Julia Oldham
Since 2007
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

I always have been a lover of bugs. My earliest memories are of exploring the woods, overturning rocks to find worms, grubs, and slugs. When I was a little older, I went to a summer camp where my duty was to feed the lobsters in the science lab, and I savored my intimate time with those strange crustaceans. In college I was interested in scientific illustration and took classes in which I would painstakingly stipple dragonflies and other specimens. My models were always dead, pinned insects. I didn’t want the company of dead bugs, though; I wanted a personal connection to living things. I wanted to handle them, maybe to become them.

My work is an attempt to enter the mind of the invertebrate. I want to understand what it feels like to engage in their behaviors, movements and rituals. So I intensely study invertebrates—I read about them; I watch videos of their movements; I watch live creatures in the wild and in zoos; I talk to beekeepers and scientists. I contemplate the odd gestures of bugs and try to bring them into my world.

Invertebrates engage in enthusiastic, although often inelegant, dances for purposes of mating and communication. Humans are similarly inclined to dance in order to communicate an idea or invite sex; and so I use dance to bridge species. I translate invertebrates’ rituals into choreography that I perform, unpracticed, in front of the camera. During my engagement in these dances, a strange system emerges as I try to remember which movement to perform next. The dance begins to feel oddly intuitive, but never graceful. The resulting videos are concerned with playful anthropomorphization. They are meditations on the fantasy that humans and invertebrates have a shared set of experiences, accessible through awkward, hybridized dance steps.
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Josh Melnick and Julia Oldham at Art in General

Fri May 29, 2009 00:00 - Mon May 25, 2009

Summer 2009 Opening Reception at Art in General
Friday, May 29, 2009
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
79 Walker Street
New York, NY 10013

Celebrate the new exhibitions at Art in General with New Commissions artists Josh Melnick and Julia Oldham.

The 8 Train
Josh Melnick

Through an extensive collection of slow motion black-and-white videos, Josh Melnick’s The 8 Train takes advantage of cutting edge scientific video technology to re-examine the function of portraiture. Set against the familiar backdrop of the New York City subway, Melnick’s split-second portraits of New York City subway riders extend a fraction of real time in the life of each rider for several minutes, creating an ethereal sense of suspended time somewhere between photographic stillness and cinematic motion. In The 8 Train, Melnick explores portraiture as a means of reorienting our perception of human relationships. Viewers are invited into the intimate textures and narratives of strangers from all walks of life, each of whom could be any one of us.

Josh Melnick is a graduate of Yale University. Formally trained in sculpture, Melnick began his career in film editing and directing. His work has been featured in film festivals around the world; he has twice taken part in RES, and twice taken part at Cannes. His music videos have garnered multiple MVPA and MTV nominations. In 2008, Melnick was selected for the Art in General New Commissions program; in 2009 he was awarded the ARC Grant from the Durfee foundation. This is his first solo exhibition.

The Timber
Julia Oldham

In The Timber Julia Oldham explores her fascination with bug culture through a combination of performance and video art. Oldham’s creations utilize her body’s physical presence to examine the conflict between unity and disharmony all human beings struggle with in relation to nature. Shooting her videos outdoors in the wilderness, she takes on the role of the insect, using her appendages to replicate the movements and respond to the sounds these creatures make during climactic life moments. Oldham’s art re-contextualizes the human relationship with nature, drawing attention to our competing responses of curiosity and repulsion when confronted with the insect world and relating them to our struggles between empathy for and alienation from nature.

Julia Oldham received a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Chicago in 2005. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, IL; The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA; and Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Her work has been supported by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; Artadia, the Fund for Art and Dialogue; and Art in General in New York. In October, 2009, she will participate in the Blue Mountain Center Residency in the Adirondacks.

The 8 Train and The Timber are both part of Art in General’s New Commissions Program, which is made possible by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The National Endowment for the Arts; the Jerome Foundation; and Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro.