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Issue 2. - What Does Not Bend

In the fall of 2018, the Miller ICA opened the exhibition Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI. It explored how disembodied environments for interaction have proliferated with the emergence of new technologies that provide endless opportunities for social life to play out in virtual space, with no physical contact. The work by the eleven artists included in Paradox looked at how this new reality powerfully connects millions of people, while the disembodied nature of these interactions can also facilitate dehumanization. At the core of the exhibition was the premise that the sensorimotor habitat of the body is deeply influential in shaping our awareness, imagination, and socio-political structures. As we are now spending an unprecedented amount of time staying physically distant from each other and taking our personal and professional interactions to the internet, we thought it was a good opportunity to revisit aspects of this exhibition and to think about how it impacts on our bodies, our interactions, and our value systems.

While the total effect of this pandemic will be unknown for a long time, what is clear about this moment is that what cannot bend, morph and reconstitute, will break, or fade away. As artists are responding in real time to the new conditions of creative production, they are reimagining the purpose, value, and distribution strategies for their artwork. They are examining everything from the efficacy of a sculpture that cannot occupy physical space with a viewer to the ability to generate solidarity through dancing in solitude. This is a time where we all have more questions than we do answers, but
on the other side of this shut downwe will gain a deeper understanding of what it is, exactly, that physical distance dismantles and what the possibilities are of what we build in its place.
Remotely wishing you
good health and safety,

Elizabeth Chodos, Miller ICA Director

Q+A with Jillian Mayer

Jillian Mayer's artistic practice is a means of processing how our physical world and bodies are impacted and reshaped by our participation. This recent interview was taken with Mayer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elizabeth Chodos: How are you holding up during these times?

Jillian Mayer: I feel like I have prepared for a hurricane that hasn’t had it’s direct hit yet. Not sure if we are in the eye of the storm, or just feeling the effects. I think the world has taken a moment to think about structures that exist, but
in this momentdo not feel satisfactory.

Is it weird to say that I felt like I knew something like this was coming: a shut-down, a factory recall, an examination of resources and of supplies, freedom?

if the world you follow on Instagram is more of a window and less of a mirror to your current interests and communities (digital or physical).  

There is a vast world of thoughtfully made work, films, videos, and research out there. This is a great time to go back and see what you overlooked the first time.That being said, it’s interesting what people are being advised to do in this free time.

Art is a human tool we have created to communicate and psychologically prepare for major shifts.  
As peoples’ communications are threatened in one way (in physical form), there will be an increase in the other methods (non-stop digital everything). For a moment, I imagined what if we were told to stay home and the country turned off the WiFi. That’s when mayhem and riots would occur. The purpose of humans seems to be to optimize and they don’t seem to take well to concepts of reduction.

EC: Has this impacted your 
practice? In what ways?

JM: For the past few months, I have been working on a nomadic artist residency that will take place in a moveable structure that is sort of like a bunker on wheels. From my backyard, I have been making pieces that will go into the residency
Most of my time, I have been wondering about the cultural adjustments that will be incurred by this COVID freeze, aside from the obvious. I even wonder about the art and values that will be shaped by the zeitgeist of this incubation time.

Is this the “new normal”, an inconvenient truth, or a practice run? To answer your question, I guess…well.

EC: Does this moment make you think about the value of art? What do you think it’s value is?

JM: I believe too many people are broadcasting live. I understand wanting to see what the world looks like for others at this moment, but that only excites me

while friends work on it on location.

Part of being a full-time artist means that I have deadlines and projects at all times, but the strange thing about a pandemic and schedules is that no one knows anything. All projects are postponed and you are now as good as the photoshopped image of the idea. It’s back to pitch time. It’s back to watching the TV and not knowing if the storm will be a direct hit and if you and your neighborhood will be okay.

The uncertainty is the biggest thing here. Will this be an annual flu,
one that hits once and antibodies
render us immune, or an eternal weakening? I think being a freelance person in the arts is a very uncertain path with some disillusionment. I worry more about the people who have lost all of their structure and schedules.

Stay connected to community and engage in programs while keeping a safe physical distance by joining us for these virtual events!
Virtual Screening
+ Conversation

In This 
Not Unprecedented

Sat May 9, 2pm

Join us on Zoom for a Screening and Talkback with artist Tourmaline hosted by Dana Bishop-Root.

Tourmaline makes film and video that highlights the capacity of black queer/trans social life to impact the world while living what is simultaneously an invisible—and hypervisible—existence.

Virtual Tour

Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI

Fri May 15, 1pm


This live virtual tour looks at works by  11 contemporary artists in the exhibition, Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI.

Explore the primacy of the body as it sits at the precipice of potential fusion with artificial intelligence. 

This section considers new meanings of previously exhibited artwork relevant to new conditions of social distancing.
RWD: Revisit
Slumpies by Jillian Mayer


Revisit artwork by Jillian Mayer, a featured artist in the exhibition "Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI" curated by Elizabeth Chodos.

Take a closer look at Jillian Mayer's Slumpies as a practical solution to support the human form during our ever-increasing relationship to technology.

This section looks ahead to upcoming projects.


Looking Out is a new photo and video series that features Pittsburgh artists sharing views from their windows.

This on-going series envisions a new commons making our mutual experience of sheltering-in-place one less of isolation and more of collectivity and solidarity.

Looking out from windows and
for each other.
This section features special commissions from artists, working in isolation, who are pausing to reflect on the impact of social isolation. 
26 Little Dances for Miller ICA, In Isolation

"I used to be afraid of dancing. I thought dance was about me, what I was doing or not doing, about performing a certain vocabulary of coolness or something. This was before I decided that dance is less about an individual expression but instead about a collective movement and gesture, a kind of solidarity." - Adam Milner


Recommended Resources
A curated selection of artist-generated content for your time in coronavirus isolation.

A Tool for Our Time - A Cardboard pattern for bias cut mask straps by Imin Yeh

How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?an online exhibition, co-curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen as a platform for the exchange of ideas at this time of crisis.

Librivox.org - Free public domain audio books, read by volunteers from around the world. Listen for free or record your favorite book to share!

Annotated Bibliographies
We've asked artists to recommend reading lists to help make sense of this moment. Pick up one of these titles when you need to power down your screen and get off the internet.

Full annotations and book descriptions available on
our website.

Sara Greenberger Rafferty

On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry

At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen by Shawn Michelle Smith 

The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Mary-Lou Arscott 

Evidence (2014) by Diana Matar

In the Wake, On Blackness and Being’, (2016) by Christina Sharpe

One Way Street (1927) by Walter Benjamin 
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
Daniel Glendenning

The Positions and Situations Project: Back-to-the-land Letters. Vol. 1: 1968-1973 by Alex Arzt

Vernon Subutex, vol. 1 by Virginie Despentes

Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life by Natasha Lennard

Remote Control: Issue 1. Functional Openness

Jillian Mayer; FLAG: A Sculpture Can Be Used As A Flotation Device In Times of Emergency, 2018; Rope, adhesive, acrylic paint, UV stabilized plastic mesh, grommets; 60 x 96 inches.

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