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Artist Creates Surreal, Labyrinthine Designs Inspired By Meditation

Brenna Murphy manifests the intangible shapes of the spiritual realm into digital images, sculptures, and installations.
September 2, 2013, 7:30pm

We caught on to Brenna Murphy’s Liquid Vehicle Transmitters in the twilight of its run at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Curated by past Rhizome senior editor Ceci Moss, the exhibit showcases prints and physical incarnations of Murphy’s internet-based work, which come together to form an interactive arena of labyrinthine sculptures. As an auxiliary installation she’s also included collaborative interface designs by MSHR, her ongoing audiovisual project with Portland-based artist Birch Cooper.



The exhibit, according to Murphy, captures an ongoing thematic in her work that extends before and beyond its timeframe at the YBCA. While the pieces themselves are influenced by recurring imagery she’s encountered across her experiences with meditation, their final states are products of active design. Essentially, she grabbed what came to her in moments of spirituality, and commanded what form they would next take.

Because of this, it’s a work that’s forever under construction. As she put it in an email conversation we had this weekend: "The sculptures are models of my net-based works as much as my net-based works are models of my sculptures."



"Now I'm taking footage of the sculptures and running it back into digital frameworks," Murphy continued. "When the show comes down, I'll take the sculptures back to my studio and use them in videos and performances."

The main installation, emergent entity chant array, actualizes a fractal of self-similar shapes and designs through the fusion of 3D-printed sculptures, LED lights, light boxes, and wood cut forms. The pieces seem heavily inspired by Eastern symbology—like stylized composites of historic Asian alphabets, architectural patterns, and design.

Gallery visitor interacts with MHSR installation—a collaboration between Murphy and Biren Cooper

"I use an array of nested graphics programs," says Murphy, explaining her creative process. "I'll make a 3D shape in Cinema 4D, put it in a virtual space in Unity, take a screen recording of the realm, put that through Adobe After Effects and add some melty stuff, make a .gif of that in Adobe Photoshop, take screenshots of the whole process and arrange them into a webpage through Adobe Dreamweaver."

The sculptures themselves are products of 3D printing, a CNC router, and laser cutters.

Looking through her work, you can tell these shapes kept her up at night and rummaged around in her dreams a bit. But instead of batting to understand their complexity, she instead mends them together in a self-similar style, in which the whole is mimicked by its pieces, and vice versa. It’s a pretty cool approach: making patterns out of shapes that are otherwise pattern-less.

A view of the installations

All photographs courtesy of the artist: