© Laura J Gerlach


American interdisciplinary artist Michelle Jaffé creates participatory installations that manifest as sculpture, sound and performative video. Immersed in a visual and sonic environment, these encounters offer people an opportunity to create a synaptic shift in attitude and experience, where new neural connections can be forged.

Jaffé shares a sensibility for scale with Jackson Pollock and Richard Serra, as well as a sense for the comedic and the theatrical with Oskar Schlemmer, Robert Wilson and Pina Bausch.  Seminal influences were Stanley Kubrick's "2001" and LaMonte Young's "Well Tuned Piano".

Educated as an American teenager in London, Jaffé earned a BA Honours in Fine Arts & French Literature from the University of East Anglia in England. Childhood exposure to Asian art influenced her visual sensibility. Eastern depictions of space and their evocation of so much with such economy, informs her work’s formal clarity.

For Jaffé's iconic work Wappen Field, 12 chrome plated steel helmets, LED’s, vocal composition and SuperCollider are deployed to create an enveloping installation. Poet Douglas Crase has said “Whether in the immersive dimensions of Wappen Field or the exquisite chamber work Awakening, (an experiential light and soundscape recorded at Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field), she has opened apertures on the sublime which render it visible, audible, and imminent.”

She has exhibited at The New Media Gallery, Vancouver, Beall Center for Art + Technology, Duke University, NYCEMF, WhiteBox, Milton Art Bank, Transylvania University, UICA and solo shows in NY at Bosi Contemporary, Wald & Po Kim Foundation, Susan Berko-Conde Gallery. She was Artist-in-Residence to the Computer Music Department at Brooklyn College and has been awarded residencies at The Newlyn Gallery and Exchange Museum-UK, MacDowell Colony and Djerassi, and grants from NYSCA and Queens Arts Council. Jaffé's video work is in the collection of Listasafn Islands National Gallery of Iceland and her design work is extensively collected by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology and

Palais Galliera - Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.


Artist Statement:

Like the canary in the coal mine, I alert people to psychologically hazardous conditions. My interdisciplinary sculpture, sound and video installations present complex experiential propositions. Each medium serves the whole to create a unified realm greater than the sum of its parts. To enter it, can increase awareness of the volatile structures percolating in the underbelly of society, illuminating alternative pathways where new neural connections can forge positive change.

From 2000, my work probes the psychic and architectural housing of clothing that serve as protective shields. Armored behind a logo or curated style, we proclaim the desire to belong and the fear of the other. I explored these themes in the series Vestments (2000-2004) and Cod Variations (2005-2007). I sculpted volumes out of aluminum, steel, nylon or vinyl with precise economy of line and means. The archetypal shapes reflected how we signal community to the group, family, team, tribe or religious order we identify with.

Since 2003, I have woven sound into installation using innovative speaker technologies. The resulting 3-dimensional experience punctures rational and linguistic defenses, engaging mind & body simultaneously. WAPPEN FIELD (2003-2015) is a participatory sculpture installation. A confrontational phalanx of 12 chrome plated steel helmets recruit visitors to enter and hear a 27-minute vocal composition through SuperCollider programming. Each helmet is a resonant chamber, where their dedicated speakers transform the sculptural installation into an immersive audio environment.

SOUL JUNK (2013-2019) is an experiential 3-channel audio/video installation. We are placed inside a female mind contemplating love, family trauma and attitudes of those in power, to witness stream of consciousness synaptic firing in the brain. Video is projected onto sculptural materials, creating fractured images. Audio spotlight speakers focus sound physically & aurally. We walk in and out of their beams. Speaker/projections triangulate. Standing where the focused beam of two speakers cross, we hear opposing narratives. Hurled against one another in rapid fire, they echo the information overload of our times. Conversely, standing further away from a source, we hear its singular voice more acutely. Ultimately, we experience both the hive & the clarity of one.

MURMUR / MUTTER / YELL (M/M/Y 2019 - ) sound and light installation, employs Wave Field Synthesis speakers to sculpt the 35 minute vocal composition dynamically in space. The libretto creates a dreamlike conversation between the conscious & subconscious mind as it processes the implications of private data mined every time we click 'Agree'. The experience is designed to attenuate how we, the raw material of 21st century colonization, are ripe for manipulation. M/M/Y highlights the powerful forces at work in the dark matter of connectivity.