Paul Chan: Pillowsophia

Exhibition Info
Curated by
Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art
A sculptural animation as metaphor for violence and sacrifice, and a poem connecting this violence to the current political moment

Known for innovations in new media, which often examine contemporary issues through the lens of classical philosophy, Paul Chan is an artist, writer and publisher who practices political and cultural activism in multiple formats.

For this Morris Gallery installation, Chan’s sculptural animation Pillowsophia (after Ghostface) is presented alongside his new poem written with Badlands Unlimited, an independent art book publisher founded in 2010 by Chan, titled “New No’s.”

Modeled on the inflatable fluttering figures often seen at car dealerships, Pillowsophia evokes in a novel animated form metaphors of violence and sacrifice, and uses the symbol of the hoodie as a visual and conceptual anchor. “New No’s," Badlands Unlimited’s response to the 2016 presidential election, firmly connects this violence to the current political moment and powerfully declares the writer’s stand against racism and discrimination.”

Pillowsophia—a hollow nylon armature activated by industrial fans at its base—follows a series of recent works by Chan, which aim to liberate the animated image from the confines of the screen and into three dimensions. Surrounded by concrete-filled sneakers outfitted with electrical plugs and long cords, the nylon forms’ movements—alternately tormented and ecstatic—are specifically choreographed using strategies from physics and patternmaking, while their conceptual basis draws from Greek philosophical traditions linking breath with consciousness.

Inspired by Yvonne Rainer’s infamous “No Manifesto” (1965), “New No’s” was written after the November 2016 presidential election to act as what Badlands Unlimited calls “a declaration against the drift of American society toward what is most un-American.” It has since been translated into 13 languages. Holland Cotter, art critic for The New York Times, included “New No’s” in his list of The Best Art of 2016.

Paul Chan was born in Hong Kong and raised in Nebraska. He lives and works in New York. He has an upcoming solo exhibition at Greene Naftali, New York in 2017. Recent solo exhibitions include Deste Foundation Project Space, Slaughterhouse, Hydra, Greece (2015); Slought Foundation, Philadelphia (2015); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); Schaulager, Basel (2014); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago (2009); Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2008); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2007). He is the 2014 recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize. 

His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Philly Artblog: Paul Chan’s mischievous wordsmithing and hallucinatory art making at Morris Gallery