Jeremy Shaw: Liminals

Born in Vancouver and now based in Berlin, Jeremy Shaw explores altered states and the cultural and scientific practices that attempt to capture transcendental experience. The artist draws on and often combines the strategies of documentary filmmaking, music video, conceptual art, and scientific research to create a space of ambiguity in which disparate belief systems and histories are thrown into interpretive limbo.

This exhibition—Shaw’s first in the United States in over ten years—brings together prismatic lens-refracted photographs from the artist’s ongoing series Towards Universal Pattern Recognition with the video Liminals (2017), part of his Quantification Trilogy. The Trilogy films purport to have been made at different moments in the future and, in ethnographic style, to explore life in marginalized societies following a technological advancement that has mapped all parameters of spiritual experience. This is known as “The Quantification.” In this future’s “reality,” humans are meant to feel a certainty of purpose and belonging in the world without traditional means like ritual and myth.

Staged as an episode from a documentary television series, Liminals is set three generations from the present but shot in a 1970s cinema verité style, with narrator voice-over. The subject is a radical sect called “The Liminals,” who have discovered that the loss of capacity for faith poses an existential threat to the human species. They believe that by augmenting their brains with machine DNA and practicing abandoned disciplines like Kundalini yoga, whirling, and dance, they can access a space between the physical and virtual, where humanity can reach a new stage of evolution. The video achieves a cathartic audiovisual climax as the group succeeds, opening questions about what it means to be human in a technological future.