Leaning into the passage of time, Trisha Baga’s work embodies the fleeting process of perception. Through time-based formats such as installation, performance and video, her evolving practice is inherently sculptural. Baga’s dreamlike narratives are layered, unfolding through material gleaned from collective experiences, such as weather patterns (El Niño), pop-cultural legends (Madonna), and the Internet (original film, video and screen-capture imagery). Juxtaposing a unique mélange of audio/visual content, Baga manifests the imperfect seams of perception, constructing abstract sensibilities of what she often refers to as “the shape of attention.” Utilizing transitional subtleties to choreograph momentary disruptions, she seduces the viewer into durational glancing, inciting the pleasure of looking. Audible footsteps––the voice or breath of the artist, a door closing––provide anchors in time, engaging our attention, loosely.
Considering the international audience Baga has cultivated since 2011 alone––exhibiting at Société Berlin, Kunstverein Munich, Vilma Gold, London, and elsewhere––earlier precedents within the genre of performance provide context for her swiftly developing body of work. In addition to making her solo debut in New York City at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Greene Naftali Gallery in November of this year, Baga is also currently participating in a group show at MoMA’s PS1.
Methods employed by the artist evoke strong connections to aspects of embodied compositional structure established by the likes of composer John Cage and his counterparts. Composing language, as he did sound, for the first time in 1950, Cage debuted his “Lecture on Nothing” to an audience at the Artist’s Club on 8th Street in Manhattan. In light of Baga’s developing body of work, the legacy of this landmark event is significant. As Cagean-performance and Fluxus scholar Julia Robinson has noted, Cage’s lecture “reveals what he is presenting as
a template for a wider field of experience…[making] a space for changing technological demands on the senses.” Quoting the lecture itself, Robinson highlights Cage’s dismissal of the subjective concept of beauty: “Beware of what is breathtakingly beautiful, for at any moment the telephone may ring or the airplane may come down in a vacant lot.”
Whereas Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” evokes form through the content itself (language, providing a spoken model), Baga’s work unfolds relationships between audio/visual elements, sustaining our attention through sensation and the process of multi-dimensional looking. Consciously activating notions of framing, the artist makes tangible the light of video projection reflecting onto spatial elements, projecting meaning through presence, finding form in motion through sight/site. Light and shadow arouse momentum, providing compositional structure through patterns of experience. Extending beyond the video frame itself, in her 2012 World Peace, a water bottle obstructs the projector’s function, mediating visibility of the projection. Projecting fourteen music videos of pop-legend Madonna through the centrally placed water bottle reveals its form in shadow. Flickering light produced by the video’s motion dances across the shaped surface of the plastic bottle, projecting textural variations in proximity, fragmenting representation. Using light, image and sound––similar to Cage’s use of language to structure his lecture about nothing––the seams of Baga’s work provide a similar “template,” contextualizing perception through process.
Corresponding to the way in which Baga choreographs elements in Body of Evidence, projected histories within the context of Plymouth, Massachusetts––the site where some of the first American settlers are said to have come ashore, and also where her 2012 Plymouth Rock is situated––mirror aspects of the artist’s nascent practice. For Baga, the historical locality not only offers her notions of hyper-real experience, the on-site object––Plymouth Rock itself––provides the artist with an emblem for meaning. During a recent studio visit, Baga shared video footage collected during a follow-up research tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Projecting the three-dimensional footage onto the wall of an ad hoc screening area in her PS122 studio space (afforded through a residency program), Baga spoke about the ease of shooting video within the context of tourist destinations like Plymouth. Calling attention to anachronistic elements in her video footage, Baga pointed out how the bright blue rain ponchos worn by Plymouth tourists, layered in proximity to historical costumes worn by actors re-enacting colonial life, created the perfect readymade stage, where everyone arrives prepped for experience.
Whereas linear narrative in the traditional sense unfolds trajectories of “meaning” constructed over time, Baga’s narrative sensibility assembles patterns of audio/visual content to utter resemblances, ideas forming through the motion of process. Her art-making practice itself recalls Julia Robinson’s articulation of Cage’s attention to the changing technological demands on the senses. Not only does Baga’s work reflect her generation of artists who regularly appropriate found material culled from the Internet, her studio practice is equally informed by her interactions with software applications, and even the slow-glowing status lights on her computer. Developing as an artist in proximity to Google image searching and iPhone video capabilities, among other examples, Baga’s awareness to the hum of technology past and present suffuses her videoinstallations, and even some of her recent paintings, with an unsettling familiarity, evoking the interactive process of looking. Technologically speaking: Baga’s perception is multi-lingual. Her 2011 video installation Peacock layers audio/visual references to film projection, stream-lined in video form. Adding texture to the smooth technology of video, Baga adds googly eyes and digital squiggles, tacking visual elements and related audio to impress our perception with familiar sensations of scratched film or stray hairs interrupting traditional film projection. Likewise, software designers use similarly humanizing techniques, sourcing dated technologies as a means to evoke something more tangible. Examples like the “film bin” option on Final Cut Pro software, or digitalized touch components on handheld electronic devices, allude to tangible forms as a method to structure perception of fleeting activity and perception. Baga’s work reveals intimate glimpses of related connective seams embodied in our ever-changing world.
Baga’s approach to art making is expansive. Employing what she refers to as a “strategy of distraction,” Baga has developed a keen sensibility to timing and context, giving equal weight to marginal mishaps as focused intention. Imbuing her predominantly ephemeral practice with seemingly tangible sensations, Baga embodies resourcing activities through experiential methods, learning-by-doing. Highlighting relationships in proximity, manifesting new ones, Baga questions the stability of narrative, memory and perception of time passing. The slowly circular glow of screensavers and status lights viewed from her studio video-editing table is just as intimately unsettling as it is comforting.
“My body is looking. Looking is my body. The touching things touch things, which touch my good looking things. They move me, I break. They move you, I break. We move you, I break. Somewhere someone is trembling. I come back to your face, which is the thing that so many other things are like, are looking like. Sway me salty like your face, you big perv. The sea is calling. You want it? You got it, Toyota. (several seconds of silence) The seam is filled with common mortar––picture that.”
Trisha Baga was born 1985 in Venice, FL. She lives and works in New York, NY city.