May Gallery & Residency is hosting a closing party for Derek Larson's "â®aâ¦â®riâ¡ â©€aâ¤â®h" tonight, Friday, November 30 from 7:30-11 pm. As we say goodbye, Taylor Murrow reviews.
“Meditate on the layered currencies of the world, ” Derek Larson instructs. In “â®aâ¦â®riâ¡ â©€aâ¤â®h,” it’s difficult not to. International currency symbols are piled upon one another to form his fiscal “yantra” prints. In blindingly bright yellows, greens, pinks, and blues, they seem to radiate electromagnetic waves from the walls, surrounding the three video installations in the gallery’s center. In these glutted montages, people stand around, totally unaffected by their surroundings, transfixed by smartphones and other mobile devices. They transfer and absorb information at breakneck speed, while waterfalls of neon color ooze over them repeatedly like sludge.
While traditional yantras are intended to lead the viewer to spiritual devotion through meditation, Larson’s are hypnotic to the point of disorientation. Yen, krona, pound, and euro are mashed together to form bewildering patterns, spinning the viewer towards some warped contemporary appropriation of enlightenment. In the videos, more currency symbols swirl around the tech-obsessed in a dizzying haze.
Larson’s juxtaposition of these motifs with ancient meditative practices is of course ironic—monetary wealth is irrelevant on the path to nirvana. But the questions he raises are sincere. Have we allowed our level of electronic connectivity to outweigh our spiritual capital? Can one even compete with the other or are they equally sacred in our daily lives? Larson’s digital zombies are following a doctrine built on a foundation of 4G networks and air-thin tablets; they are seemingly being consumed by their consumerism, with no foreseeable end in sight. Larson notes, “Current psychological research actually suggests that having fewer choices will make you happier,” but it remains uncertain whether we are too late to eliminate the excess from our lives and clear our minds. We may have already redefined happiness and created a new temple of worship.