Shih Chieh Huang transforms the Feldman Gallery booth into a hallucinatory space of light, sound, and electronic machinery, evoking the bioluminescence of the near total darkness of the ocean’s Disphotic Zone – also called the Twilight Zone. The artist’s art and thinking is shaped by childhood memories of discovering strange objects in the local night market, as well as a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution where he studied bioluminescent organisms. Born in Taiwan and based in New York, Shih Chieh Huang combines wholly synthetic materials from everyday objects with complicated technology to dissect and disassemble the detritus of contemporary civilizations, reconstructing them into surreal experiences. The mundane is made magical.
Entering the booth, viewers navigate an immersive environment. Spinning plastic bottles, which emit light and contain glowing water, hang from an eighteen-foot metal rack. Dominating the darkened space, a suspended cyborg jellyfish-like cluster moves in a kind of rhythmic dance. The sound of its inflating and deflating plastic-bag tentacles permeates the booth. The utilitarian circuit breakers, which control the special effects and timed color changes that occur at different intervals, are artworks in themselves and contribute to the phantasmagoria.
On the exterior walls of the booth are a series of prints of quasi-scientific diagrams of non-human reproductive systems, based on biology, which relate metaphorically to the sexuality incorporated into the sculptures and the possible function of bioluminescence to attract and sexually communicate with a mate. A fast-paced video, E - P2, shows strange images of morphing eyes and a fantastical helmet, invented by the artist, that can record eye movement when worn. The video provides an overview of the artist’s themes which are based on the inconstancy of perception.
Shih Chieh Huang has exhibited his sculptures and installations at the 2015 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, 55th Venice Biennale Collateral Event, Melbourne Experimenta Biennial of Media Art, Busan Biennale, Aichi Triennale, 52nd Venice Biennale Taiwan Pavilion, San Jose Biennial Zero1, Austria Biennial Cuvée, and the Australia ARC Biennial. His solo exhibitions have been held at Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, RISD Museum of Art, Beall Center for Art and Technology, and MOCA Taipei. Huang’s awards include a TED 2014 Fellowship, an Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution, a Creative Capital Grant, a Rockefeller Foundation New Media Arts Fellowship, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Sculpture Award, and three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships. He also attended residencies at Art Omi in Skowhegan and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. Huang’s TED talk was published officially on TED.com in 2014.