The face of Jesus Christ on a Cheeto, the Virgin Mary on a grilled-cheese sandwich, Mother Teresa on a cinnamon roll—these are all instances of pareidolia, the psychological tendency to construct meaningful patterns out of random stimuli. Timur Si-Qin is interested in patterns, from cross-cultural aesthetic ideals to shared ritual practices, which he explores through installations that employ the sleek visual language of contemporary branding. Over the past decade, he has created a taxonomy of animatronic characters based on their resemblance to natural organisms, discovered vestigial traces of the human hand in men’s shower products, and launched an advertising campaign for a new faith. Taking an approach steeped in the philosophical school of new materialism—which is centered on realities arising from matter, as opposed to discursive practice or ideology—Si-Qin attempts to upend the artificial dualisms that alienate humans from nature, and asks how a wider understanding of natural patterning can open up windows to the divine.

For the artist, the recurrence of patterns reveals common processes of thought and trajectories of becoming that are inherent to matter itself. This expansive view cannot be explained by the anthropocentric ontologies of the early 20th-century “linguistic turn” in philosophy, which necessarily privileges human subjectivity in focusing on social interaction, language and culture. Si-Qin explained in our conversations that his international upbringing had allowed him to “weed out” cultural specifics in diverse contexts, instead picking up on ubiquitous, universal patterns in image culture that would figure prominently in his early artistic practice. Born in Berlin in 1984,

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