And Therefore I Am takes its title from philosopher René Descartes’s famous statement, Cogito, ergo sum—“I think, therefore I am.” It presents contemporary art about the experience of human consciousness, including thought, perception, and the workings of the mind and brain. The exhibition includes nine artists and encompasses painting, video, sculpture, audio-video installation, and conceptual art.
The work in the show offers a range of approaches to the representation of thinking, yet it returns repeatedly to the use of language to portray the stream of consciousness coursing through the human brain. Language, in the words of filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, is “the house in which man dwells,” and our brains — male or female — are hard-wired to acquire and develop this primary medium of communication. As employed by the artists in And Therefore I Am, words take on aural, visual, temporal, and spatial dimensions, working together with objects and images to evoke experience beyond the normal scope of language.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s dramatic audio-video installation, The Paradise Institute. Placing museum visitors inside the head of an unnamed filmgoer watching a short movie, The Paradise Institute creates a mesmerizing and at times dislocating experience. Other works by Beth Campbell, Peter Campus, Douglas Gordon, Jochem Hendricks, Sean Landers, Shana Lutker, and Matt Mullican provide alternate reflections on how we perceive our perceiving, our dreams, the subconscious, and the borderline between consciousness and its absence.
-John Weber, Dayton Director
A series of public programs accompanying And Therefore I Am will consider the exhibition’s works of art and examine the question of consciousness across a range of disciplines, notably the burgeoning field of neuroscience. A film series will survey the mind, consciousness, and the brain as they appear in popular movies and avant-garde cinema. Please consult the Tang Museum staff and the Tang’s website for more program information.