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Communicating in the language of the occult, artist Yin-Ju Chen’s works explore planetary-scaled themes, such as man and nature, the collective (un)-consciousness, power and totality, past, present, and future catastrophes, and religion. Chen’s Extrastellar Evaluations series (2016 – ongoing) delivers absurd yet telling narratives that evoke mythologies, popular conspiracies, spiritualism, and pseudoscience, challenging viewers to adopt strange worldviews and meditate on various subjects with a less anthropocentric perspective.
Extrastellar Evaluations (2016), the first work in the series, presents fragments of history as evidence of an alien existence on Earth, the Lemurians from the Pleiades star cluster. The multimedia installation features a video set in the scenery of the enchanted indigenous land of Mt. Shasta. It alludes to the elusive Lemurian spiritual leader “Adama,” a wall diagram, a letter by psychic medium “Lucia,” a projection of the Pleiades, and various objects that reference the minimalist movement, including James Turrell’s light projections, Carl Andre’s metal plates, Donald Judd’s cubes, and Mel Bochner’s crystal grids. These artworks are reinterpreted here as the Lemurians’ means of intergalactic communication. The cryptic wall diagram not only furthers the uncanny association between art and aliens, but also incorporates photos of human disasters from the ‘60s into this celestial web, offering the viewer an alternative interpretation of history and human existence. Treating artworks as changing entities open to new, even outlandish narratives, Chen playfully defies the logic of canonization, a process of immortalization. In the meantime, the work evokes a kind of non-human-centric “immortality” by alluding to mystical agencies that would eventually outlast humankind.