New York

Amanda Turner Pohan: The Signals Are Caressing Us at A.I.R. Gallery

In the back room of A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, a scent dispenser exhales once an hour. A meandering plastic tube connects the dispenser to a six-and-a-half-gallon jug on the floor near the center of the room. The jug contains the concentrated form of a custom-formulated perfume derived from sensors that measured the carbon dioxide exhaled by the artist Amanda Turner Pohan during thirteen unique orgasms. Presenting a nearly empty room, Pohan’s exhibition The Signals Are Caressing Us is saturated with the unexpected. Laced with intimacy, the space enveloped me with its concentrations and abstractions of human desire.

2.Amanda Turner Pohan. The Signals Are Caressing Us, 2015; installation view, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

Amanda Turner Pohan. The Signals Are Caressing Us, 2015; installation view, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

The room smelled only faintly fragrant when I entered, so I guided my nose as far into the jug of eau d’orgasme as possible without my lips touching the bottle’s mouth—an act that felt as indecent as it did satisfying. Each inhalation offered a different bouquet: citrusy, then acerbic, then sweetly floral. With the work Orgasmic Exhalation Device for Body Spray #11 (2014), Pohan captures her private expressions of sexual pleasure, condenses them, and reintroduces them into a public space, taking aim at the age-old repression of women’s sexuality. Though more people speak out against this condition today, women are still expected to possess sexual desire only to please men and to preen themselves for this purpose (for example, with odorless or perfumed, hairless bodies). Pohan asserts ownership of her body and its interactions with others, a kind of ownership that few women enjoy.

1.Amanda Turner Pohan. Orgasmic Exhalation Form #01, 2014; CNC-routed foam and resin; 72 x 14 x 13 in. Photo: Amelia Rina.

Amanda Turner Pohan. Orgasmic Exhalation Form #01, 2014; CNC-routed foam and resin; 72 x 14 x 13 in. Photo: Amelia Rina.

In today’s digital age, we must vigilantly protect not only our bodies but also our minds and actions as they are incorporated into globally distributed data. Pohan utilizes digital communication and programming to illustrate the mostly invisible traces we leave as we navigate virtual space while trying to connect with other humans. In Notes from the Google Doc (2014), the most literal and surprisingly poetic of these works in the show, Pohan displays the jumbled conversation of four lovers from a shared Google Doc. Though the gallery’s press release reveals that the text was generated by people using a computer, the sentiments read more like a glitchy computer trying to seduce a human than humans in dialogue with each other. As a result, the awkwardly sexy suggestions reveal the mutable boundaries between a human and a central processing unit.

Amanda Turner Pohan. The Signals Are Caressing Us, 2015; installation view, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

Amanda Turner Pohan. The Signals Are Caressing Us, 2015; installation view, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

4.Amanda Turner Pohan. Notes from the Google Doc, 2014; vinyl lettering; dimensions variable. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

Amanda Turner Pohan. Notes from the Google Doc, 2014; vinyl lettering; dimensions variable. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

 

Orgasmic Exhalation Form #01, a human-size white-resin sculpture, lies on the floor of the gallery. With this work, the artist further muddles the cycle of biological information translated into digital information. The form’s recumbent posture echoes the familiar odalisques rendered in art-historical paintings and referenced in contemporary commercial and art images. Pohan’s version, however, turns the sexualized female pose sterile through the object’s multifaceted, stark, synthetic material. This elicits an uncertain reaction; I recognize a humanoid shape while I perceive the barrier of otherness. The sculpture’s design, like the perfume, is based on Pohan’s orgasmic breaths: She uploaded her CO2 emission data to 3D-modeling software and printed it with a computer-numerical-control (CNC) router. Pohan’s process offers a new representation for a human experience that is normally hidden.

Amanda Turner Pohan. Orgasmic Exhalation Device for Body Spray #11, 2014 (detail); perfume, glass jug; 27 x 15 x 15 in. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

Amanda Turner Pohan. Orgasmic Exhalation Device for Body Spray #11, 2014 (detail); perfume, glass jug; 27 x 15 x 15 in. Courtesy of A.I.R. Gallery.

Pohan’s previous series also translate biological data into digital data and then into an entirely different state. She turned light into a scented essential oil and the evaporation of water from a plant into sound that was played back to the plant in real time. The Signals Are Caressing Us continues her questioning of the relationships between our sensing bodies and our environments. In response to a persistently obfuscated human–digital–natural interface, Pohan denies our expectations to experience data in familiar ways. The resulting information disorients the viewer and demands a heightened sensory awareness.

Amanda Turner Pohan: The Signals Are Caressing Us is on view at A.I.R. Gallery through February 1, 2015.

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