First Floor

The Golden Bough II
Katie Holten

February 20, 2010 - March 28, 2010

February 20 – March 28, 2010
Opening Saturday February 20, 6-9pm
LMAKprojects 139 Eldridge Street between Broome and Delancey

Katie Holten’s statement regarding The Golden Bough II, 2010

In the summer of 2009 I was invited to have a solo exhibition at the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. The exhibition series is called The Golden Bough and I immediately wanted to find out what exactly The Golden Bough is. So – I went in search of it – I got a copy of the book that gives the series its name. I quickly realised that no one quite knows what it is. It’s a myth. It’s a story. It’s a study in magic and religion. Perhaps The Golden Bough was mistletoe glowing golden in the winter light? An optical illusion? Or in Greco-Roman times they say it was a mystical tree – when Aeneas breaks a branch from the tree he gains entrance to Hades. Breaking the branch represents the division of good and evil, of light and dark. My own personal reading of The Golden Bough is that it is an acknowledgement of the systems that different societies have used to catalogue and understand nature.
Around the same time that I was reading The Golden Bough I came across the ‘average colour of the universe’. It was ‘discovered’ by astronomers at Johns Hopkins University. I was immediately intrigued – how can we claim to know what the average colour of the entire known universe is? And what does it mean? And does it matter? It turns out that the scientists discovered not one, but two colours. ‘Cosmic Turquoise’ was the first result, but when the scientists realised that there was a mistake with their calculations they declared it the ‘incorrect average color of the universe’. They recalculated and the ‘correct’ average colour was revealed to be ‘Cosmic Latte’. The absurdity and inherent inaccuracies of this scientific discovery are fabulous! Our never-ending search to understand, catalogue and control nature and the world around us is inherently futile and flawed. For me these two colours represent our wondrous, cosmic hope – continuously searching to understand why we are here and what here is exactly – as well as our profound failure. We don’t know what The Golden Bough is, yet we keep reading and searching and imagining.
I have painted as much of the gallery wall as I can physically reach with ‘Cosmic Turquoise’ – the ‘incorrect’ average colour of the universe – and the rest of the wall is painted the ‘correct’ average colour of the universe. Perhaps it is no coincidence that my apartment was flooded this time last year. The watermark is mirrored on the walls here. Although it is no coincidence that I experienced extreme weather conditions during my one-month residency in Dublin this January while I was installing The Golden Bough. I have an ongoing correspondence with climate scientists who are researching ‘Snowball Earth’, amongst other things, and there is endless talk of weather, growth, dependency, bubbles, disaster, sickness, disease, non-natives/natives, change, mitigation, adaptation…
This winter, while researching The Golden Bough, I have also been participating in ‘Landscapes of Quarantine’, an interdisciplinary research studio that examines the spatial implications of quarantine. I made an expedition to the abandoned quarantine island of North Brother (where I took many, many photographs including the one presented here).
The Golden Bough II is a ‘mirror image’ of my concurrent solo exhibition The Golden Bough. It is composed of a photograph accompanying a collection of drawings and drawn objects made on site with a copy of The Golden Bough that tell my own version of the story.

LMAKprojects is pleased to present Katie Holten’s The Golden Bough II, a sister show to Holten’s concurrent solo exhibition at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, (January 27 – April 2, 2010).

At the root of Katie Holten’s practice is a curiosity with natural systems. Examining the meaning of ‘environment’ and the significance of place, her work is an ongoing investigation of the inextricable relationship between humans and the natural world. She has recently collaborated with historians, geophysicists, musicians, botanists, ecologists, teachers, and architects. The Golden Bough II is a continuation of these collaborations and of her exploration of science, organic processes and our understanding of nature.

When Holten was commissioned to participate in The Hugh Lane’s Golden Bough series she turned to the book – The Golden Bough – Sir James George Frazer’s 1890 comparative study of magic and religion, seeing it as a touchstone of epistemology and a compendium of creation myths that are precursors to scientific understanding today. Holten’s reading of the book as evidence of man’s attempt to control and catalogue nature is incorporated into the shows’ use of color. Holten often works in black and white but for this project she will incorporate the ‘average’ color of the universe as determined by astronomers at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. She will paint the gallery walls in two colors, both the ‘incorrect’ version, popularly called ‘cosmic turquoise’ and the ‘corrected’ calculation, ‘cosmic latte’. The remainder of the installation will combine drawing, sculpture and text.

The two Golden Bough exhibitions follow Holten’s Tree Museum (2009-2010), which was commissioned by the Bronx Museum, Wave Hill and the New York City Parks Department to commemorate the centennial of the Bronx’s Grand Concourse. Tree Museum created an audio guide for one hundred trees lining the historic boulevard. In December 2009 she participated in Tipping Point at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory as she continues collaborating with Klaus Lackner (Geophysicist and Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, Earth Institute, at Columbia).