A "transporter" is a common science fiction trope, a teleportation machine that can instantly send an individual or object from one place to another, popularized most commonly in Star Trek, or The Fly. One hypothetical concern was its potential "accidents," in which the device might incorrectly materialize its source. Like in Mel Brooks' classic Space Balls in which a "microconverter malfunction" accidentally places Brooks' head on backwards, giving him a better view of his behind.
Enter Transporter, a group exhibition curated by Katie Shapiro and Sean Higgins, at Los Angeles' Paul Kopeikin Gallery, which includes photography, video, and sculpture that addresses these lapses and distortions in transportational movement.
The exhibition is up though June 17th, 2017.
I contacted curator Katie Shaprio to learn more about her and Higgins' ideas behind the exhibition.
Interview by Jon Feinstein
Jon Feinstein: What prompted the idea for Transporter?
Katie Shapiro: It actually started as a conversation between Sean Higgins (artist and co-curator of the exhibition) and I at my opening at Kopeikin gallery back in September of last year. He was noticing how much our work was intersecting and I got excited because I hadn’t really thought about that even though it clearly is so much. We got together shortly thereafter to look at his new work and also talked about organizing a show together of other artists who might be working in similar ways, or with similar ideas. And it kinda took off from there.
Feinstein: I love the title.
Shapiro: We were coming up with titles that suggested liminal spaces, or mind spaces, something to talk about landscape on a greater more open scale than a picturesque scene. We were certainly thinking about sci-fi ideas and Transporter came up since it’s this sci-fi fantasy device where you could beam yourself from one place to another, like in Star Trek. The more we talked about the show and the works, we wanted to express the idea that these works take you out of yourself, like much art does, and the metaphor of the transporter device just stuck.
Feinstein: I'm gathering that you are a big sci-fi fan, yes?
Shapiro: For sure, we are both sci-fi fans. Like I mentioned the title is from Star Trek. The Transporter device just fit in really perfectly with our idea of works that take you someplace else. I think ideas of other dimensions existing which we can’t see, or realities beyond our perceptions are certainly present in the general theme of the show and as sci-fi tropes.
Feinstein: How did you go about selecting the artists for the show?
Shapiro: That was so fun but also so tough. We wanted to include so many artists, even with our long list of 11, we had to make tough decisions. We pulled from each of our own ideas and network, then came together to compile the list and see who really fit. There was a mix of people Sean knew and some that I knew, and some neither of us had any connection with but we really loved the work and just hoped they would agree to showing some pieces in it.
Feinstein: You and Sean Higgins both included some of your own work. How did this fit into the curatorial process? Were there any challenges to your dual role as artist/ curator?
Shapiro: Yeah, it was really interesting and enlightening to be on the other side of organizing a show. The show was born out of our own overlaps within both of our art practices, so it made sense to include some of our own work in it since that is what started the conversation. We each chose each others work, effectively curating each other into the show. The challenges though, if any, were mostly administrative and managerial type challenges. Talking to the artists, visiting studios, and picking out work was all such a lovely part of the process. And we had an awesome group of artists we were working with, so it was pretty painless. But it was illuminating to be on the other side in terms of learning what the curatorial side is, and to be aware and more cognizant of the whole process of putting a show together.
Feinstein: Does this exhibition speak to our current political climate?
Shapiro: If anything I wish there was a transporter device to take us all back to something closer to political sanity, but I don’t think we had any overt political ideas that entered into our thinking when planning the show. I think it’s something that can be read into based on what our current state of affairs are, but I would say that is more due to the politics than the shows intentions. However, though none of the works are overtly political, some works deal with apocalyptic or environmental concerns, health of rivers, dust of the past, social strata etc.
Feinstein: On that note, is Transporter Device about escapism on some level?
Shapiro: That is an interesting observation, I never thought of it in those terms, but I suppose yes it could be seen that way. I think many of the works have elements of other worlds or places that they take the viewer to. I see it more as looking beyond our understanding of the world, than escapism. I guess escapism seems more to reference wanting to get away from something, where as I think these works speak more to different perceptions and movements in between their own spaces.
Transporter is up through June 17th at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.
Bio: Born in 1983, Katie Shapiro received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 2015 and a BFA in Photography from CalArts in 2007. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, LTD Gallery, Los Angeles, Ms. Barbers, Los Angeles and Aperture Gallery, New York. Her work has received coverage in Artforum, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Magazine and is housed in private collections as well as in the permanent collection at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Shapiro lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.