Face the 'Familiar Stranger' of Your Daily Commute at KADIST

Cao Fei, 'La Town ("Train Station"),' 2014. (Courtesy of the artist and KADIST, San Francisco)

How can it be November already? Did you see that coming? Or, like mine, did your October stealthily disappear into the drizzle of last night’s sugar high somewhere around the halfway mark of The Craft?

If you aren’t completely debilitated by the hurtling speed at which time passes these days, spending a bit of your day, week or month in the company of art can help slow it all down a bit. Nowhere is this more true than in the group show Frozen World of the Familiar Stranger, which opened at San Francisco’s KADIST on Oct. 16.

Tejal Shah, 'Between the Waves, Channel II - Landfill Dance' (still), 2012.
Tejal Shah, 'Between the Waves, Channel II - Landfill Dance' (still), 2012. (Courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai)

Co-curated by KADIST’s Heidi Rabben and Sitara Chowfla from the Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi, India, the show presents works by 14 artists from around the globe. The exhibition's title -- and curatorial premise -- is borrowed from the idea of the “familiar stranger,” a phenomena of urban life put forward by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, of Experimenter fame.

Like the fellow commuter you see every day but purposefully don't get to know, the works on view at KADIST are at once familiar and strange. The most compelling pieces in the show find that balance in video form.


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Rachel Rose’s Sitting, Feeding, Sleeping takes us on a post-internet journey to the uncanny valley: from zoo to cryogenics lab to robots. Steffani Jemison’s Escaped Lunatic follows three male figures as they run, jump, climb and flip through the streets of Houston -- expressions of both physical prowess and urgent flight. And Tejal Shah’s Between the Waves imagines a post-apocalyptic future in which mysterious figures render a trash-filled landfill a terrain of great beauty.

Take a break from your own business-as-usual and seek out some unfamiliar strangers before this show decamps to New Delhi in just two short weeks. (Remember how time flies?)

Q.Logo.Break

'Frozen World of the Familiar Stranger' is on view through Nov. 16 at KADIST in San Francisco. Gallery hours Wednesday-Saturday, 2-7pm, or by appointment. Details here.

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