erike lynne hanson: wave,
The works of Erika Lynne Hanson are composed from a symbolic language that is bound up in historical references to the landscape while being completely contemporary in its own right. Woven together from so many abstract indices that slide between signifying pyramids and mountains, sequins and suns, horizon lines and patterned designs, Hanson's art practice asks us to question not only the relation between signifier and signified, but also how we think about the process of encoding information. In this sense, Hanson's work brings fiber-based art into dialog with computational schemata by using a densely layered system of references that mix video projections and installation strategies with more traditional mediums in order to produce a polyvalent aesthetic.
Whether adopting tongue and cheek titles for her different bodies of work, like "Apparently it has something to do with smog", and "Ultimate expanse in which everything is located", or her smaller "Excerpts" series, which function like quick sketches made in a sewn medium, Hanson's work isn't without a touch of irony. But of course, it only takes a moment to notice how this strategy provides a certain ease of access to the heavier themes in Hanson's oeuvre, which include allusions to acidic sunsets, impending earthquakes and melting icebergs. As such, Hanson's hand-produced objects are something like a woven history at world's end of the passing changes in our environment and the mounting crises we hear about on the nightly news. Only the critical purchase of Hanson's various bodies of work is having shown us how these passing flashes, or flash points of crisis, can be stilled as an object of contemplation in one most sustainable and environmentally friendly mediums in contemporary art.
Much like Walter Benjamin, who claimed that outmoded mediums had the greatest possibility of revealing the paradoxes of the present, Hanson knows how an often overlooked medium, like fiber art, can be used create a productive sense of displacement. Of course, Benjamin thought this was because every medium that fell into disuse was a sign not just of a failed product line, but also of a greater world of innovation and progress. In other words, it was not just the loss of surplus value that made something feel outmoded, but an attending loss of aura that existed because of our collective longing for the well advertised world of the future that object was pictured to be a part of. And it is this very possibility of an alternative way of thinking about the art object, and our collective destination as members of a global village, which is often foregrounded in Hanson's installations and singular works. Of course, the easy critique to spot by Hanson here is an implicit criticism of the global village and globalization by way of an artistic medium that is often thought of as a vernacular of the 'village', or craft aesthetics per say. But the depth of Hanson's use of the outmoded is really put on display through so many objects that are seen sitting on stilts, being held out from the wall on unstable looking supports, or being ever so subtly balanced, stacked and suspended to bring a sense of suspect relations to the ideology of the white cube and its products of manufacture.
Of course, an even closer look reveals that all of these polemics about arrangement and resisting easy commodification are actually well crafted references to the instability of both the natural environment and our collective sense of 'value' in the contemporary artworld. Perhaps this is why Hanson goes to great pains to continually point beyond the academic discourses of fiber art to include real world problematics in an otherwise stationary and meditative medium. One can be sure that every chance relation, and discrete orientation, in Hanson's installations are just as thoroughly thought out as the pallet of her woven works, making for a perfect hermeneutic in terms of the relation between part and whole.
Thus, when we are with Hanson's work we are just as much in her realm of references as we are in the world; just as much inhabitants of the woven object as the fiber-optic; just as much in a place of modernist self-referentiality that is about the truth of materials as the hard truths we face about the consequences of modernism's detached and abstract relationship to nature. As such, Hanson's images operate like something of a bridge between our collective past and an imperfect future by allowing us to see that the bridge may not be stable beneath us, but perhaps it is still passable if we look closely enough, and focus intently enough, on the issues of our time that really matter.
And for that, we owe Hanson not only a great debt for the timely nature of her interventions, but for bringing us so many screen images of the present that are not entirely unlike what Freud called screen memories. In fact, Hanson's imagery works to change the terms of engagement traditionally associated with 'screened' imagery, which is to say, with our relationship to those lost images that we willfully forget in order to save the present constitution of our ego driven culture. Only her works attempt this not by buoying up our collective sense of ego, but instead, by directly confronting the super-ego injunction of the culture of capitalism and the destructive effects of consumerism in order to reveal the traumas which are hidden in the physical and psychological landscape of the present. This is the true mark of Hanson's contemporaniety, and it is one for which she is to be loudly applauded, and entreated to present a encore performance for having made textiles function in a performative refrain.
Bio: Erika Lynne Hanson creates weavings, videos, and installations that connect diverse materials, histories, and places. Hanson received a MFA from California College of the Arts, and holds a BFA in Fiber from The Kansas City Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited in various locations including Los Angeles, Kansas City, San Francisco, New York, and Houston. Hanson is a Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Art fellow and has participated in residencies such as Real Time and Space in Oakland CA, and The Icelandic Textile Center in Blonduos, IS. In 2012 she CO-Founded 1522 Saint Louis, an experimental project space in Kansas City. Hanson is currently Assistant Professor of Fibers/Socially Engaged Practices at Arizona State University.