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Jamie Chan and Sonya Derman: Indoor Interference (Review)

Jamie Chan and Sonya Derman: Indoor Interference, Curated by Sophia Ma

January 6 - February 4, 2024

Essex Flowers Gallery, 19 Monroe St, New York, NY 10002

Images are courtesy of the artists and Essex Flowers Gallery

Installation view, Jamie Chan and Sonya Derman: Indoor Interference at Essex Flowers Gallery, New York, 2024

It is hard to put the feelings of estrangement into words, or colors and lines. But walking through Indoor Interference certainly proved to be a journey of self-alienation. When the familiar drifts away to detach, disassemble, and reappear in a clueless assembly, how shall we understand their betrayal?

In the gallery’s front room, symbols of athleticism descend into imageries of clumsiness. Referencing the early baseball card photographs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection that fail to capture moving bodies, Jamie Chan’s Cursorily Improvised Men (2023) presents baseball players in out-of-context configurations and awkward poses. The athlete’s bodies appear groundless, with some positioned upside down or truncated, while others are shrunk or rendered in an almost unrecognizable hue. When emptied of their competitive sports context, the depicted players enter into a space of nonbelonging, weaving a dreamlike sphere of free association. The absence of consistent body contours further blurs the boundaries between the corporeal and spatial realms, imbuing Chan’s characters with a state of muteness that withdraws from reality.

Right across the room, Chan’s Yet to be titled (Hong Kong) also provokes a sense of eerie surreality. Using blue, green, purple, and pink, Chan portrays a group of emotionally aloof characters with unusual skin tones. Despite their spatial proximity, the figures seem mutually dispassionate and seclusive. Their collective anonymity constitutes a strange site of confrontation, interrogating every onlooker’s security in their own positioning.

(Left) Jamie Chan, Cursorily Improvised Men, 2023, Oil, pigments in acrylic, gesso, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

(Center) Jamie Chan, Yet to be titled (Hong Kong), 2019, Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches

(Right) Sonya Derman, Slumper, 2023, Embroidery, machine-quilted fabric, and cotton batting, 16 x 13 inches

The sense of dissociation continues into the gallery’s backroom, where Sonya Derman’s quilting and embroidery works weave fleeting thoughts into pieces of fabric. To capture the ephemeral moments of textual communication, Derman transforms Slumper (2023) into a haptic scroll reminiscent of a social media post. The superimposition of quilted texts and shifting thread colors resemble one’s anxious editing process before posting on the Internet, as also suggested by the work’s off-grid misalignment. Mediating the discrepancies between the slow embroidery process and today’s fast-paced communications, Slumper speaks to a shared yet split temporality and materiality among human experiences.

Indoor Interference reminded me of countless departures from my once-familiar memories, places, and times. They drift away for no apparent reason and appear almost unrecognizable afterward. Maybe in the realm of dreams, inversion of space and distance can occur, where alienation emerges as affinity and forgettance grows into remembrance.


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