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Katie Grinnan at the Print Center – An artist asks you to give a little


Alyssa visits Katie Grinnan’s exhibit at the Print Center and finds the interactive installation at its heart a lesson on the interaction between electronic media and real life. –the Artblog editors—————–>

Regrettably, Katie Grinnan has never designed medical imaging technology. Should she ever decide to turn her talents to that field, though, she’d probably revolutionize the way doctors see the human brain, given her startling portrayals of what the mind can do under scrutiny. “Three Headed Lady,” now showing at the Print Center, finds Grinnan extending her vision of bodies as conduits for information into a new series of connected works, ranging from prints to sculpture to an apparatus that can only be described as the offspring of a gym machine and a full-body scanner.

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Katie Grinnan, For Your Information, at the Print Center

Built with digital data and prints, the exhibit includes For Your Information, a valiant attempt at capturing what we lose the farther we delve into using digital interaction to enhance, or replace, real life. In the digitalization-of-life process, however, there are unintended revelations.

Grinnan makes it easy for the viewer to feel important. Contributions from friends, family and the public are the basis for the FYI centerpiece, a bizarre-looking contraption. You sit down in its ungainly embrace, use the computer provided to track whatever you feel is worthy of observation by the artist, and leave a digital signature for Grinnan’s use. Underfoot, past submissions, specifically YouTube videos, have been printed onto ceramic tiles. Their rough, worn surfaces look like something dug up at an archaeological site, a sharp contrast with their unmistakably-modern subject matter.

Katie Grinnan, Inner Weather, 2011. C-print mounted on Sintra.
Katie Grinnan, Inner Weather, 2011. C-print mounted on Sintra.

Throughout the gallery, Grinnan’s prints and sculptures put forth the idea that for every impression to cross through your mind at any given moment, there is an equal (and possibly opposite) reaction once it’s been filtered through media. There is a strange, transcendent visual style in her prints, sometimes resembling abrasive wallpaper patterns and at other times approaching figurative work.

In the off-center of the room, anchoring the entire exhibition, is a life-size sculpture of the brain. Despite the more abstract reach of the rest of the show, this is far less of a disruption in tone than it would appear. Texturally, it’s the same as the other 3D works, and somehow, seeing the brain in its real size, small and gray, the most forlorn-looking object present — and yet responsible for everything around it — is a revelation.  

Grinnan’s acceptance of any and all dispatches from other people’s imaginations, whims and intentions is strangely powerful. Even without considering the process of filtering someone’s ideas through your own lens, not to mention several media, it takes conviction to believe that you can ask people to give you something, and you’ll subsequently be able to make something out of it. For Grinnan, if it meant something to someone, it’s worth a look.

Katie Grinnan: Three Headed Lady is up until November 23rd at the Print Center, 1614 Latimer St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.