Sky-wreck, 2001, handwoven indigo dyed cotton, 1/11th of the sky, The Renaissance Societey Chicago, 2001

Helen Mirra »Mmontessorri«

Mexico City , September 22, 2022 - October 29, 2022

Helen Mirra is an artist from Rochester, New York (1970) who currently resides in Muir Beach, California. Strongly influenced by buddhism and zen philosophy, she is interested in the use of language as the means through which reality and possibility are created. Since 2008 she has articulated a large part of her practice around the everyday act of walking, which she defines as "an unskilled activity, and a modest activity, and a free activity, and an always-available activity, and an equipment-free activity, and an active activity." This discipline, central to her life's philosophy and central to her artistic to-do –both of which are inextricably linked for Mirra– is repeated every day with a soft rigor that allows her to profoundly reflect on the things which surround us in a way which does not rely on language. She employs a methodological recording on this act, and uses it to make her art. For example, in Sidewalk cover (1998), Mirra brings attention to the element of walking which is often overlooked: the very setting where it happens, the floor. In this case, Mirra uses the minimalist recourse of green woven cotton squares to allude to the sidewalks past as a formerly vegetated area later turned into a walking path for humans.

Drawn to the rawness of materials, Mirra is constantly in a state of material and conceptual exploration. Sky Wreck (2001) is an excellent example of this. Designed as the means through which to translate the sky –that which normally exists as a metaphorical roof under which human existence happens– into a material cloth limit, into a viewable and touchable space. Sky Wreck is modeled on architect, inventor, utopian and mathematician Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome design. 110 triangles and 330 edges of cotton dyed with indigo in Auroville, India come together to bring human's relationship with the firmament to life. Much like her works on the mapping and topology of walking, Sky Wreck is a map of the sky which uses a material medium to delineate the limits of life as we know it. Furthermore, Sky Wreck looks to blur the notion that our limits, be they physical, linguistic, epistemological or other, are separate from us, and we are separate from them. Are we the sky? Asks Mirra.

To this effect, Mirra is deeply interested in different pedagogical approached to the relation between humans and nature. Field Geometry strongly reflects this, for it takes the concept of Kindergarten as coined by Friedrich Froebel in the 1930s and musicalizes it by recording children participating in Froebel's activities and mixing these recordings with that of a guitar. Froebel believed that child education had to be an interrelated system, whereby different subjects were taught in the way that crystals and forests naturally exist: as one big whole instead of many small ones.

Finally, Ronda Baro de Linajo's linen bars, which are inspired by the works of André Cadere (1934-1978), are created through a process of many years of weaving the available materials. Just as Cadere's exception in his patterns on his pieces, Ronda Baro is an exception in Mirra’s work. An exception referring to another exception, while also inexactly intimating it in form.

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Helen Mirra was born in Rochester, New York in 1970 and lives in Muir Beach, CA. In 2015 she participated in the 12th Havana Biennial with a month-long walking project. She also participated in the 30th São Paulo Biennial (2012) and the 50th Venice Biennial (2003). A fifteen year survey (1996-2010) of her work was presented at Culturgest in Lisbon in 2014. Major exhibitions include "Du vent au vent" at the Rochechouart Museum (2022), "Nueve años caminado en las laderas" at the Museo de Arte Zapopan (MAZ), Jalisco MX (2020), “Acts for placing woolen and linen” at Cample Line (2020), Thornhill SCT; “No Horizon” at the Berkeley Art Museum (2019); “Gehen, weben/Caminare, tessere” at Kunst Meran/Merano Arte (2017); “Hourly Directional” at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and with Ernst Karel at the MIT List Visual Arts Center (both Cambridge MA and in 2014); “gehend (Field Recordings 1-3)”, which was held at three venues: Haus Konstruktiv, Zürich (2012), KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and Bonner Kunstverein (both 2011), “65 Instants” at the Berkeley Art Museum (2003), “Declining Interval Lands” at the Whitney Museum in New York (2002); and “Sky-wreck” at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2001). Mirra has been awarded various fellowships and residencies, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (2020), OCA in Oslo (2007/08), DAAD in Berlin (2005/2006), and IASPIS in Stockholm (2011).