Brenna Murphy weaves trans-dimensional labyrinths using personal recording devices, computer graphics programs and digital fabrication. Murphy’s work is an ongoing meditation on the psychedelic composition of embodied experience across physical and virtual realms. Murphy also works collaboratively with Birch Cooper under the collective name MSHR, producing interactive sound installations and ceremonial performances. Her work is represented by Upfor, Portland; and American Medium, New York.
I’m interested in expanding my perspective on the fundamental shape of reality. What is this realm of objects and entities in which I find myself? How is it arranged spatially and how does its temporal dimension unfold? For me, art is a method for engaging with these basic questions. I think of my work as poetic models of reality. I work intuitively, designing shapes/textures, arranging them in space, navigating and regarding them. It’s an exercise that keeps my senses alert to the subtle, goopy ingredients that hold things together. At its best, my workflow can become a positive feedback loop: observing reality, making models, considering the models, observing reality, and so on, expanding my mental framework further with each run through the loop.
I use an array of nested computer graphics programs to construct virtual realms, generate textures, sculpt forms, splice temporal sequences, etc. Using the computer as a tool and medium leads to a liquid approach. Anything I create can be zoomed/cut/colored/repeated. A photo is woven into a digital collage, which becomes a skin wrapped around a 3d object, embedded in a virtual landscape, to be explored through a screen recording- becoming raw material for another sequence of operations. The process for me becomes all about this dance, feeling out the inherent flow of interlocking digital systems by weaving pathways through them.
The web has been a natural repository for my work. I’m interested in the possibilities of web page as artistic medium. My ongoing project, Labyrinths, has been the center point of my web-work since 2009. The labyrinth is carved into the shared netscape through a series of linked web pages that contain talismanic arrangements of images, videos and sounds. All of the work is generated from my daily creative experimentation with computer graphics programs and new pages are added regularly.
Now that so many of us are connected through this network of light boxes, I believe it is essential to exploit, expand and explore the medium as much as possible. Social networking sites provide us with an incredibly effective platform for communication, but the rigidity of those programmed structures greatly restricts the form and content of conversations. At this point, the internet is still a wide open expanse that is made up of whatever we put into it. I am compelled to pioneer autonomous zones on the net that playfully experiment with the poetic possibilities of computer graphics programs and the web page format.
Building pathways between physical and virtual space is a fundamental part of my practice. While so much of my work is embedded in the digital landscape, I also work heavily in the physical realm, manifesting objects and constructing sculptural installations. I find that keeping an active workflow across dimensions can expand my approach to each. My main physical exercise has been “arranging.” The act of intuitively organizing units until they form a cohesive vibrating system that reflects my impressions of the shape of reality. Sometimes I think of this activity as constructing a physical language- the units are hieroglyphs and I’m stringing them into poems.
In my earlier sculptural work, I used exclusively found materials such as bricks, food and leaves. I chose materials that felt familiar to the point of becoming hyper-objects. As my practice developed, I found myself also needing to explore the forms of the hyper-objects themselves. So I began producing singular “hieroglyphic” sculptures with the aid of digital fabrication. I think of the sculptures as modular units that can be plucked from the cache and used as hieroglyphs for new spatial poems.
Alongside my personal practice, I’ve participated heavily in two related art collectives- Oregon Painting Society and MSHR. Both groups operate on a principle of absolute collaboration, with all output being the creation of the group mind. We build analog synthesizers, construct interactive light/sound installations and enact ceremonial performances. The underlying focus in the groups is to manifest ecstatic collective experiences through the creation of sensory systems and immersive realms.
MSHR tours frequently, installing and performing in a range of spaces from underground experimental music venues to large new media festivals and museums. Touring has been an incredible platform for maintaining active exchanges with my contemporaries across the world. For me, making art is both a personal exploration and a way of participating in a global dialog. I like to play with the idea that the art world is all working on one big project together and we’re each specialists exchanging research.
At its core, my workflow is a set of activities that I can pour my mind through to exercise it, make it more malleable, more self-aware and hopefully expanded so that I can see and understand more deeply the meta-structure of reality and my place in it.