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Visit Signal Gallery to Play a Game with No Name and No Rules

The works in Aidan Koch’s 'Iris' use enigmatic puzzles to explore something much greater.

There’s no winning the games played in artist Aidan Koch's illustrations. For her exhibition Iris, currently on view at Brooklyn’s Signal Gallery, Koch weaves together a series of illustrations and sculptural installations that allude to a mysterious game of sorts. Its name is never revealed and its rules never disclosed, but the psychological weight of this game resonates clearly and thoroughly through the works.

“Will I know if I win?” asks a crouched, nude figure to an angelic character by her side, playing what looks to be an alternate version of chess where a single piece is moved across three-dimensional walls. In the next work, an offscreen character states, “You’ll know if you lose,” to a different nude figure, reclined upon a tiled slab. Throughout these illustrations and the rest in the exhibition, each character is overwhelmingly sad or contemplative; there is no joy, even for an instant, to be had in Koch’s unnamed game.

Across the room, the artist has included physical objects that similarly allude to games and puzzle solving without the possibility of victory, including a white maze, neither small enough to be a feasible board game, nor large enough for a human to enter. Adorned with cut-off masks, ceramic centipedes, and other strange relics, there is no exit to the maze beyond the entrance and a few scattered ladders. One either gives up the goal of solving it and returns to the start or escapes in panic or frustration.

Deciphering the enigmatic games played in Iris might be beside the point, as the mental journey involved seems to matter more. “My characters are continually examining and questioning what’s around them and having to toll with a lot of ambiguous elements. I guess I see the mind as the one place you will always be trapped, and you can either try and hide from it, ignore it, suppress it, or you can explore it and challenge it,” Koch tells The Creators Project.

“I think that’s my draw towards utilizing the idea of games and mazes; they’re man-made things created to push your mental capacity. You may never ‘win,’ you may never escape yourself, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something valuable in playing,” adds Koch, in what seems like a metaphor for life as a messy whole.  

Explore Aidan Koch’s riddled games at Signal Gallery until October 2, 2016. An archive of Aidan Koch’s illustrations and installations can be found here

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