Review||Sophia Sobers: perceptual limits, invading environs

a little something different for you, today – a consideration of someone else’s work. (View the artist is question’s work at

The immediately apparent issues considered in Sophia Sober’s work are biomorphic patterning and structure in relation to viewer proximity, a focus that transports us to a different place. Project such as At Night and Re-Formed Biospheres have a quality of a constructed environment which is reminiscent of the hanging fruit of a nightmare forest; the presence of “hanging” as a central element in so much of her work (Enclosure, What Remains, Mutation A-34) creates a belief that somewhere, there are complete biomes of these synthetic growths and the trees and caverns from which the grow, and that Sobers simply makes expeditions to harvest samples from time to time, and merely claims them as her own construction as she wishes to keep their origin as her  own little secret, a realm into which she may slip on her own with no outside interruption. Perhaps her reticence to take to her harvesting fields is to our own benefit; would we contaminate her environment and kill it off, or would we carry spores back into our world on our clothing and end up destroying our own world? Sophia recently commented that over time, Moving Column has not worked as well as it used to and needs to be retired. Her diction missed the mark; moving column is a living thing (though mechanical) that is dying; one does not retire such an object, one buries it.

“Enclosure” is just one of the scenes that will draw you into a foreign world.

This brings to mind the second aspect of Sober’s work, the underlying gnosis that has taken longer for me to stumble onto. In a few projects (What Remains, Moving Column, Sensing Responding), she has created systems that respond/react/adjust in a graspable range, but the limits of that range are different for each project. Her work sometimes changes in a timescale that would require more time invested than most visitors to an art show can/would spend. This is a damn shame, as the change is satisfying more on the order of seasons than of firework, which is what our short-term driven society demands. This, however, is perhaps the latent strength of the exploration. The work is uniquely suited to a public space which people will experience daily, such as a transit station or office lobby.

metal and water react in a dramatic way, but not always in a timescale that humans inhabit. to the eyes of a slowed being, the rusting of a can is as frightening as a fire is to us.

The question of ranges of perception is raised. From whence and to whence is her catalog progressing? Will she explore slower and slower changes, or faster, more immediate ones? To my mind, for this artist to continue growing, her work must encompass a variety of extremes in timescales. Going back to my original thought of an alien environment that Sobers seems to be harvesting, there is the difference between the flowers which open and close within a day, a falling fruit, the change of the leaves, and the rotting of the trunk. At the risk of our environment, I’m hoping that the invasion continues. There’s a beauty of life and death in the work that is strangely grim, feminine, and contradictingly delicate and violent. Your ability to appreciate the terror and joy of change will be directly related to the calibration of your perception of limits.

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