at the gallery.
Rhi Anima features a new body of work Chan calls “breathers.” The breathers are both sculptural works and moving images. Each breather is composed of a fabric “body” designed by Chan and attached to one or more specially modified fans. Incorporating techniques that combine fashion design, patternmaking, drawing, and physics, Chan manipulates how the breathers move by composing the internal architecture of the bodies so that they are capable of exploiting the airflow and air pressure from the fans to create different kinds of “motion.” Simply by how they are shaped and sewn, the breathers can be animated and choreographed in ways unlike anything Chan has created so far. They are physical animations—moving images in all three dimensions.
The breathers fulfill Chan’s stated desire to turn away from “screen images." Since at least 2009, Chan has expressed the “regressive” nature of moving image works. He has commented on how works that appear on computer or video screens, or from video projectors, are all in essence “the same," regardless of what is being shown and how immersive they are. Finding new ways to create moving image works beyond the “frame” is what progress might look like, according to Chan.
Chan has arguably been pushing against this frame since he first showed at Greene Naftali in 2003, when he premiered his projection Happiness (finally) after 35,000 years of civilization (after Henry Darger and Charles Fourier) (2000 – 2003). He has since continued to create moving image works while pushing beyond how they are typically framed and experienced: from the floor projections known collectively as The 7 Lights (2004 – 2007); to Sade for Sade’s Sake (2008); to his works known as “non-projections,” which premiered in New York at Chan’s Hugo Boss prize exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2015.
The title Rhi Anima is inspired in part by De Anima, one of the major works of Aristotle. In De Anima, he writes, “Knowledge is for that which moves by that which moves.” There is for Aristotle—and for a number of classical philosophers, from Heraclitus onward—a relationship between life (bios), consciousness or spirit (anima), and movement. There is also, interestingly, a strong connection between pneuma (Ancient Greek for “breath”) and how it “animates” the living in spirit and in form. Chan exploits these and other philosophical traditions into aesthetic effect through Rhi Anima. Each work is loosely titled after a classical philosopher or ancient intellectual movement, combined with various types of wordplay that do not seem to be funny to anyone else but Chan.