The Bowels of the Mind
West Coast iconoclast Pippa Garner breathes new life into Jeffrey Stark’s jewel-box gallery after the Chinatown space went offline for a brief pandemic hiatus. The breath in this case is quite literal as the exhibition centers on Garner’s The Bowels of the Mind, a kinetic sculpture whose brain-like body softly inhales and exhales from beneath a shimmering fishnet. Viewable through glass, and guarded by safety cones and a construction sign, Garner’s installation suggests that perhaps the synapses firing here, and in the viewer’s head, are more dangerous and powerful than they first appear.
Accompanied by a press release musing on artificial intelligence’s ultimate goal of a post-human sentience, The Bowels of the Mind expands upon the experimental world-making Garner has pioneered as an outsider artist, inventor, and engineer since the 1960s. Her ongoing interest in the collapse between the organic and the manmade aligns her with peers like Tetsumi Kudo and Mike Kelley, who also sought to expose the ways in which the strict boundaries of this binary have been dissolved through pop consumerist colloquialisms and humor. What separates Garner’s line of reasoning, however, is her abandonment of the metaphor—here everything is delightfully out in the open and literal. The artist’s moment of creative breakthrough is not ushered in behind a curtain but instead given center stage. In this case, it arrives as a flickering bulb on the end of a metal rod rising from a crude, soft cerebellum of bean bags heralding the arrival of a new idea.
Pippa Garner, The Bowels of the Mind, 2021. A contingent of compatible components, mined from the closets of America, via eBay. Installaltion View: Jeffrey Stark, New York.