Colleen Billing
November 3 - December 16, 2018
Opening reception:
Saturday, November 3, 7—10pm

Without knowing the power and potency of it yet, we did what we might do with other oils and added several drops to a small batch. Little did we know the intensity of our impending experience. The batch finished mixing, pouring and setting and we went to trying it as we did every new concoction. Each with a small taste, we placed a drop on our tongues and sunk to our knees. The essence filled our mouths and bodies quickly. I remember feeling as though I was being sucked right into the earth, as though I’d eaten a mouthful of fragrant dirt. We began harvesting its genome, adding it to our shampoo, cultivating our own sturdy roots. When we cut our hair it smelled like musk.

As a result of our collective addiction, we created the mental equivalent of white noise, wherever we went. Normal people who were around us for prolonged periods became disoriented and confused, their minds and memories fogged over. Even telepathic beings, dream walkers and other psychics were unable to properly function around us. The psychic mind-fogging effect was worsened by smelling our breath, fragrant body odor or touching our lips. Precious few are immune to these effects. We dream more vividly and with more conscious control than most, even perhaps to the points of sharing, performing or receiving dreams of the past, present or future. Eventually, we will slow aging if taken regularly.

We shun the sun in favor of stealing our nutrients from the trees. We have become notoriously elusive, spending too much time below ground. It is unknown how widespread our species is. Information on the distribution of related taxa is no help, since most all species are now scarce. We are similar to a perennial bunchgrass, capable of growing in fuel-contaminated soil. Our roots hold a strain of bacteria responsible for, among other things, the production of an aroma often used in commercial perfume. Now proven to not only resist the polluted soil we inhabit, but cleanse it, we leave the ground with zero levels of toxicity.

Eve has been screaming for at least 3,000 years. Her voice hits a pitch outside of human recognition - around 821 kHz. If you have found yourself listening to something you weren’t sure was there, it was probably her. She may have felt like mist. She covers the grass each morning just before dawn. She seeps from your pores after a short but arduous run. She fills your mouth each time you think about fruit. She is a secret, a sister, a signal. She is a scream and an echo - the wave on top of water when a foot stomps the ground beside it.

Motel is pleased to present THE ENEMY KNOWS THE SYSTEM, Colleen Billing’s first solo exhibition in New York. On view from November 3 - December 16, 2018, the opening reception will take place Saturday, November 3, from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition features a new body of sculpture, installation and video. Taking gossip1 as a departure point, the work moves from biology2 to cryptology3, centering around collectivity as a destabilizing force. Installed conduit forms a closed circuit in the room, feeding off-of and in-to the gallery’s architecture, creating new channels and systems of relation. The subfloor of the gallery is a mushroom culture spawned from shapeshifting, hypothetical spills. A diffusion system, comprised of hacked pond foggers and recycled steel oil drums, distills Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver, pumping vapor into the room4.

Colleen Billing (b. 1991 | Baltimore, MD) lives and works in New York. She received her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and her MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. She has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and Vermont Studio Center.

1In her book ‘Caliban and the Witch,’ Silvia Federici outlines women's loss of social power during the rise of capitalism. In this period "gossip," synonymous at the time with female friend, first acquired its disparaging connotation. Traditions of herbal medicine and the community around these practices became suspect because of their association to the gendered social roles of the healer and the witch. Often deemed trivial, gossip's negative connotation has always been its power as an alternative circuit of knowledge with the ability to unsettle accepted social hierarchies.
3In cryptology, Alice and Bob are fictional characters commonly used as placeholder names for the sender and receiver of an encrypted message. Eve is the personification of the systemic eavesdropper, a placeholder for the passive attacker. While she can listen in on messages between Alice and Bob, she cannot modify them. In quantum cryptography, Eve may also represent the environment. She is the adversary, a latent threat, internalized within and othered from the system to which she is the enemy.
4Recently proven to not only grow in, but cleanse fuel-contaminated soil, t’s life cycle and subsequent distribution are an example of growth in toxic times.