Chinese-American artist Gaye Chan was born in Hong Kong and currently lives in Hawai‘i. Her installation Apophenia consists of printer spreads culled from discarded atlases. Chan disassembles each atlas, removing pages from their sequence in binding. In book publications, two types of spreads are found. ‘Reader spreads’ flow in numerical sequence (page 1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7…), while the logic of ‘printer spreads’ is entirely dictated by the mechanics of book production (page 8/1, 2/7, 6/3, 4/5…). Thus, the content on paired halves of a ‘printer spread’ is happenstance, creating serendipitous and unexpected combinations. Chan is interested in the “imaginary geographies and alternative geopolitics” these maps suggest.
The title of the work, Apophenia, refers to the tendency to find connection or meaning in random phenomena. Displayed in such a way that the viewer can freely move through the installation and view the maps in a variety of physical orientations, Chan challenges us to unlearn habituated ways of seeing the world. She says, “Maps have long trained us on how and what to see. They supplant our memory of ourselves and knowledge of others. Lines are drawn across nonexistent boundaries allocating differences between people, demarcating states of belonging, regulating mobilities. The 'maps' of Apophenia are nonsense. There is no top, no bottom. No north, no south. No west, no east. Like all maps, they are pieces of paper.”