Derek Chan

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - DEREK CHAN Michael Abatemarco

Mending the World Through a Dream at CCA

There may be no di­rect ev­i­dence to sup­port the no­tion that ex­ter­nal re­al­ity and sub­jec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence are in­sep­a­ra­ble and that per­sonal and col­lec­tive ac­tions in­flu­ence and are in­flu­enced by the move­ments of the cos­mic bod­ies. But cos­mic events have been taken as signs of our col­lec­tive hu­man be­hav­ior in­cur­ring the wrath of gods and spir­its through­out recorded his­tory: Vol­ca­noes erupt, floods dev­as­tate vil­lages — all be­cause we, as a species, have lost our way. When such oc­cur­rences hap­pen at the same time as an eclipse or other ce­les­tial event, spec­ta­tors are rapt in won­der and fear, and ques­tions arise about the mean­ing of such in­ci­dents.

The works of Derek Chan take such premises not as sooth but as sym­bol­ism. Chan en­vi­sions the world as the prod­uct of a uni­verse dreaming in un­easy sleep. “One thing I think about is if we’re just part of a larger, uni­ver­sal con­scious­ness, and that pos­si­bly means we have more pos­si­bil­i­ties to af­fect change, trans­form our­selves and the world around us,” Chan said. Mending the World Through a Dream, a body of his work that deals in­quis­i­tively with ques­tions of re­al­ity, is on view at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts.

The show is com­posed of sev­eral large-scale paint­ings re­lated by way of their im­agery to an an­i­mated video Chan calls When the Uni­verse Dreams. Chan be­gan the project by an­i­mat­ing stills from the 1982 movie Tron and an­i­mat­ing images of his own art­work. In the film, an en­gi­neer played by Jeff Bridges is trans­ported into the soft­ware pro­gram of a com­puter and be­comes sub­ject to the whims of the tyran­ni­cal ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that runs it. In his 11-minute video, Chan draws com­par­i­son to con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety’s de­pen­dence on tech­nol­ogy and the world as ex­pe­ri­enced through myr­iad dig­i­tal de­vices.

Chan cre­ated the video from a body of work he made while par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Roswell Artist-in-Res­i­dence Pro­gram. It be­gan as a slide show, with writ­ten text on the screen, and it evolved into a timebased video for Mending the World Through a Dream. “The idea was to take my 2-D work and bring it to life with sound, mu­sic, and color,” Chan told Pasatiempo. “Orig­i­nally, the video came out of an in­quiry into cau­sa­tion — the law of cause and ef­fect. Within that con­text there are var­i­ous sym­bols that are ex­plored, such as the tower, which refers to hu­man greed, per­haps cor­po­rate greed; death and re­birth; and lu­nar and plan­e­tary cy­cles ref­er­enc­ing, of course, time.”

The artist moved to Santa Fe from the Chicago area last year af­ter com­plet­ing the res­i­dency in Roswell. “It was one of the great­est ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had. For

most art res­i­den­cies, it’s con­sid­ered re­mote, but I found a pos­i­tive com­mu­nity there, and they were gen­er­ous to me. I had wanted to move to the South­west for a while, and when I had the op­por­tu­nity to stay af­ter the res­i­dency, I moved here.”

When the Uni­verse Dreams is an ex­per­i­men­tal work with sound and mu­sic con­tri­bu­tions from record pro­ducer and hip hop artist DJ Fat­gums, mu­sic trio The Room Out­side, and artist Ted Schoo­ley — with some hum­ming cour­tesy of artist Jes­sica Kirk­patrick. The video is nar­rated by The Room Out­side’s front­woman Kar­rie Hop­per, who can be heard say­ing, “Dreams are a di­vine con­duit. How might the uni­verse man­i­fest its dream?” The dia­logue, writ­ten by Chan, sug­gests that the uni­verse is il­lu­sory — or per­haps a holo­gram. “The level of me­di­a­tion we ob­serve the world through is re­ally lay­ered, mostly through many screens,” the artist said. To re­in­force this idea, Chan in­serts a re­cur­ring im­age into the video, a fe­male hand hold­ing a cell phone, to im­ply that the world as ex­pe­ri­enced through an elec­tronic de­vice isn’t real.

Chan’s video ad­dresses the wan­ton de­struc­tion of the Earth in the ef­fort to ob­tain fos­sil fu­els. “When the Uni­verse Dreams imag­ines what the uni­verse would be dreaming about,” he said. “This could be a karmic dream, ob­serv­ing the im­bal­ances that man has cre­ated. That’s the cen­ter of it: restor­ing bal­ance from the im­bal­ance we’ve cre­ated be­cause of our greed and dis­re­spect for the Earth.” A trip­tych, When the Moun­tains Begin to Walk: Past, Present, and

Fu­ture, de­picts a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the world and the uni­verse. Chan was in­spired by Na­tive Amer­i­can leg­ends about events oc­cur­ring in con­junc­tion with an an­nu­lar eclipse, which oc­curs when the moon blocks the sun’s cen­ter, leav­ing its outer edges vis­i­ble as a ring around the moon. Monochro­matic paint­ings of free-float­ing, geo­met­ric-shaped moun­tains are jux­ta­posed with im­agery of moon phases or of Mer­cury in ret­ro­grade mo­tion, warp­ing and bend­ing the Earth be­low and af­fect­ing the move­ments of the tec­tonic plates.

The paint­ings are ar­ranged in a se­quence from left to right. The im­agery is chaotic, sug­gest­ing a tur­bu­lent, frac­tured world, but bal­ance is re­stored in the fi­nal paint­ing, where the el­e­ments co­a­lesce into a rec­og­niz­able land­scape. The reawak­en­ing of a fem­i­nine, per­haps di­vine, en­ergy in the uni­verse brings equi­lib­rium back to the world. “I tend to think of the uni­verse as fe­male,” he said. “I think about if we’re mov­ing into a pe­riod of trans­for­ma­tion away from the mas­cu­line. I think it’s an op­ti­mistic view.”

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