The Sensitive Project by Catalina Tuca, NYC (Review)

Installation view. Catalina Tuca, “The Sensitive Project” at Lydian Stater, NY, 2023. Photo by Yi Hsuan Lai @flaneurshan

As human coexistence takes place in language, learning to be human is learned simultaneously in a continuous intertwining of our language and emotions according to our lives. I call this intertwining of language and emotions conversing. This is why human living occurs, in fact, in conversing.

Humberto Maturana[1]

Entering the exhibition of Catalina Tuca (Chile, 1977) at Lydian Stater, one realizes that they’re entering a place of intimacy. An inner site in which multimedia work composed of video, sound, and objects conducts the viewer to a state of attention and awareness. One quickly perceives that while looking at a series of different works, these are presented as an orchestrated unity in which some works take the lead; still, as one spends time inside the space, other quiet elements emerge with a stronger presence, subtly taking up our entire attention.

The Sensitive Project (2020-present) emerges from Tuca’s profound interest in what is human and her perspective on objects as projections of that humanness, with its differences, limits, and possibilities. Born amid the pandemic, it proposes practices of inner observation and connection to the body, feelings, and emotions explored through conversations later translated into the digital and physical worlds through interpretation, perception, and reproduction processes. These practices follow a series of steps defined and coordinated by the artist that depart from one-on-one conversations with a group of people to describe specific emotions through a series of questions designed by Tuca. The answers are recorded and sent to a wholly disconnected group of people to render that description digitally. In the third stage, Tuca brings digital rendering into the material world through different sculptural techniques spanning 3d prints, resin, clay, and silicone rubber, at times made directly by Tuca and others commissioned to other artists and makers. The results are audiovisual and sculptural artworks that materialize the emotions’ relationships with each participant in the conversation.

Installation detail. Sculpture, silicone rubber, 6 x 6 x 7 inches, Emotion of Ryan Doherty (Canada) 3D model by Esteban Ramirez (Chile) Catalina Tuca, “The Sensitive Project” at Lydian Stater, NY, 2023.
Photo by Yi Hsuan Lai @flaneurshan

Tuca’s interest in human emotions is inspired by Humberto Maturana’s biological and philosophical theories on emotions, relations, and perception of organisms as dynamic systems that invariably function in relation to something or someone. Thus, The Sensitive Project is a humanistic inquiry into ancient consciousness and knowledge forms. It explores the liminal space between the realms of the intuitive and the objective as auto-referencing autonomous systems[2] weaved through language and intuition. Besides all the attempts that philosophers and scientists have made in describing intuition, it remains a strange notion that we simply cannot express but just feel; it is fugitive in the sense that it changes and moves, appears and disappears; we’re unable to grasp it unless we use the tools of the senses and the language ascribed to them. Our conduit of connection to the world is in the body –we learn through our bodies– but is intuition something we access through our bodies or brains? Perhaps the answer is away from the cartesian division imposed by the white Western patriarchal ordering that establishes a conflict between feeling and thinking. For Tuca, the answer locates body and mind precisely as an integrated form of knowing and engaging with the world, and it not only exists through body and mind but also through connections with time and space. To be attuned to one’s feelings and integrate them as forms of knowing the world is, in the words of H. Maturana, “to be in the interior of the experience.”[3]

Installation detail. Sculpture, 3D Print, 4 x 4 x 8 inches, Emotion of Vishal Kumaraswamy (India) 3D model by Jett Strauss (USA) Catalina Tuca, “The Sensitive Project” at Lydian Stater, NY, 2023. Photo by Yi Hsuan Lai @flaneurshan

The carefully installed exhibition defeats many of the classic display rules of museums and galleries; it is conducive for people to sit on the floor and be surrounded by these feelings. While the multiple videos with the rendered emotions are played simultaneously on five different screens, the audience hears only one voice at a time. As we adjust to the space, we listen to whispers from two pairs of headphones available to access other emotions’ sounds. The small, darkened space augments the sense of awareness of the room and the intimacy felt in connection with those voices describing what is inside them. Many of the elements in the exhibition space require a sense of curiosity to be discovered, as not all are evenly lit. This gesture is intentional –it forces the viewer to look beyond what is evident to find the nuances that make emotions unique.

Still image from video animation. Emotion: Andres Briceño (Chile) Animation: Luna Lafflaxx (Chile) Catalina Tuca, “The Sensitive Project” at Lydian Stater, NY, 2023

The series of intertwined relations is a distinct portrait of the complexities through which people grappled at the peak of the pandemic and a testimony of human coexistence. But mostly, they are representations that play with “the possibility of imagining as the impossibility of objectivity.”[4] With this in mind, Tuca has arranged multiple dialogues that cross, collaborate and intersect in this exhibition to explore what is possible and what is not when speaking about humanity and our relations with each other and with the physical world. The list of works provided by the gallery gives an account of the number of allies involved in creating each emotion, inadvertently creating a support system. It also opens a small window to understand the complex weaving that took place for The Sensitive Project to exist as one orchestrated symphony of emotions that are described as complicated, ephemeral, heavy, volcanic, dense, rounded, airy, with fingers, pulsating, heavy, hollow, that turn into smoke, or that moves through different parts of a body.

Most importantly, for Tuca, the essence of the project is not in the resolved emotions that it presents but in the process of that resolution. The conversations she establishes with each participant at each project stage are the knots that tie together a collective representation that combines the internal and external configuration of a personal and collective ecosystem. ºº

[1] Maturana, Humberto R. El sentido de lo humano. JC Sáez editor, 2003, 11 (my translation)

[2] Maturana, El sentido de lo humano, 29 (my translation)

[3] Maturana, El sentido de lo humano, 10 (my translation)

[4] Tuca, Catalina. From an interview conducted by Elisa Gutiérrez, April 2023.


The Sensitive Project

May 12 – June 10, 2023

Lydian Stater

51-02 21st Street Floor 4

Long Island City, NY 11101

Gallery visits by appointment at:  

Closing reception: Saturday, June 10, 1 – 4 pm  

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Elisa Gutiérrez

is a Mexican, Brooklyn-based curator, writer, and arts producer. Elisa currently pursues her Graduate Studies in Art History at Hunter College, specializing in contemporary Latin American art. In her research, Elisa focuses on decolonial practices, migration, ecology, and the intersections emerging from these overarching themes, with a particular focus on historically overlooked forms of knowledge.

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