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Tauba Auerbach - The Science of Art

Words:

Edd Norval
October 18, 2021

Many artists will fall in love with a medium and choose to explore the possibilities of that, their themes shifting throughout their lives just as tastes, preferences and experiences ebb and flow during one’s existence. Then, we have an artist like Tauba Auerbach, who prefers to find artistic mediums that best allow her to explore her favoured concepts - science, mathematics and geometry.

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In these fields, space and time are two of the most recurrent themes. They’re big questions that, ultimately, don’t have any big answers. Yet, for most scientists, that is where their love of these ideas reside - in the sense of mystery. It isn’t about the catch, as much as the chase. 


Mapping out the plethora of opportunities to understand space and time is Auerbach, whose works come on various mediums, with recognisable symbols like helixes, colour gradients and various other spatial and mathematical icons. Looking at her work, it’s clear that it resides in a borderland between art and science, a fertile ground where she can deconstruct and explore the various structural elements of each.


One space in the Venn Diagram that Auerbach lands is in linguistics and communication - how something highly conceptual can be displayed in an artistic manner - whether that be through her use of text, or of other symbols. Her approach to this ranges from the facade of a ship, in a piece that engages with waves - in nature and in artist form - and motion, to the construction of an organ, playable only if given requisite air by somebody on the opposite adjoining instrument. Here, we can contemplate on mirroring, duality and dual dependency.

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Others take the form of installations, showcasing the minutiae of a machine or a more whole look at science in a human context, with an illuminated operating table the focus of 2018’s Non-Invasive Procedure. Most of her works flit between defined genres. Some more abstract, others conceptual. Most retain a sense of the graphic, that these designs are all very consciously meant to be designs (rather than recreations of things that appear naturally, for example) and that, importantly, they communicate something to somebody.


The arrangement and rearrangement of certain patterns and symbols give the artist room for recontextualisation and interpretation - something that bleeds into the linguistic and more ‘mathematical’ work similarly. Coming from a household of creative types - her parent’s operate a theatre consultancy - Auerbach knows about expression, but also about the importance of consistency, illusion, clean lines and creating something completely holistic. 

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In theatre, the smallest error can snap the audience out of the whole performance. Likewise with art, the littlest detail that feels off can turn a provocation for reflection into little more than just something that’s there for some reason. Auerbach’s work is clinical, pristine and, as a result, commanding of our attention.


Creating work with little fuss, the artist has surrounded herself with good people in the art world. From her influential gallerist Paula Cooper, to the friends, venues and exhibitions. Everything seems to be well thought through. There’s nothing that’s down to chance, a crossover between life and her art. Continually working in multimedia experimentalism, Auerbach has propped herself up with smart choices, looking for longevity and impact in a profession that too often succumbs to fads and trends - something that she, evidently, will never do.

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