Local artist collective spotlights importance of mental health


Students lay on pillows part of an installation called “Serotonin” at the opening reception for Macro Waves’ NVM Gallery at SF State on Monday, October 19, 2017. (Richard Lomibao/Golden Gate Xpress)

Mental health and the excessive use of technology are discussed in the latest exhibit at SF State’s  Associated Students’ art gallery.

Macro Waves, an artist collective based in Oakland, held the opening reception for NVM (never-mind) on Thursday, Oct. 19. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 12, but due to the air quality concerns from the North Bay fires, it was postponed.

The abbreviated title symbolizes the quick, shortcut-style communication of tech culture, and the words “never mind” represent the dismissive attitude toward mental issues. The exhibit addresses the link between excessive reliance on technological interaction and the development of mental issues like depression and anxiety.

“It scares me that it becomes a first response for many people, rather than face-to-face communication,” said Anna Rotty, an interdisciplinary artist viewing the gallery.

The installation is meant to resemble the subconscious mind, according to Jeffrey Yip, an SF State fine arts alumnus and new media specialist with Macro Waves. The space is split into a black section and a white section, contrasting anxiety and depression against comfort and bliss.

People attend the opening reception for Macro Waves’ NVM Gallery at SF State on Monday, October 19, 2017. (Richard Lomibao/Golden Gate Xpress)

Phones attached to whips and studded collars hang on the walls of the black area, representing the masochistic nature of valuing virtual approval. The white area has a TV screen with a looped video of a wave crashing ashore, surrounded by an altar of incense, herbs and candles.

The two sections also have metaphors in fabric form. Twisted, blanket-like material hangs from the ceiling on the black side, with straggled bases that are sprawled out on the floor. The white side has memory foam material hanging from the ceiling, stopping a foot or two above the floor, which left  room for soft pillows beneath.

The materials are not only meant to be symbolic, but also interactive. Yip said one of the collective’s goals is to build hands-on installations.

“One thing we’re focused on is giving an immersive experience,” Yip said. “To us, the experience itself is the art.”

Part of this immersion was an interpretive dance performed by Nesbyth Rieman, a performance artist. Wearing all black with a hat that hid her face, Rieman enacted a racing mind. She frantically ran between the black and white areas, stopping to hug the white pillows before stumbling around the black blankets.

Rieman said Macro Waves had the interpretive dance routine in mind, and after meeting them at a SOMArts event in August 2017, they thought she’d be a good fit. Robin David designed the outfit and Joshua Icban produced the theme music. David and Icban, both SF State alumni, are artist director and sound designer.

“I just brought myself and all of my experiences to it,” Rieman said.

The reception showed the cohesiveness of the exhibit. Macro Waves executed their idea in a unique and educational way.

“We’re living in a society where technology has kind of become our main platform for dealing with our trauma,” said Dominic Cheng, an event planner and SF State alumnus. “When we’re feeling frustrated, we might want to go onto Facebook and start venting to the rest of the world.”

Cheng believes gatherings like the reception for NVM are just one way for people to progressively deal with mental issues.

“I think it becomes more important than ever to come together as a community and start thinking about how our identities are formed and impacted by the mental health issues that we’re all dealing with, individually and collectively,” Cheng said.