Gaye Chan: Frass

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October 14, 2011 - February 12, 2012
Gallery 14

Exhibition Overview

The Academy is pleased to debut Frass, the latest project from photographer and conceptual artist Gaye Chan. Chan’s work ruminates on the ways in which cartography, photography, and printed matter simultaneously offer and occlude information. Frass originated in a rare and obscure source: an insect-damaged accordion book of 19th-century Japanese woodblock illustrations. Intrigued by the complex pattern of wormholes that meandered through the book’s pages, Chan scanned the folios, enlarged them, and superimposed onto their lattice-like surfaces Google Map photographs of approximately 20 miles of the U.S./Mexico Border. The resulting installation is comprised of 10 large-scale digital prints—each a composite of more than 300 intricate screen captures—mounted in the manner of roll-up maps, aligned horizontally, and anchored by a rotating laser that traces the border’s location from one image to the next.

Frass suggests analogies between insect detritus and topography, larvae tracks and the roadways established for the transport of people and goods associated with the Mexican maquiladoras [export assembly plants]. In juxtaposing the vantage points of satellite and worm, authorized cargo and illicit traffic, Frass documents the border as it currently stands and speculates on the imbalance of power between this arbitrary boundary, the individuals who navigate it, and the body politic that transcends it. Scheduled to coincide with the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, taking place in Honolulu in November, Frass reflects on how economic alliances promote free trade, even as they rely on national borders to criminalize the movement of people.

Gaye Chan is Chair of the Art and Art History Department at the University of Hawaii.—Theresa Papanikolas, Curator of European and American Art