Prefix ICA presents Mirage, a solo exhibition of the work of Toronto-based artist Lyla Rye. Throughout the gallery, Rye uses still and moving images to offer a nuanced vision that allows viewers to contemplate the influence of architecture and how it impacts living in the world. The exhibition actively engages viewers optically, physically, and conceptually, while aiming to complicate their perceptions of space and time.

Mirage features the Canadian premiere of A Meditation (2019), a video installation that expands upon the artist’s use of strategies referencing architectural scale, along with her focus on slowness, intricacy, and material shifts in producing embodied encounters with space that unfold over time. This installation reveals the contradictions inherent in the relationship between the real and illusionary qualities of still and moving images. The chaos of 21st-century life increasingly leads people to seek out various types of spaces, images, sounds, and activities that reconnect them to nature, in order to calm their hearts and minds. A Meditation explores our ambivalent and complicated relationship to images that comment on the haphazard use and misuse of air, land, and water. Pristine depictions of nature also form a part of everyday mainstream imagery, with nature videos even posted online as meditation aids. Rye considers the contradictory qualities of this kind of imagery.

In Rye’s own words, “A Meditation has many representations of nature in the video and the architectural scene depicted resembles office cubicles with landscape footage replacing the walls. The scene is rendered in isometric projection so the space extends systematically in all directions, in contrast to the photographic perspective of the videos. Much of the imagery comes from found meditation videos of overly idealized images of nature, often computer enhanced. For the duration of the loop, cellphone videos, revealing a different relationship to nature, slowly infiltrate the scene. As they proliferate, the digital illusion of space breaks down.”

Expanding upon these visual manifestations, Suspended Meditation (2020) takes two completely recomposed still photographic images from A Meditation and presents them in our surround gallery, bringing another visual dimension to the experience of space by playing with the tension between stillness and the mediated image. Further blurring the space between digital and physical, Fluid Anomalies (2020) is a series of 36 translucent silk squares printed with digitally manipulated photographic images of water, each of which is overlaid with an embroidered black shape. The embroidery’s substantial materiality optically alters the photographic imagery, creating the impression of piercing the fluid pictured, playing with notions of labour and intervening in our assumptions about photographic imagery. Extending the exhibition out into the world, Rye has produced Mini Fluid Anomalies (2020) in a limited edition artwork, which is available for purchase onsite from The Magic Gumball Machine of Fate—an artist’s-multiple distribution project.

Mirage is a glimpse into the artist’s exploration of and fascination with the diversity of spatial representation such as digital effects, isometric shapes, and optical perspectives. It functions as an encounter with architectural space where angled forms, slow time, and layered imagery are catalysts for active viewing.