Feb 10th 2023

Whitney Johnson is a musician, composer and writer living in Chicago. She performs with the viola, as well as combo organ, electronics and voice. As Matchess, she interprets the unknown with sound. Her techniques reproduce meaning through a range of historical material processes, including reel-to-reel tape looping, cassette tape sampling and field recording. In the Matchess Trilogy (2013-2018), Johnson used the limited palette of a 1960s Ace Tone combo organ, an analog Rhythm Ace drum machine, viola and voice to craft a sound collage of transient songs on a bed of ambient noise. She has recently collaborated in improvised and composed settings with Circuit des Yeux, TALsounds, Brett Naucke, Gel Set, Lia Kohl, Macie Stewart, Matt Jencik, Couteau Sang, Lea Bertucci and Sarah Davachi. In tandem with her music practice, she received her doctorate in the sociology of sound from the University of Chicago in 2018, writing a dissertation on the cultural value of embodied sensory perception, particularly in the discipline of sound art.


About the Exhibition
Pawing the Ground in Place features new work by Heather Kai Smith and Ali Feser. Feser and Smith use drawing, projection and installation to consider representations of utopian fantasy and longing. They play with material transpositions of photography and, through simultaneous modes of figuration and abstraction, question the associative possibilities in collecting and revisiting images. Pawing the Ground in Place will be further activated and annotated with performances by a wider group of collaborators, including C. Tai Tai and Whitney Johnson (Matchess).

Ali Feser is a cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary artist from upstate New York. Her work figures the chemical processes of photography—manufacturing, image formation, developing, and decay—as a metonymic language to theorize industrial capitalism and its capacity to transform our senses, our subjectivity, and the material constitution of the earth itself. Across text, installation, image, and performance, she proposes that film is the molecular “cell-form” of industrial capital, endlessly reiterated through new modes of extraction and forms of desire. Feser is currently a Harper Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. She is currently finishing her book manuscript, Reproducing Photochemical Life in the Imaging Capital of the World.

Heather Kai Smith is a visual artist and educator from Calgary, Canada. Rooted in drawing, her practice explores the communicative potential of the medium. Referencing images of collective engagement, histories of communal living strategies and organized dissent, the work employs pictorial observation and iteration. Her practice has lent itself to projects in animation, printmaking and installation with an emphasis on collaboration.Smith has attended residencies across Canada, the United States, and Germany, while exhibiting her work within a variety of institutional and non-conventional spaces. Smith is currently a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at The University of Chicago teaching in the Department of Visual Arts. Recent independent and collaborative work has been shown at: The Vancouver Art Gallery, Tallinn Art Hall (Estonia), The Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff), studio e gallery (Seattle), and The Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery (Vancouver).

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