DETROIT — Like most Millennials, digital artist Chris Reilly almost compulsively consults a device that never leaves his side. So accustomed are we to the omnipresence of smartphones, though, that it might take a discerning eye to notice Reilly isn’t checking one. He’s looking at a digital meter that keeps him appraised at all times of his blood-sugar levels — he’s been a Type I diabetic since the age of two and uses a cell-phone-sized insulin pump that’s wired into his circulatory system to regulate his glucose levels. In other words, keeping tabs on his biological clockwork is a matter of life and death. Though none of the works in his current solo show, Body Clock at Cave gallery in Detroit, deal with diabetes directly — the stated themes are sleep, synesthesia, and self-portraiture — it seems almost impossible to dismiss a connection to this underlying condition.
“I think the impulse comes from a very intuitive place — or, I’m so aware that it’s all the way down into the base of my brain,” Reilly told Hyperallergic. “This could be my, like, shamanistic, right-brain diabetes treatment.”
Many of Reilly’s recent projects have dealt with intimacy and interpersonal relationships, so it’s interesting to see him working solo here. He’s the lone subject of all the show’s works, which encompass glitchy video collages, reflective wall decals, and a semicircle of Android camera phones organized into a sundial of surveillance. They represent a kind of progression through the ideas that have been floating around in his artistic atmosphere for almost the last decade. Among those are his thoughts on personal surveillance and self-monitoring, outlined in an article he wrote for Geez magazine in 2009, and a number of incomplete projects begun during a residency at the Samband Íslenskra Myndlistarmanna in Reykjavík, Iceland, in 2015.