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Trisha Baga

From February 2020 – January 2021, the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan has devoted a major
exhibition to the work of Trisha Baga, charting the artist’s multimedia exploration of the fate of the
body in a digital world. This focused survey chronicles Baga’s achievements in both video and in
clay, shuttling between the virtual realm of projected images and the hand-wrought physicality of
ceramics.

 

Baga’s work in both formats mines popular culture, science fiction, family lore and American history,
with an off-the-cuff charm that belies her misgivings about technology’s advancing creep.

 

Their ceramics display what one critic calls a “careless virtuosity that self-consciously exceeds their
subject-matter,” turning everyday things into lumpy Pop icons in glazed and fired clay. At
HangarBicocca, ceramic picture frames, pet dogs, and a bust of RuPaul are displayed like
specimens in a natural history museum, or the spoils of an archaeological dig in the distant future.

TB599

Mollusca, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches (14.6 x 31.8 x 21.6 cm)

Tb610

Auntie Mollusca, 2018
Glazed ceramic
9 x 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (22.9 x 21.6 x 24.1 cm)

The mollusk is a lodestar in Baga’s work, a recurring metaphor and source of inspiration. The phylum “Mollusca” refers to common invertebrates such as snails, clams and oysters: soft-bodied organisms that secrete their own shells, the protective casings with which they move through the world. Baga considers these creatures to be nature’s ceramicists, and the analogy extends to all her work in clay: “the ceramics I think of as mollusk shells,” she has said, “or single-occupancy habitats.”

Slide-Show

Slide-Show Thumbnails

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video, ceramics and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

TB614D1

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018 (detail)

While making her 2018 video environment Mollusca and the Pelvic Floor, Baga jotted down the following phrase: “Mollusca is about self-colonization via technology.” The plot of the video—such as it is—involves Baga rechristening an Amazon Alexa “Mollusca,” teaching the virtual assistant to respond to a new name and dramatizing the strangeness of their interspecies rapport: the artist and her Alexa have conflict, fall in love, and eventually trade places. As Walker Art Center curator Pavel Pyś has written, “in her hands, boundaries between the organic and synthetic, as well as human, animal and machine are plied open: leaky viscera are reduced to series of ones and zeros and transformed back again. Where does the body end and the digital begin?” 

TB614D2

Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018 (detail)

Mollusca and the Pelvic Floor explores the limits of embodiment by expanding and contracting in scope, alternating galactic imagery lifted from the sci-fi movie Contact with intimate shots of Baga’s toes peeking over the rim of a bathtub. A set of sculpted ceramic toes also sits on the floor, extending the scene into real space. Baga often situates her projections in cluttered fields of objects, both made and found—producing hybrid zones in which moving images can mingle with assorted static things, which cast real shadows that disrupt the digital dramas that play out across their surfaces. The video’s use of 3-D imaging technology adds another layer of tangibility, imbuing the footage with illusions of depth that are lo-fi yet somehow seductive.

 

View an excerpt of the video here.

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The Nose, 2018
Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device
10 1/2 x 58 x 23 1/2 inches (26.7 x 147.3 x 59.7 cm)

TB621d (text)

The Nose, 2018 (details)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Arcu cursus euismod quis viverra nibh cras pulvinar mattis. Tincidunt id aliquet risus feugiat in ante metus dictum at. Non sodales neque sodales ut. Sem integer vitae justo eget. Ac tincidunt vitae semper quis lectus nulla at. Vitae turpis massa sed elementum tempus egestas sed sed. Imperdiet sed euismod nisi porta. Eget nulla facilisi etiam dignissim diam.

TB584d (text3)
TB584

RuPaul: Calcified Encasing for Virtual Assistant, 2018

Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device

16 3/4 x 20 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (42.5 x 52.1 x 41.9 cm)

TB584d (text)

RuPaul: Calcified Encasing for Virtual Assistant, 2018 (detail)

Ceramics are vessels, and several of Baga’s most elaborate works in clay perform an unusual function: portrait busts that serve as containers for working Amazon Alexas. A depressed Virgina Woolf smoking in the bathtub (as portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the movie The Hours) has an Alexa embedded in the side of her head, and a deftly rendered RuPaul houses another Alexa in her wig. Baga calls these brittle, fragmented bodies her “calcified casings for virtual assistants,” and their anthropomorphism pokes fun at the confidence we place in these non-human helpers. Designed to anticipate needs by converting our half-formed desires into digital purchases, Alexa is cast here as a modern-day oracle, ripe for reprogramming.

TB604

Found Canon, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 x 7 x 5 inches (12.7 x 17.8 x 12.7 cm)

TB588

Me n ma Boo, 2018
Glazed ceramic
6 x 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (15.2 x 19.1 x 8.9 cm)

TB589

The Helens ca. 1992, 2018
Glazed ceramic
7 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches (19.1 x 29.2 x 16.5 cm)

“A lot of the ceramics are artifacts of technologies that were built for image-making,” Baga has said. A vintage Cannon and an array of framed pictures appear slightly crumpled and blurred, as if succumbing to the downward pull of gravity that softens edges and muddies colors. The camera and photographs appear almost fossilized—like salvage from Pompeii, or a flooded basement—and offer a funny (if wistful) homage to a bygone era of analogue reproduction.

Baga views her self-taught pursuit of ceramics as “a break from the constraints of the pixel.” Working with clay is a necessary respite from the screen for this video artist and digital native: its tactility affords her a “connection to the real world, to physical materials and to other people.” 

TB601

Joanna, 2018
Glazed ceramics
12 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 12 inches (31.8 x 36.8 x 30.5 cm)

TB598

Lucia, 2018
Glazed ceramics
16 1/4 x 15 x 13 1/2 inches (41.3 x 38.1 x 34.3 cm)

A half-dozen poodles preside over the exhibition from a custom pedestal shaped like a ziggurat. Pet dogs—animals that have been molded to fit human needs—are a recurring theme in Baga’s ceramics. These sprout clay flames from their heads in a riff on Catholic "tongues of fire" imagery, linked to the day of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit granted each Apostle the power to speak his own language and be understood.

 

Translatability is of keen interest to Baga, who is constantly crossing the wires of digital and manual production—injecting narrative into her physical objects and a palpable “handsy-ness” into her videos. The artist describes herself as  “an experimental adhesive maker”: leitmotifs drift across disciplinary bounds and sync up in surprising ways, melding into what Whitney Museum curator Elisabeth Sherman calls “a complex, cacophonous whole.”

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All installation views: Trisha Baga, the eye, the eye and the ear, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2020-21

    

Available Works

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Trisha Baga

Mollusca, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches (14.6 x 31.8 x 21.6 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video,

ceramics, and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Inquire

Trisha Baga
The Nose, 2018
Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device
10 1/2 x 58 x 23 1/2 inches (26.7 x 147.3 x 59.7 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
A Flirty Banter, 2018
Glazed ceramics
13 x 15 x 3 inches (33 x 38.1 x 7.6 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Butter Rock, 2018
Glazed ceramic
9 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 14 inches (24.1 x 34.3 x 35.6 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga

RuPaul: Calcified Encasing for Virtual Assistant, 2018

Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device

16 3/4 x 20 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (42.5 x 52.1 x 41.9 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
"Roommates", 2018
Glazed ceramic
3 x 7 x 3 1/2 inches (7.6 x 17.8 x 8.9 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Found Canon, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 x 7 x 5 inches (12.7 x 17.8 x 12.7 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Me n ma Boo, 2018
Glazed ceramic
6 x 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (15.2 x 19.1 x 8.9 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Joanna, 2018
Glazed ceramics
12 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 12 inches (31.8 x 36.8 x 30.5 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Fiammetta, 2018
Glazed ceramic
9 1/2 x 8 x 4 1/2 inches (24.1 x 20.3 x 11.4 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga
Lucia, 2018
Glazed ceramics
16 1/4 x 15 x 13 1/2 inches (41.3 x 38.1 x 34.3 cm)

Inquire

Trisha Baga

Mollusca, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches (14.6 x 31.8 x 21.6 cm)

Trisha Baga
Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor, 2018
Two channel projection: 2D video and 3D video,

ceramics, and mixed media
Duration: 37:18 minutes

Edition 3/3, 1AP

Trisha Baga
The Nose, 2018
Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device
10 1/2 x 58 x 23 1/2 inches (26.7 x 147.3 x 59.7 cm)

Trisha Baga
A Flirty Banter, 2018
Glazed ceramics
13 x 15 x 3 inches (33 x 38.1 x 7.6 cm)

Trisha Baga
Butter Rock, 2018
Glazed ceramic
9 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 14 inches (24.1 x 34.3 x 35.6 cm)

Trisha Baga

RuPaul: Calcified Encasing for Virtual Assistant, 2018

Glazed ceramics, Amazon Alexa device

16 3/4 x 20 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (42.5 x 52.1 x 41.9 cm)

Trisha Baga
"Roommates", 2018
Glazed ceramic
3 x 7 x 3 1/2 inches (7.6 x 17.8 x 8.9 cm)

Trisha Baga
Found Canon, 2018
Glazed ceramic
5 x 7 x 5 inches (12.7 x 17.8 x 12.7 cm)

Trisha Baga
Me n ma Boo, 2018
Glazed ceramic
6 x 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (15.2 x 19.1 x 8.9 cm)

Trisha Baga
Joanna, 2018
Glazed ceramics
12 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 12 inches (31.8 x 36.8 x 30.5 cm)

Trisha Baga
Fiammetta, 2018
Glazed ceramic
9 1/2 x 8 x 4 1/2 inches (24.1 x 20.3 x 11.4 cm)

Trisha Baga
Lucia, 2018
Glazed ceramics
16 1/4 x 15 x 13 1/2 inches (41.3 x 38.1 x 34.3 cm)

Exhibition Catalog

book

 

Trisha Baga – the eye, the eye and the ear

Edited by Lucia Aspesi and Fiammetta Griccioli

Skira, 2020

Published in conjunction with her solo exhibition at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, this is the first monograph dedicated to Trisha Baga's genre-defying practice. The catalog takes the form of a sci-fi narrative and includes a visual essay detailing Baga's sprawling inspirations (edited by curator Herb Tam), as well as texts by artist Lucy Raven and curators Lucia Aspesi, Fiammetta Griccioli, Pavel Pyś, and Elisabeth Sherman.

Find more information on the catalog here.