California based artist Tahiti Pehrson’s stunning art and design project- his largest project to date. His installation exhibits 300 feet of white cotton paper (the same material used to produce currency) hand cut and made into free-standing sculptures, towers, and framed works. Tahiti used over ten thousand individual blades to complete the project, which took him more than three and a half months. The amount of dedication, energy, commitment and time is almost as breathtaking as the delicacy and beauty of the works themselves.
Influenced by the witnessing of his daughter transition into adulthood while his father simultaneously declines in health, Tahiti’s installation addresses the three stages of the life, from birth to rebirth. Tahiti so tactfully utilized the space to simulate these three stages, that you can enter from either entrance and still experience the same transition.
The main entrance houses three 6 x17-foot hand crafted towers- the largest pieces Tahiti has ever made. The title, The Fates, is taken from a Greek mythological tale where three sisters clad in white would visit the newly born and dictate what they would be in this and their next life. The intricate shapes within the towers are three patterns titled and overlapped, based off a golden ratio, which dictates the size of the circle. The towers represent our endings and beginnings; the entrance and departure from this world.
The center work, a large intricate booth located inside Viacom’s lobby, represents the middle of one’s life, which Tahiti intends the viewer to relate to. This Tahiti has titled Two Legs During the Day, which he drew from the Greek tale “The Riddle of the Sphinx”, the moral of which describes human’s many stages: youth, middle age and old age. Surrounding the booth are framed works, which give the viewer a moment to appreciate the practical application of the works- seeing up close the immeasurable complexity each section consists of.
The last section, titled Transfiguration, is meant to represent the morphing of a spirit to a given form. The section consists of handcrafted detailed circular structures, which hang from the ceiling in their own pattern. The amazing thing about this section is the way in which it interacts with the viewer depending on whether they enter or exit the space. If entering, the works come into focus as the viewer goes further into the space, welcoming the viewer into the next stage of their own transfiguration. If exiting, the structures being to float out and go into space, releasing us into the universe.
I had the chance to sit down and speak with Tahiti about the installation and his experience with Art at Viacom.
Gracie Brahimy: Hey Tahiti, so great to speak with you. I was wondering if in your own words, you could tell us about your installation.
Tahiti Pehrson: Yes, of course. When I got the project, I had just gotten back from a residency in South Africa. I came back with the news of my father having stage four cancer, which my family decided to keep from me while I was working in South Africa. It was really unexpected news. Right at the same time, I was witnessing my daughter becoming her own person and seeing myself in her. My daughter is ten now, so this is her first real experience with a family member getting sick and facing the end of his life. You sometimes forget kids haven’t gone through this stuff yet. I think she knows what’s going on with my dad, but it is still sort of surreal. Even though she understands it, she doesn’t really understand it.
Gracie Brahimy: How did you incorporate these ideas into your design of the space?
Tahiti Pehrson: When I saw the space, and it’s three sections, it reinforced the idea of the three stages of life. Especially the two big entrances and exits on both sides. I also really wanted to do something personal because it was such a large audience. I wanted to balance something corporate with something real and something personal. I’ve been wanting to do a piece like the Triptych Tower for a long time, but I haven’t had opportunity to have a space this large to put my work in.
Gracie Brahimy: How did Times Square interplay with the installation? How was it difficult and how was rewarding for you to use Times Square as the back drop to your work?
Tahiti Pehrson: Well, it was definitely difficult to live in Times Square for two weeks! But it’s such an iconic location. It also brought to light one of many journeys that seem to have been benchmarked by the installation. I grew up on a two mile dirt road without electricity. My dad even built our house! To go from that to showing my work in Times Square really accentuated my journey. It was the realization of my dream. My career has been building and building- this is my eighteenth year of having my art shown. But it wasn’t until five years ago that the wheels started to turn and it felt amazing to show my art in such a landmark.
Gracie Brahimy: That’s great. And did it affect the work at all?
Tahiti Pehrson: Yes, totally. Times square perfectly highlights one of the exhibition’s theme: how in our middle stage of life, our attention is shifted to the self. We’re are own heroes now. We try to work on ourselves to be the kind of person we want, as opposed to looking up to someone else. In the center room, I made a piece that frames people into the art work. It is my modern take on the documentation of and focus on ourselves, which fit perfectly with the backdrop of Times Square.
Gracie Brahimy: If you’d like the reader to know one thing about art at Viacom, from an artist’s perspective, what would you like them to know?
Tahiti Pehrson: Well for one, I made friends with everyone on the team- people from all different sections of Viacom! It was a very personal experience and even after I left, we’ve all kept in touch. We really went through something together. It’s funny because you talk to people beforehand and have email chains going and then at the end of the entire process, you make real personal connections. Some of the Viacom team are going to come out to California to visit me! It’s clear that people at Viacom really enjoy what they’re doing. Everyone there was really amazing. And we all worked together to make the project happen rather than one department just working on it. Each team member brought something different to the table.
It was sort of unexpected because it’s the second largest media company in the world. It was also very intimidating because I watched MTV as a kid and always felt on the outside of that world, especially growing up with no electricity. That’s why it made the journey for me! It’s almost hilarious to go from the kid watching MTV at my mom’s house for hours and hours to be doing an installation in the network’s lobby.
Gracie Brahimy: So after having experienced this all, how do you feel about programs like Art at Viacom that help emerging artists imagine and create these projects? What did it mean to you to have this opportunity?
Tahiti Pehrson: It was so amazing working with a team that is down to figure everything out! Usually large projects like these fall through and can be intimidating for the people housing the project. It really is a dream scenario for an artist to be supported in the way Viacom did and not get shut down. We figured out every issue, which was so rewarding as an artist. I mentioned earlier that I had been wanting to do the triptych tower for a long time, but never had the space to build and install it. I had an experience a little while back where the fire marshal denied me building this in a difference space because of fire proofing. Viacom worked with me and made sure that we could build everything that I had imagined for the space. In that sense, I didn’t even realize it was a dream come true until it all came together.
Tahiti Perhson’s installation will be up at Viacom HQ until November 21st, 2016.
Check out Art at Viacom’s previous installation where artist Hot Tea transforms their HQ into a multicolored thread exhibition. Subscribe to Art Report’s official newsletter for more stories you don’t want to miss!
All images provided by Brooke Alexander.