Bring in the Reality


The Pursuit of Happiness for No Longer Empty, If You Build It, 2014
Wood, ropes, wires
Installation dimensions variable

In The Pursuit of Happiness, originally commissioned for NLE exhibition If You Build It, Emilia Garcia employs the chair as symbolic motif to consider the emotional topography at the crossroads of international, national and community identity. Quoting one of three inalienable rights as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and as promised to American citizens, the seven wooden chair marionettes bear inscriptions that speak to the diversity and resilience of the movement of people. Allegorical narratives and questions of belonging weave through Garcia’s works, touching on themes of migration, community, and salvation.

Iliana Emilia Garcia has featured the chair in her work since the 1990s. Whether represented in painting, drawing, photography or three-dimensional installations, the chair motif has become her key symbol to investigate cross roads or contact zones among people inhabiting multiple cultures, neighborhoods and nations. A surrogate for the body, Garcia manipulates scenes and situations in which the chair is placed to consider what she calls emotional geography, relationships in which presence or absence, exile or homeland cannot alone depict levels of closeness or estrangement.

The seven hanging chairs in the current installation, their component parts hinged and tentative, counter the traditional role of the chair as a sturdy, comforting object—an item constructed solely to support an individual.