Brenna Murphy
Sentient Sequence

Sorbus gallery is proud to present a new site specific installation by Brenna Murphy. Brenna Murphy (b. 1986) is a multidisciplinary artist from the United States, currently living and working in Portland, Oregon. Her work in Sorbus will consist of natural materials collected from Vaasankatu. The actual work will be executed by the Sorbus team according to instructions given by the artist over the internet. We interviewed Brenna via email in October, 2014.

Sorbus: We heard you were in Switzerland recently. What did you do there?

Brenna Murphy: My collaborative duo MSHR made a sculpture/sound/light installation at Kunsthaus Langenthal. It was part of a group show curated by Rafael Dorrig. The piece was sort of the culmination of the work we made during our residency at Eyebeam during the summer. It turned out to be two room-size light-audio feedback systems embedded in a hyper-glyph sculptural array.

S: What are you going to show at Sorbus? What is it made of and what is it about?

BM: I’m going to design an array of sorbus tree materials to fit the space! I’m interested in the activity of “arrangement” as a way of engaging with physical reality. It exercises a certain part of the mind to intuitively organize elements into spatial formations. And then when its finished you can look at it as a sort of mandala- to see your mind splayed out into patterned bits. In the case of this show, it seemed like a good idea to limit the materials specifically to the Sorbus tree ~ to make a Sorbus poem sculpture!

S: How do you start working?

BM: I think there is no beginning, just reacting to the last thing.

S: What kind of art has recently inspired you?

BM: Tibetan Buddhist, Vodou Veves, Papua New Guinean Bis Poles, Navajo Sand Paintings.

S: We in Sorbus are now collecting materials for your installation and then we’ll arrange them according to your instructions. Have you done this kind of work before where you are making a physical piece but do not have physical contact with the work at all?

BM: I have designed sculptural objects that other people have fabricated for me – which is always a trip! It’s crazy to see something that was in your mind and computer suddenly become manifested in physical space. But I’ve never handed over the act of arrangement to someone else. This has always felt important for me to do myself. But in this case it just felt right! Partially because the checkerboard floor gives a good solid format. And also because you guys are cool and I’m excited for the collaboration ;~)!

S: How does it feel to let go of control in the building process? (It does feel a bit like by giving us the set of rules / instructions for your installation you are kind of making a computer program for us where we move the chosen components around until it becomes a powerful entity.)

BM: Ah I love this idea of creating a sculpture computer program! ;~) I’m very excited to try it!

S: You say in your interview done for Rhizome Artist Profile (2011) that you play with the idea that reality is a trippy entity that you can learn more about by making poetic models of it. After working several years with this idea in the back of your head, can you tell us what you have learned of reality by making models of it?

BM: Sorry, I’m not allowed to tell. Haha just kidding… The idea of “model making” has continued to be really useful for me. I think making a model of something beyond your understanding can reveal forms that you didn’t know you could sense. I’m really focused on establishing and strengthening mental pathways that can bring me to new vistas – toward expanded perspectives. My videos, sculptures, performances, etc. are like touchstones of my journey. So I can’t say I’ve learned any specific facts with this method, but rather subtly strengthened and expanded my ways of seeing.

S: In the same Rhizome interview Ian Glover described your online images with a charming expression two-dimensional chant. Chanting is considered in diverse spiritual traditions as a route to spiritual development. What sort of role do you think repetition has in your practise?

BM: Yes I love this term “two-dimensional chant” and I think it is a very apt description of my work! Well, repetition is a structure that you can run your mind through to focus it, to clear your thought bubbles away and just be consumed by pattern. There’s something fundamentally ecstatic about repetition for the human mind. I think it has to do with finding pattern from noise. I use repetition as a formal technique for building visual meditations.

S: What do you think about the relation between art and spirituality? For example, icons are not considered as art, but as sacred objects and as windows into the realm of God.

BM: Yes, there’s a vast tradition of cultures developing visual codes that were perfected over generations to access and reveal cosmic structures (Navajo and Tibetan sand paintings for example!) Today art can be a lot of different things, but at its core I think its a mode of inquiry and engagement – which certainly can but doesn’t necessarily include the realm of Goddess. Personally, I’m interested in art as a form of spiritual technology and my whole practice really revolves around this. Though I don’t think its possible in the same way as those cultures that developed vast collective cosmologies. The art culture I find myself in today values individual invention rather than collaborative innovation, which I think really changes the possible types of transcendence that the work can have. But its important to work with the times that you find yourself in – I think the focus on the individual can even be used as a spiritual tool… carving your avatar as a manifestation of the goddess!? Though I have to admit I’m attracted to the traditional role of artist as anonymous transmitter of cosmic info.

S: Can you give a recommendation for music, film or literature related to your work in Sorbus?

BM: Kemialliset Ystävät, Maya Deren, Terence McKenna.

S: Who else should exhibit in Sorbus?

BM: Raul De Nieves, Morgan Ritter, Kareem Lotfy, Genevieve Belleveau, Sabrina Ratte.

S: What are you working on at the moment?

BM: I’m working on the Sorbus show ;~)! And I’m also working on some new sculptures for a show I have opening this week at American Medium in Brooklyn.


SUNDAY 26.10.2014 AT 12 PM
Art Meditation: Sentient Sequence

Please join us for a mid-day meditation around Brenna Murphy’s site-specific installation at Sorbus.

We will sit quietly for one hour around the installation. During the hour if you would like to share a thought or feeling that comes to you while meditating on the installation you can share it aloud. This is not meant to be a discussion, however, so after someone has spoken please leave a few minutes of silence before sharing your own thoughts.

It may be that we will experience an hour of silence. That is perfectly fine as well. Do not feel obligated to say anything if you are not moved to do so!


Brenna Murphy – Sentient Sequence

Lokakuussa Sorbus-galleriassa nähdään yhdysvaltalaisen Brenna Murphyn uusi paikkasidonnainen installaatioteos. Brenna Murphy (s. 1986) on monialainen taiteilija, joka asuu ja työskentelee Portlandissa, Oregonissa. Sorbukseen tuleva teos toteutetaan taiteilijan antaman etäohjeistuksen mukaan, ja se koostuu Vaasankadulta kerätyistä luonnonmateriaaleista.

Haastattelimme Brenna Murphyä sähköpostitse lokakuussa 2014. Puhuimme mm. Sorbus-työryhmän ohjelmoimisesta netin välityksellä, tajunnan laajentamisesta ja taiteesta hengellisen teknologian muotona. Englanninkielinen haastattelu on luettavissa ohessa.


Taidemeditaatio/-kontemplaatio Brenna Murphyn Sentient Sequence -näyttelyssä.

Istumme tunnin hiljaa teoksen äärellä. Tilaisuutta ei ole tarkoitettu keskusteluksi, mutta mieleen tulevan ajatuksen saa halutessaan jakaa ääneen. Sen jälkeen kun joku on puhunut, olemme muutaman minuutin hiljaa ennen oman ajatuksemme jakamista.

Jos mieleen ei tule sanottavaa, voimme hyvin myös istua tunnin hiljaisuudessa.