Armory Week 2016

1,000 Leagues Under The Sea: A Cyborg Jellyfish at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

Shih Chieh Huang, Disphotic Zone, 2015. ©KATHERINE MCMAHON

Shih Chieh Huang, Disphotic Zone, 2015.


At Ronald Feldman Fine Arts’ booth at the Armory Show, which opened Wednesday, visitors enter an installation that looks like a cross between a club and a 13-year-old boy’s lava-lamp-lit bedroom but is actually made to resemble a disphotic zone, a level of deep ocean where light cannot reach. A large cyborg jellyfish hangs in the middle, changing from fluorescent blue to pink to green while slowly lifting its tentacles up and down in time to the gusts from a large computer fan. Water bottles filled with neon-green fluid hang suspended in a circle above their tentacled mothership, gently swaying in the breeze of much smaller computer fans.

The artist, Shih Chieh Huang, was studying bioluminous organisms as part of an artist research fellowship at the Smithsonian when he happened upon a pile of plastic-bag-encased garbage. A thought popped into his mind: What would happen if these garbage bags grew up?

“I started to imagine them growing up as these complex creatures,” he told me, as an errant tentacle gently poked him in the ear. “This [cyborg] is made from Tupperware, computer fans, and all the tentacles are made from painter’s plastic you can get from the hardware store to cover your sofa. I cut them in half, folded them, and sealed them.” While the cyborg is priced at a steep $60,000, the orbiting water bottles are a nearly affordable $2,500 each.

As the artist was describing disphotic zone dynamics—“sections of the ocean where light disappears and strange creatures with abnormal behaviors meet”—a couple brushed against us. “Do you think we can make out here?” one of them whispered to the other.

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