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(l to r) Breathing Trash Bag-Pair (13 gal); Vertical Tentacle-36; Breathing Trash Bag Nest; Vertical Tentacle-34-Breathing Trash Bag (blue angel eye), 2017, computer cooling fans, plastic bags, plastic sheets, plastic cake container, LED lights, mixed electronics, photograph by Stephen Briggs, copyright Worcester Art Museum.

by Brian Goslow

Nearly 50 years ago, the Worcester Art Museum hosted “Light and Motion,” a groundbreaking exhibition in which the participating “new kineticists” turned to “light and movement to produce a new sensibility.” This summer, just as those artists used the latest “electrical elements, lenses, Polaroid filters … and other non-traditional media” to modernize its viewers’ senses, Shih Chieh Huang’s “Reusable Universes” reinvents the possibilities of what a gallery space — and museum experience — can be.

It only takes a peek inside WAM’s darkened (for this exhibition) Contemporary Gallery to be drawn into a multisensory visual experience not unlike a Disney ride through a new world. And while the collection of seven mesmerizing kinetic sculptures may have features viewers will automatically attribute to being similar to sea creatures, that’s more your imagination at work than the artist’s intention. “They’re not modeled after any specific creatures that exist,” Huang said.

“These are not static sculptures; you can see and feel them moving,” said Vivian Li, WAM’s assistant curator of Asian art, who worked with Huang to develop the show specifically for its Worcester’s showing. “There are so many sequences of movements that are programmed into them. Shih told me you have to be in the space for 10 minutes to see every single motion of each sculpture. From the very beginning, he’s always talked about his art as an orchestration of different lights and material — and even the sound. At first, we were wondering, ‘Is there any sound to this piece?’ And he said, ‘The works are the sound.’”

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