In the foyer, large inflatable sculptures greet us, hovering overhead and within the space, coated in iridescent colorful fabrics. The work Benzene Float depicts scientific drawings (technically named “pace-filling models”in chemical terminology) of the molecular structure of benzene, propane gas, naphthalene, and other petrochemical substances. The works’exaggerated forms amplify their presence in modern society, confronting us with their grasp over our lives.
On the first floor, several large-scale sculptures rotate quietly, their iridescent colors shimmering and changing with their movement in space. They resemble some kind of bioluminescent marine life, especially with their recast surfaces, or some futuristic alien. But they are in fact industrial objects: drill bits used to find oil. Their dichroic colors allude to the pearling industry of the Persian Gulf, a forgotten history that has all but disappeared after the discovery of oil in the region. Choreography of Alien Technology aims to bridge the relationship between pearls and oil, through their colors and forms, presenting more vividly the historical gap that oil has created. The iridescent nature of the color reimagines itself as the carrier of wealth, traveling between pearls, oil, or even another future being.
On the second floor, two reddish mirror-imaged sculptures of gastropod seashells stand side by side, speaking to each other. They both have a hollow cavity in the lower half of their bodies, inviting passers-by to press their ears and heads against them, perhaps expecting to hear the sound of rolling ocean waves. Instead, they encounter an unexpected conversation between two androgynous voices, recalling how they had unintentionally changed genders while lying in the ocean. In Gastromancer, the impact the oil industry has on marine life is on display, and not in ways visibly known to us. The reddish biocide paint tributyltin, known as TBT, protects oil tankers from accruing algae, barnacles and mussels (in a process commonly called “nti-fouling”, but it has also caused strange and bizarre changes and contaminations in the natural environment due to its rapid leakage into the water. For example, TBT contamination causes female murex mollusks to change their gender into males, impairing their ability to spawn and devastating gastropod populations.
On the third floor, the installation Onus is composed of multiple solid glass sculptures of birds that are dispersed over a white floor. During the Gulf War in Kuwait (1990–91), the carcasses of birds, fish, livestock, and many other animals regularly lined the coastline and deserts of the nation—he result of massive toxic clouds fed by the hundreds of torched oil wells. It was and still is one of the worst man-made environmental disasters of all time. However, when images of these oil-drenched animals were disseminated abroad, many people believed them to be fake.
While studying at university in Japan, the artist was confronted with iconic photographs of oil-covered birds taken during the war that were presented during a class as being merely exercises in propaganda. Although a witness to the destruction herself, her lived experience was questioned, and under the influence of others, was even distorted. Through these works, the artist has attempted to breathe life back into her memories by recreating these birds as glass objects, to make both tangible the destruction she witnessed, while demonstrating the fragility of our memories when images move across time, space and cultures. The work conveys the artist’ burden and duty to prove the loss that has been suffered.