Exploratorium Artist-in-Residence Nina Katchadourian works across various media—including photography, sculpture, video, and sound—incorporating playful juxtapositions and conceptual twists to provoke us to re-see everyday natural and cultural phenomena.
Her new work for the Exploratorium is Floater Theater, an intimate theatrical environment that whimsically prompts participants to explore the fascinating, commonly experienced phenomenon of eye floaters.
Katchadourian’s two-year engagement in the Exploratorium’s laboratory-like environment, took as its point of departure her experience as a test subject in the so-called Marshmallow Test. Conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School in the early 1970s, this infamous study investigated the capacity for delayed gratification in children. Katchadourian’s experience as a test subject, and her memories about whether she resisted or gave into temptation as a four-year old, have been a lifelong preoccupation.
While Katchadourian began investigating the social behavior surrounding delayed gratification during her residency, she became curious about boredom. Are the wanderings of the mind important to creativity? What do we do when we’re bored? She pondered how the phenomena that we associate with boredom, as well as the minutiae that we find ourselves contemplating when we lack stimulation—dust, empty rooms, white noise— can actually be quite fascinating. This led to an exploration of eye floaters, and the language used to describe this observable phenomenon in our visual field that others cannot directly experience.
Katchadourian's work has been exhibited domestically and internationally at PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, Saatchi Gallery, Turner Contemporary, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, the Palais de Tokyo, and De Appel. In June 2006, the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs exhibited a ten-year survey of her work and published an accompanying monograph entitled All Forms of Attraction. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego presented a solo show of recent video installation works in July 2008. In February 2010, she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, New Zealand, which culminated in a solo show entitled Seat Assignment. She recently completed work on a prize-winning permanent public piece, Grand State of Maine, commissioned by the GSA for a border-crossing station between the United States and Canada. In April 2013, the monograph Sorted Books was published by Chronicle Books on the 20-year anniversary of Katchadourian's Sorted Books project. A new video work by Katchadourian is currently on view as part of the exhibition Explode Every Day at MASSMoCA. In spring 2016 the Museum of Modern Art in New York will present Katchadourian's sound-based project on the subject of dust as part of their program "Artists Experiment." In Spring 2017, a touring solo museum show of Katchadourian’s work will open at the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas. Katchadourian is on the faculty at New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.