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Moses Myers House

323 E. Freemason St.
Open Saturday and Sunday

Noon–5 p.m.

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

Reading Room
Wednesday-Friday

10 a.m.–5 p.m.

About the Myers House

The oldest Jewish home in America open to the public as a museum offers a glimpse of the life of an early 19th century merchant family.
More about the house

About the Library

With an extensive collection of more than 106,000 rare and unique volumes relating to the history of art, the Jean Outland Chrysler Art Library is one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the library

Located in Norfolk

One Memorial Place,
Norfolk, VA
Get Directions

While You're Here

Visit our Museum Shop
and the Wisteria Cafe.

Perry Glass Studio

A state-of-art facility on the Museum’s campus. See a free glassmaking demo Tuesdays–Sunday at noon. Like what you see? Take a class with us! More about the Studio

Moses Myers House

The home of the first permanent Jewish residents of Norfolk, this historic house offers a glimpse of the life of a wealthy early 19th-century merchant family.
More about the house

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

With an extensive collection of more than 106,000 rare and unique volumes relating to the history of art, the Jean Outland Chrysler Library is one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the Library

Weddings & Event Rentals

The perfect place for your big day or special event. Get the details

Tours

Group tours will resume in August for groups of 5 or fewer. More about tours

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

Visit one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the library

About the Chrysler

Our story spans well over 100 years. See where we began, how we grew, and where we're going. Explore our history

News and Announcements

See what's happening at the Museum, read Chrysler Magazine, and find our Media Center. Read now

Location

745 Duke Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
757-333-6299

Always Free Parking

Get Directions

Third Thursdays

Live art performances monthly.
See the archive

Studio Team

Meet the brilliant minds behind the Studio.
See the team

Visiting Artist Series

Bringing the world’s top glass art talent to Hampton Roads
Find out more

Give the Chrysler Experience

Share everything you love about the Chrysler Museum with a gift membership. Perfect for everyone on your list.

The Masterpiece Society

Learn about this innovative group of museum supporters.
Meet the Masterpiece Society

Planned Giving

Help ensure the long-term success of the Museum.
Learn about planned giving

Moses Myers House

323 E. Freemason St.
Open Saturday and Sunday

Noon–5 p.m.

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

Reading Room
Wednesday-Friday

10 a.m.–5 p.m.

About the Myers House

The oldest Jewish home in America open to the public as a museum offers a glimpse of the life of an early 19th century merchant family.
More about the house

About the Library

With an extensive collection of more than 106,000 rare and unique volumes relating to the history of art, the Jean Outland Chrysler Art Library is one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the library

Located in Norfolk

One Memorial Place,
Norfolk, VA
Get Directions

While You're Here

Visit our Museum Shop
and the Wisteria Cafe.

Perry Glass Studio

A state-of-art facility on the Museum’s campus. See a free glassmaking demo Tuesdays–Sunday at noon. Like what you see? Take a class with us! More about the Studio

Moses Myers House

The home of the first permanent Jewish residents of Norfolk, this historic house offers a glimpse of the life of a wealthy early 19th-century merchant family.
More about the house

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

With an extensive collection of more than 106,000 rare and unique volumes relating to the history of art, the Jean Outland Chrysler Library is one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the Library

Weddings & Event Rentals

The perfect place for your big day or special event. Get the details

Tours

Group tours will resume in August for groups of 5 or fewer. More about tours

Jean Outland Chrysler Library

Visit one of the most significant art libraries in the South. More about the library

About the Chrysler

Our story spans well over 100 years. See where we began, how we grew, and where we're going. Explore our history

News and Announcements

See what's happening at the Museum, read Chrysler Magazine, and find our Media Center. Read now

Location

745 Duke Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
757-333-6299

Always Free Parking

Get Directions

Third Thursdays

Live art performances monthly.
See the archive

Studio Team

Meet the brilliant minds behind the Studio.
See the team

Visiting Artist Series

Bringing the world’s top glass art talent to Hampton Roads
Find out more

Give the Chrysler Experience

Share everything you love about the Chrysler Museum with a gift membership. Perfect for everyone on your list.

The Masterpiece Society

Learn about this innovative group of museum supporters.
Meet the Masterpiece Society

Planned Giving

Help ensure the long-term success of the Museum.
Learn about planned giving

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May 27, 2020

Object of the Week: Hybridization Machine

Saya Woolfalk’s Hybridization Machine immerses viewers in a world of their own making. The mixed-media work was inspired by many pertinent contemporary sociopolitical issues. An extreme example of a futuristic hybrid species with cloned humans and hallucinogenic vision, the work highlights how human bodies are constantly being manipulated by surgery for physical development, aesthetics, and power. Technology intersects with utopian dreams of race and ethnicity, allowing visitors to explore the nature of humanity and push the boundaries of their imaginations.

In the early-to-mid 2000s, Woolfalk created the Empathics—a fictional race of women who transformed into plant-human hybrids after coming in contact with a fungus growing near the bones of an unusual being. In the artist’s fictional world, the women created the nonprofit Institute of Empathy to study interspecies hybridization. They also worked to increase worldwide compassion by sharing their ability to absorb the qualities of surrounding life forms.

Saya Woolfalk (American, b. Japan, 1979), Video still from ChimaTEK: Hybridization Machine, 2013

The Empathic’s narrative later shifted as they established the for-profit corporation ChimaTEK to market their discoveries. With the change in the Empathic’s business model, viewers are now learning how they can market their identity without losing their utopian ideals.

The Chrysler introduced visitors to the Empathics in fall 2014 with ChimaTEK Life Products. Woolfalk’s second solo exhibition, the show featured the high-tech Hybridization Machine designed to allow consumers to have their minds and bodies remixed at home by a virtual DJ. It appeared alongside a mock video advertisement for ChimaTEK’s Life Products line and a Combustion Chamber for the mysterious fuel to facilitate human conversions. The Combustion Chamber was created to Woolfalk’s specifications by the Chrysler’s Perry Glass Studio team.

Saya Woolfalk (b. 1979), Life Products by ChimaTEK, 2014. Video, color, sound, 3:17 min., 16:9. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2017.176. © Saya Woolfalk

Saya Woolfalk ChimaTEK, In The Box, 2014.

Woolfalk has spent the past twenty years making humanoid hybrids incorporating video, craft, and installation. The New York-based artist often creates a multi-sensory experience that invites people into a miniature world to see the Empathics and watch anthropological videos of their discoveries and philosophies. Figures such as Hybridization Machine are hung from walls in rooms painted to resemble a sky or forest setting. The artist references the legacy of life-size dioramas prevalent in natural history museums, but her artworks are of a futuristic world where humans are blended into new beings.

When looking at the figure in the Hybridization Machine video, the viewer cannot determine ethnicity or gender. Woolfalk considers “a blended of raciality” because of her own mixed-race background.[i] The artist of Japanese, Caucasian, and African American heritage brings her own multiplicity into her creations. Yet the Empathics have evolved even further. They are a combination of human and plant, a synchronization of humanity and the world around us. For the artist, this future hybrid could be the ultimate utopian future.

Third Thursday at the Museum, with Saya Woolfalk and DJ Spooky. November 20, 2014. Photo by Eleise Theurer.

Hybridization Machine is a particularly interesting work to consider now that we’ve witnessed a global pandemic. As humans battle against the environment, we wonder if we will ever be completely harmonious with it. Social distancing measures meant to help prevent the spread of coronavirus came with recommendations to spend time outside, plant gardens, and be grateful for the environment. What would it mean if humans truly became a part of the ground beneath their feet?

Following Woolfalk’s exhibition at the Chrysler, the Museum added Hybridization Machine to the growing collection of sculptural works, craft-related objects, and works by women and artists of color. When the Museum reopens, stop by gallery 225 to see the work for yourself and consider it from a new perspective based on your own experiences.

–Kimberli Gant, PhD, McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art

 

Saya Woolfalk (American, b. Japan, 1979)
Hybridization Machine, 2013
Mannequin, fabric, steel sculpture, video monitors, and video
Metal fabricated by Jay Roth; musical score by DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid; videography by Rachel Lears; acting by Duhirwe Rushemeza; animation by Nicholas Tuinstra; editing by Tyler Henry; and consulting by Ron Eglash
Museum purchase with funds provided by Meredith & Brother Rutter and Joseph T. Waldo, 2015.1

[i] Nicole Fleetwood, “Performing Empathies: The Art of Saya Woolfalk,” Callaloo 37, no. 4 (2014): 979.

From the Collection