Kerry Tribe 1301PE
Kerry Tribe1301PE
Instillation view: Afasia, 2021, Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery




“Tribe’s work delves into the instances where language does not suffice or we are unable to invoke it.”



Kerry Tribe, born in Boston 1973, is a film, video, and mix media artist in Los Angeles. Focusing on the mechanics of representation—particularly cinematic representation—its metaphoric potential and its engagement with reality, her art addresses processes of thought and their relationship to subjectivity, narrative, place and time. Employing image, text, sound, structure, and space, her work plays upon the internal workings and ingrained habits of the mind, its unavoidable quirks, flaws, and shifting fault-lines. Stimulating both reflexive experience and a reflection upon such experience, she prompts an unusual type of self- consciousness, a disorienting and discomforting awareness of the gaps between perception, cognition, and memory, the fluidity—and ultimate unreliability—of each.



Afasia, 2017, original running time: 8:32 minutes, excerpt: 1:51 minutes



Tribe's film, Afasia, pairs the verbal journey of Christopher Riley, a photographer and friend of the filmmaker who struggles to speak after experiencing a left-hemisphere stroke that left him aphasic, with Tribe’s own narrated effort to relearn the Spanish language. Engaging in repetition and vocalization, the two friends find commonalities in a mutual curiosity about life at the limits of language. The video is projected in a make-shift screening room built from the remains of what had previously been the gallery’s front wall.



Instillation view: Afasia, 2017, Parque Galleria, Mexico City. Photo: Ramiro Chaves




“Memory does something funny to time, which we are accustomed to thinking of as linear and progressive. When we remember something, we bring it back to life. Neurologically, it's as though the experience were happening to us in the present. And of course our memories are always subjective, selective and shifting-we remember what we need to, how we need to.”

– Kerry Tribe




H.M. is a two-channel presentation of a single film based on the true story of an anonymous, memory-impaired man, the famous amnesiac known in scientific literature only as “Patient H.M.” In 1953, when he was 27 years old, H.M. underwent experimental brain surgery intended to alleviate his epilepsy. The unintended result was a radical and persistent amnesia. Though he was no longer able to make lasting memories, his short-term recall, lasting about 20 seconds, remained intact. He lived anonymously in this condition for more than half a century until his death on December 2, 2008, in a Connecticut nursing home. His case is widely credited with revolutionizing our understanding of the organization of human memory.



H.M., 2009
Original running time: 18:30 minutes
Excerpt: 1:48 minutes



H.M. consists of a single 16mm film that plays through two adjacent synchronized projectors with a 20 second delay between them, so the viewer sees two simultaneous side-by-side projections of two different parts of the same reel of film. The structure of the installation and the nature of the material together produce a sensation of mnemonic dissonance much like that experienced by Patient H.M.

The roughly 18-minute loop weaves together reenacted, documentary, found and animated elements and lies somewhere between an experimental documentary and an independent narrative film.



Kerry Tribe, H.M., Installation View, 2009



Installation view: Onomatopoeia, 2021, Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery



A selection of Tribe’s works on paper extend the inquiry in two dimensions. Tribe's “scratch drawings” reproduce philosophers’ attempts to diagram our perception of time, encourage viewers to reflect on the unfolding of their own conscious experience.


Tribe’s latest exhibition reflects the artist in middle age looking after loved ones in the surrounding generations: two growing sons on one side, and an ailing, aging mother on the other. The position is literalized in Corner Piece, a video projected in a corner of the gallery, that features animated text exchanges with Tribe’s mother on the right wall and Tribe’s children on the left. The artist’s “outgoing messages,” always in blue, appear on one or the other side of the divide as they navigate requests for transportation, technical assistance, weekly allowance and moral support.



Installation view: Corner Piece, 2022, Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery



A related series of works on paper, made with a homespun combination of watercolor and oil pastel monumentalize recent text messages sent and received. Elegant, funny and intimate, they capture the insect buzz of communication within a family, like room tone, traffic or weather. These works will be shown in Tribes upcoming exhibition in September 14, 2022 at 1301PE.






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