Sophie Kahn: Machines for Suffering

Abigail Nilsson –Anchor Staff

This past week, Rhode Island College once again hosted another incredible art installation. Sophie Kahn’s “Machines for Suffering” are 3D print models and designs based on the choreography of hysteria.

Photos by Thomas Crudale

These models are eerily stunning. Kahn uses a laser scanner to help create her work and captures dancers and performers reenacting poses from pictures that were used to diagnose women in the 19th Century of illness that truly could not capture the underlying psychological cause of their distress. Kahn essentially takes a model, digitizes their emotion, and renders it a 3D print to bring it back into the world in an altered form.

Kahn’s prints demonstrate the physical and emotional brokenness that torture women. The models on display exhibit hysteria in different poses. Her printouts possess both archaic and futuristic characteristics to them. They are industrialized in the sense that they look like pieces of robots that have been weathered and broken down, then put back together with what was left of them. Kahn stated that they are painted in “creepy grey” and resemble “death masks” to capture the emotional resonance of suffering.

Her work industrializes hysteria and takes a grave look into the negative space that holds the emotion together. Her work raises questions such as, what does the border look like between nothing and something? What is holding this person and emotion together? What broke this person and emotion apart?

These models have Victorian and Greek traits with a modern twist. The suffering and madness is clear in Kahn’s work and depicts that humans are “Machines for Suffering.”

Sophie Kahn: Machines for Suffering is facilitated by Professor Frank WANG Yefeng and is on display in the Bannister Gallery in Roberts Hall from Feb. 28 – March 22. Exhibition hours are Monday-Friday from 12 – 8 p.m., or by appointment.