For Lipchik, who grew up in the conservative working-class town of Erie, Pennsylvania, his latest series is a return home. Under cosmic starry skies, in sparkling pools, a speculative story unfolds about class, sexuality, identity, and ecology. Above the Surface returns to the moment when one recognizes oneself in the water, in the mirror, in the avatar of a game, and senses its future manifestations, in Audre Lordes’ words, “nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.”
Above the Surface mirrors Lipchik’s earlier works as a kind of meta-commentary, like the reflection of a reflection, a mirror looking into the mirror, the self-lost in its own image, the diamond dangling over the edge of a pool, in whose facets reality kaleidoscopically refracts. Lipchik shows his subjects from many different perspectives at the same time, the perspective of drones, surveillance or zoom cameras, selfie sticks, and tools that simultaneously record the body from different angles. The spatial views, interlaced as in expressive or abstract painting, that Lipchik morphs together on the computer, the avatars he creates take on an even more crystalline and hard-edged quality. The cubist, collaged aesthetic of the figures, who stare into mirrors, at smartphones and water surfaces, recall early 1980s computer animations, such as the Paintbox characters in the Dire Straits video Money For Nothing (1985). In his painting Elizabeth Taylor’s Reflection (2021), Lipchik has an avatar wearing the unmistakable ruby necklace and matching earrings gazing at the mirror-smooth surface of the water. Yet this assembled, clunky figure bears no resemblance to Liz Taylor, nor to any woman for that matter, but is genderless. Lipchik reduced the recognition value to a minimum, leaving only the jewelry and the rapt gaze at the reflection.
It is these dissolving transitions between civilization and nature, reality and virtuality, the material and immaterial, that Lipchik addresses in Above the Surface. His avatars resemble non-binary figures of thought. While Vision of Song told of the destruction of the earth and the dissolution of democracy, Above the Surface conjures up a kind of post-human twilight of the gods. As in the TV series American Gods, gods have returned to earth, in this case to deserted white lower-middle-class suburbs. While in the series the “old” gods of indigenous peoples, of former slaves and immigrants, compete against the “new” globalized techno gods, Lipchik simply morphs them together. They are not really gods, but goddess-nymph memes, avatar containers filled with new speculative narratives. This is emphasized by Lipchik’s kaleidoscopic visual language, in which myth, technology, and magic intersect.
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