March 30th + 31st,  2013

          " Ecology is about relating not to Nature, but to aliens and ghosts."

                                            –– Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought 

Recalling images from natural geometries, psychedelia, and various mystic traditions, Brenna Murphy’s digital geographies describe vast inner and outer spaces made visible in staggering detail by the computer programs she employs. A student of the Raga Scales, Murphy’s images, objects, and installations are visual equivalents to this ancient Indian musical tradition. Raga, literally “color,” “hue,” as well as “beauty,” is a set of rules describing how to build a melody. The rules dictate which notes to use, which to use more sparingly, which notes must be bent, which ones may be bent, how to slide from one note to another, and so on. It is a precise framework built to compose and improvise melodies where each Raga is clearly recognizable yet allows for endless variation. 

The 3D rendered objects used to build Murphy’s work are analogous to the notes within a Raga scale; a vocabulary of form and color used to compose infinitely complex and fluid compositions, both ordered and improvised. She uses this vocabulary across media, building objects within virtual environments, flattening them within two dimensional picture planes, fabricating them via 3d printing, and using them as schematics in the creation of handmade objects. Her web-based projects are all connected, and serve as a repository and waypoint for the images and textures generated in her practice. The architecture of this network is organic, describing lineages and inviting exploration.

Her work takes on a greater significance when considering the increasingly strange present we inhabit. When genetic information is patented and images act autonomously, we require a new set of mental tools to accommodate the weirdness of reality. The unseen dimensions of consciousness (animal, geological, artificial, etc.) or hyperobjects like global warming and technological evolution, are patterns in space and time for which we are not natively equipped. Only through translation have we made their acquaintance. Strange strangers, as Timothy Morton would say, are as real as ourselves, but unknowable in full.

Murphy brings us closer to these strange strangers. She calls much of her works entities, referring to a subject possessing an inaccessible interiority. Placed alongside, or even within these entities, the viewer is compelled to identify a referent, be it natural, fractal, musical, or architectural. But the success of the work ultimately comes from its strangeness. It feels biological but it isn’t living. It feels musical, but it isn’t music. It is its own pattern, distinct from, yet connected to others. It shows a respect for the continuum of entities around us, the weird cousin, the other race, the alien, the unnamed entity, each with its own web from which we are inescapably linked. It is this attempt to understand and love the strange that makes Murphy’s work such a powerful tool in reconditioning ourselves to the interconnected fate of all things.

Brenna Murphy (b. 1986) works and lives in Portland, OR. Past solo exhibitions include The Future Gallery, Berlin and Gloria Maria Gallery, Milan. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Drawing Room, London; Eyebeam, New York; Family Business Gallery, New York; Philadelphia Art Museum; 319 Scholes, New York; New American Art Union, Portland; Abrons Art Center, New York; and the Tate Modern, London. Murphy is also a member of two Portland-based art collectives: MSHR and Oregon Painting Society. She is a 2012-2013 Rhizome Commisions Recipient for project Labyrinth and she has an upcoming solo exhibition at Kunstverein Dusseldorf.


insect totems
nanostrands ( detail )
alien vehicle
3D printed object
alien vehicle, 2013
3D printed objects
digital print
digital print
tool array
digital print
digital print
central chanters
digital print
Installation View
Installation View

American Medium is a multimedia exhibition platform for contemporary art. We are committed to presenting and supporting 21st century modes of cultural exchange.

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