Monday, May 23, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Call For Conversation
h o w i s t h i s g l a s s ? project offers a platform for post-glass artists to share and exchange ideas
about their studio practices through constructive dialogues. We look for information about existing work or project you're currently working on. The outcome of the "conversation" will vary, such as featuring your work on our blog, or providing feedback to help developing your project.
To get involved:
Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indicate "call for conversation" on the subject line.
Make sure to provide brief information including the following:
*How you heard about "how is this glass?"
*Your artistic background
*How you see your work related to "post-glass" ism
*Your work information. This could be link to your website, online video, jpeg images as attachment etc. If you are submitting work in progress, please specify what kind of interaction you expect from the conversation.
The entries will be reviewed on rolling basis, and we will contact you to follow up.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
The Post-Glass Video Festival was screened at the Sydney College of Art during Peripheral Visions, the Ausglass conference, from Jan 20-23, 2011. Even though the video installations were unable to travel down under, the largest component of the festival, its single channel video loop, was well-received by the audience - conference attendees who spanned the gamut of artists, curators, students, collectors, gallerists and educators. The sensitivity, intelligence and fresh eyes of the artists did not go unnoticed: the diversity in vocabulary, content and insight provided by the works were appreciated and evoked strong responses from many who we met.
The screening was accompanied by the festival's catalogs as well as a lecture and Q&A session. The latter focussed on post-glass-ism, the 4 themes emerging across various works in the video festival and the future of the howisthisglass project, especially with regards to creating opportunities for artists. The festival in this way, created a valuable platform, to host a much-needed conversation.
There is a possibility that the festival will return to the city at a new venue later this year but for now, at the request of several blog followers and artists, here are some pictures of the venue and the gallery. We will post details pertaining to specific conversations that emerged at this conference soon.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Hyperopia Project is a collaborative team comprised of artists Helen Lee, Alexander Rosenberg, and Matthew Szösz. Though being educated in a material-specific program, their multi-disciplinary art practices do not comfortably fit into one genre. Glass is a material they all have in common, but rathe than using well-established glass art vocabularies they venture to experiment with a state of "superposition" for opening up new possibilities of glass in the contemporary art world at large.
Hyperopia Project has recently launched an open call for a group exhibit, Superposition which will be hosted by the Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle in June 2011. More information can be viewed on their project's website.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Deadline to submit proposal : Jan 31, 2011
Format and timeline : variable
h o w i s t h i s g l a s s ? is an ongoing initiative that identifies and profiles new,alternative ways of working with glass. Thus far, the project’s blog and exhibition series have successfully highlighted works by post-glass artists;
ventures that speak about glass using vocabularies unexpected in the studio glass tradition : guerilla intervention, performance, digital technology. Still a nebulous trend in the contemporary glass art scene, our efforts aim to sustain this attention as the number of post-glass artists is growing.
In pursuit of active discussions about post-glass-ism, we invite curators who are interested in studying and furthering its scope. We hope to democratize the voice of post-glass, whose expanded definition and implications will be formed by the submissions received, through a network of peer voices rather than a single proprietary or critical authority. We see the curator as a “content specialist”, someone who establishes and develops information based on observation, insight and research. We are seeking innovative and critical perspectives on the phenomenology, materiality or social/personal experience of glass. Your concept must stem from either the direct (non-)experience of glass or an active investigation of specific issues and cultural connotations. In all cases, the research must call for and be manifest only through a new articulation.
For example, you may wish to record evidence of post-glass experiments hidden within conventional studio glass over the past 50 years. Perhaps you envision an exhibition that features conceptual work made by the intense pursuits of material-based artists. Maybe you feel strongly about redefining the notion of craftsmanship in light of emergent, interactive technologies. Performative acts based on the phenomena of light may be of interest to you. Or perhaps you wish to scour popular literature and lyrics to assimilate a rich dictionary of cultural metaphors associated with glass.
The topic of interest lies wide open as evident above. The expression of your research may be varied: an exhibition, a publication, a forum, a film, audio recordings, or other public events.... The outcome may be unique, insightful, critical,poetic or entertaining. You need not be a glass artist or curator to submit. If your investigation explores the main premise of the the post-glass initiative, we would like to hear from you. In turn, we offer h o w i s t h i s g l a s s ? as an open source platform for bringing attention to wider post-glass ideas.
Please email email@example.com with a letter of interest that introduces your project. In the main body of the email, include a brief outline (up to 250 words) of your proposal : intent, concept, nature of working relationship being sought and outcome. Do not forget to list full contact information at the bottom of your email.
As attachments (pdf or doc), please describe the proposed research in greater detail - content, components, timeline, funding, methodology and outcomes. Basically, tell us what you envision the project as and how you intend to make it happen. Please include your resume. You may also attach media as needed, less than 10MB. Please label all attachments as follows: yourlastname_mediatype_number.fileformat (eg.genius_video_03.mov for the third movie clip sent by Jane Genius in support of her proposal).
Please note that as the initiator, you will be responsible for the vision, funding and execution of your proposed project. We provide the springboard, an umbrella of peer support and attention, and will contact you to discuss the possibilities and exact terms of a formal relationship with h o w i s t h i s g l a s s ? depending on the nature of your project.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Post-glass artists appear to be enjoying broken glass. They undertake tasks to either break glass or make from a destroyed object. In doing so, they challenge certain fundamental notions about object-hood and our interactions therewith :
* When an object breaks, it has failed. Glass is termed fragile, and often shied away from, for this reason. * We are particularly fearful of broken glass, as it cuts deep, silently. The sound and sight of glass - crunching, shattering, grinding, imploding - is disconcerting to most people and reminds them of the dangers posed. * Breaking things is not acceptable, socially. Considered the projection of either inattentive or self-destructive human nature onto an object, surface, person or external situation, the gesture is frowned upon, if not punished. Breaking is a sign of aggression or clumsiness.
The urge for post-glass artists to work with broken glass may stem from the desire to :
* Transcend the static, pristine and cold nature of the finished object (as is customary in studio glass history) by using it (the object) as a starting point for making. * Focus on properties of the material instead of creation of a form. And finding new form from that process. * Partake in the politics and associations that the act of breaking brings about in a way that conventional glass culture does not.
There is an interest to engage moments that vanish quickly in the self-containment of glass objects. The act of destroying the object is a gesture that has no creative place in studio glass even though it is an integral part of the making process. Since video has the ability to capture such moments accurately, a number of artists, many featured on this blog, are using video to focus on the breakable nature of glass.
For example, a part of The Post-Glass Video Festival, Alana Kakoyiannis's Untitled cloaks the aggression that is needed to break a Pyrex dish in a sink. And when confronted with a shattered object the viewer is forced, rudely, to comprehend and reconstruct in her mind, the undisputed presence of that force.
Kimberly McKinnis tests the viewer's endurance of aggression that assumes the form of slow, non-vocal and painstaking destruction. The incessant grinding of glass against harsh concrete in Untitled: The Shape of an Emotion II as a beer bottle is transformed to dust is reminiscent of someone grinding their teeth in pain.
Brett Swenson's Execution begins a game of expectancy with the viewer as bullets of heat impact a clear glass surface : At what point will the glass break? What happens to the man behind the glass when it breaks?
Unlike these other works that exploit our perception of "breaking" to tell their story, Giuseppe Di Bella's puzzle-like reconstruction of a broken milk bottle in Healing reverses the object's fate and in turn, assimilates a space within which the viewer can reflect. His gesture in the video is one of tender care - patient, calm and painstaking. It speaks of catharsis.
In ways such as the above, but not limited to, post-glass artists ask : Hot glass forms, Cold glass breaks. Why not engage it? And in turn, they are seeking meaning in the destruction of a glass object.
Post-Glass artists seem to be using their bodies to create works in which performative acts create intimate relationships with the physicality or metaphor of glass. This is yet another outcome of the interest to engage moments that vanish quickly in the self-containment of objects. Since video has the ability to capture such moments accurately, an intense questioning of the human body in relation to glass spills over to experiments of process in video as seen amongst artists who are part of The Post-Glass Video Festival 2010.
In The Only Thing You Can Count On Is Your Family, Andrew Salgado uses the metaphorical space of the mirror to reflect an image of the Other or monstrous. In a narrative that is very personal, and before our eyes, he transforms from what is socially and familially acceptable to what is not, what is questionable, alienated, disapproved and perhaps despised by some. By applying changes to his own body, the Other is revealed as but one of two sides of the same coin, the coin being the Self.
(de)composition: self-portrait is a meditative and profound consideration in which Arun Sharma observes the slow erosion of the human body into a haze of dust. Destruction of the substance of an earthen human form causes its surroundings, water in the box, to be full of the substance.The firmness rendered by the opacity of the medium means the absence of an object within it. Through a visual representation of the breakdown of the human form, Sharma's questions run deep : How does entropy occur in a human body? Does the invisibility mean that it is dying?
Andrea Oleniczak's Orange Tree shows the artist on a ladder, filling the arms of a tree with clear glass oranges that contain fresh orange juice. Her act leaves behind an image of the city with a fruitful tree, in contrast to the original cold, barren and colorless scenery. What is invisible to us in a traditional still life or landscape painting - breeze whistling through trees, leaves fluttering on the ground, human intervention in landscape - are made visible through her physical presence as we are witness to her process and hopeful gesture.
Alexandra Ben Abba uses fire from molten glass as her scissor, burning her hair to achieve the desired length and style in Glass Haircut. An awkward yet tantalizing choreography of what would otherwise be mundane and normal, Ben Abba ia an example of an interesting undercurrent to this theme : a significant number of artists, many featured on this blog since 2009, subject their bodies to "strange interactions" with glass... Other examples of this trend include: Solange Ledwith wraps her body, cloaked in wet newspaper, with hot glass strands. Maria del Carmen Montoya and Naomi Kaly experience glass powder as make-up on the face. Suzanne Peck attempts to swim with glass floats around her arms. Carrie McIlwain submerges herself in a bathtub filled with glass shards. Charlotte Potter tries to heal her glassblowing scars by licking them like an animal..... In all cases, the works that investigate the body in this realm of endurance or discomfort are made by women.
The question follows: why do women have the tendency to do weird things with hot glass and their body ? is it mere coincidence? Or is it because they are more aware and engaged in the politics of the body in contemporary society? Such work may also stem from counteraction to the mostly male-dominated glassblowing world. Traditionally, the demonstration of virtuoso and machismo (i.e making heavy and big objects or showing off technical expertise) marks hot glass-working. Is the work we are witnessing by women post-glass artists a divergent and reasonable way to explore the material while addressing the issues of body using hot glass through feminine acts?
A significant number of works in The Post-Glass Video Festival use glass as a medium or tool - a lens, screen or mirror - to contemplate upon spaces and to alter our perception of them.
Like most non-glass makers, Ted Sonnenschein's relationship to glass as a material is defined by its presence in everyday objects, frequently mirrors and windows. A moving train, as Sonnenschein has discovered, indulges various optical activities simultaneously. It is a vantage point, a lens or conduit for light to pass through, a projection or reception screen. Keenly experiencing these aspects during his daily commutes, the commonplace yet unique perspective Sonnenschein adopts in this work presents the train as an object he is contained in as well as a device that captures moving image. In 6 Views of Berlin, he describes a "screen" as a hybrid between mirror and window.
Rui Sasaki's I eye I, in turn, focuses on the human eye, whose surface reflects the object it sees, but also absorbs the image. The mind in turn, becomes a sort of projection screen and its space, a camera obscura that receives an vision from outside its chamber. In this sense, our body's native video camera, the eye, brings the world that is external to our bodies, within it.
Heightened by Emer Lynch is a quiet and playful exploration of the similitude between water and glass, both clear and colorless. Floating glass objects on the surface of a water body act as lenses to pebbles that lie underneath while the water itself acts as a mirror, brining to earth the sky. Sometimes, this behavior is flipped around. At other times, interference patterns are generated between both materials. In such ways, the work explores perceptual experience through flirtations between illusion and substance.
Preview and Guide uses the Festival of Britain (FB) as an example of flowing visuality to present exactly the opposite nature of history and its consequent present. Matthew MacKisack uses the transparency of glass to present the opacity of history. In the layering of images, we see the marks of time, instead of its flow. Glass, here, has the illusory capacity to look back through time while video helps the artist do so fluidly, without friction, only to realize that a history, or the ideas it proposed, are not fluid.
Sarah Rose Allen's cup animates bubbles in the simple gesture of pouring. It attends to the movement of air during the creation of bubbles in a transparent medium, a moment that is lost when the phenomena is frozen into the glass object, and visits an overlooked gesture in the most transparent way possible : a clear medium in a clear object with neither in physical form.
The projection of one's self-image onto a copy of that image only to be confronted with a non-ideal, problematic or different one is a notion several post-glass video artists seem attracted to. This blog has already discussed the Lacanian perspective of the mirror, as well as the mirror presenting the Other. Breet Swenson does something different: he presents our understanding of the mirror as a lens that filters info and projects it, transmits it into space. In Dreamcast, the reflection of self-image (its mirror copy) is actually a clear, sculpted glass face superimposed with a digital video portrait of the same face. It is thus, subject to distortions due to transmission of light, causing the evolving image of a human is trapped and mutating within his static, ideal portrait.
As post-glass artists find ways to subvert conventional perceptions of mirror, lens, screen, video, glass..... we imagine these terms will be redefined using more complex vocabularies.
A membrane is essentially a selective barrier-cum-passage. Our skin is a membrane : it covers and demarks our physical entity like a protective case. At the same time, it allows us to absorb the outer world into our bodies. Its pores and cells provide us access to the atmosphere and one another in ways that make us feel connected to the environment around us. The Post-Glass Video Festival features some works that explore various surface techniques and layering processes to speak about the membranous qualities of glass.
Table by Betsy Dadd is stop frame animation that is generated from oil painting on glass. While thematically centered around acts at a table, the animation is just as much about the materiality of glass that allows mutating images on its surface. Glass, as a membrane that offers no texture of its own is the perfect substrate or canvas. The subjects in Dadd's paintings move and flow, meld and erase as the pigment slides on the smooth surface of glass. The work inspires unadulterated joy of an image being formed and dissolved at front of our eyes.
In Compound Focus, a series of video portraits shot through a slab of dapple-textured glass by Emma Hogarth, an interesting flip of technological sensibility occurs. She transfers the effect of a still camera to the context of a moving image. The result is a painterly effect in which the subjects move very slowly and the slight shifts in light are transmitted through the glass membrane cum lens cum filter.
Netta Bacon's Pack imparts the human hand a quality of glass by printing on transparent paper. This is merged with the appearance of the glass glove that is transparent in its materiality. By thinking of glass as a membrane, the artist captures the body within an object (glove) only to exceed its boundaries like a ghost. A single image, yet layered. In both, material and metaphorical play of transparency.
Kevin Kay uses the transparency of glass in a different manner: he plays with antiquated technologies. In Untitled, membranes of tracing paper, the glass of the TV monitor, the image being played and VCR feedback vary the level of opacity from the re-shot projection. By treating this range of glass-based or glass-like "materials" as membranes that allow other images to seep through their surfaces, he constructs a complex, layered, abstract image, a collage in flux.
BMB (can't say goodbye) by Armel Hostiou is unique in this festival for the way in which it shift the perception of glass' invisible hardness : as a one-way membrane, a secret limit that can be passed in one direction but not in the other. Hostiou uses glass, breath and water to speak of invisible barriers such as the emotion of feeling trapped, or more simply, time, as a filter for matters or actions one way but not backwards. This one-way membrane of glass weaves doubt between absence and presence to represent two states of mind, time or situation.
In contrast is The Opposite of Mitosis by Charlotte Potter, which explores the dynamic space of fusion where two fluid entities meet and meld together. Enacted through the coming together of the shadows of two molten glass bubbles, the work specifically deals with push-and-pull interactions at the common membrane. Viewed in a petridish on a steel table, the installation uses a choreographed membrane of glass to engage the psychological space of fusion, one that neither always identical nor regulated.
As seen above, post-glass artists are sensitive to the material and optical properties of glass that lend themselves to being treated as a membrane in many ways.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
In the age where digital photo frames are commonplace, the notion of a "video still life" only makes sense. The intent is poetic : the portrayal of a seemingly still landscape, knowing that no moment is still as the one preceding or succeeding it. The video begins with a still of a budding tree on Belle Isle and the skyline of Detroit behind it. Using a ladder, the artist fills the arms of this tree with clear glass oranges that contain fresh orange juice, leaving behind an image of the city with a fruitful tree.
Orange Tree is a nostalgic rendition of the notion of a still image in which, conventionally, time seemed to freeze up. In the video, what is invisible to us in a traditional still life or landscape painting - breeze whistling through trees, leaves fluttering on the ground, etc - are made visible to us in the frame of video. Here, the clouds pass. We see the painstaking and time-consuming process of placing objects in the landscape. The beautiful oxymoron lies in the impression of a still image despite all of this.
The addition of oranges - bright colored, tangy, juicy fruit - to the otherwise bland, bare and cold scenery speak s to a different kind of association in the artist's mind : " Detroit is a city of abandonment; abandoned production, homes, schools and industry....(I) create a more fruitful image of Detroit." Of course, the oranges are not real oranges that will perish. They are glass objects and will remain. They hung on the tree like Christmas balls, which they are not. They resemble fruit, signs of eternal hope and optimism in a colorless landscape. They, along with their smell, give the passerby (of the landscape) the opportunity to ponder their presence, in a way different from holiday decoration or plant growth.
As is common to post-glass artists, all this trouble is undertaken to create a few moments of experience. The glass oranges are recycled to become something else. The passerby is gone with a refreshed mind. And the viewer of the episode is left with the image of a fruitful tree in her mind. The investment here, like many post-glass artists, is in time, not in object.
Sarah Rose Allen's interest in poetic and visceral moments held within mundane acts is evident in her video installation, cup. The work animates bubbles in the simple gesture of pouring.
Studio glass is not unfamiliar with the inclusion of bubbles in glass. In fact, it is an integral part / concern to the medium's vocabulary. While many artists take extraordinary pains to avoid and remove bubbles that may be seen as aesthetically problematic, others make works out of placing bubbles intentionally within glass to create specific optical and formal effects. Either way, the dynamism of introducing bubbles and the movement of air during their creation is lost when the phenomena is frozen into the glass object.
Allen's video focusses on precisely those moments by keeping the constant creation and disappearance of bubbles alive. By a clever strategy, the cup is always only half-full, never overflowing, causing the act to never have to end. The video projection is installed in the darkened space of a closet, sometimes an alcove or corridor end, always an incidental space where the encounter of the virtual object and its phenomenon is a discovery.
The relationship between glass and video is of an interesting nature: Glass is a good memory-keeper of marks that were left behind, of ephemeral moments. But since it records time in invisible ways, it shows no memory of the act itself. Digital video on the other hand, is an excellent and accessible medium for capturing those moments, the details that are lost to a static entity of sculpture.
From the works of post-glass artists, it seems that the study of fundamental processes and appreciation for vision is leading to the use of video because it picks up where the self-contained object fails. Keeping its integrity of attending to a mundane, ephemeral moment that we encounter frequently, cup uses the ability of video to capture an overlooked gesture in the most transparent way possible : a clear medium in a clear object with neither in physical form.
(de)composition : self-portrait is an hour long video in which an unfired ceramic bust of the artist deteriorates in a contained pool of water. Shot through a clear glass box, the video gradually becomes foggy because of the dispersion of fine clay particles in the glass cube filled with water. A visual representation of the breakdown of the human form, (de)composition : self-portrait achieves a quiet and meditative transformation through the laws of entropy.
Entropy is essentially microscopic disorder. It describes the tendency for a contained system to go from a state of higher to lowest organization on a molecular level. We comprehend this intuitively when we melt an ice cube in a glass of water, or drop a cube of sugar into a cup of coffee. The changes always involve moving from disequilibrium or localized presence (eg. a substance) to equilibrium or dispersion (i.e. its surroundings). Thus, entropy affects the space into which a substance spreads. The entropic goal is to erase the distinction between substance and surrounding.
This is seen clearly in Sharma's video : As the box shifts from transparency to opacity, the object within it becomes formless. As the surroundings go from invisibility to solidity, the entity goes from solidity to invisibility. The firmness rendered by the opacity of the medium means the absence of an object within it. Destruction of the substance of an earthen human form causes its surroundings, water in the box, to be full of the substance.
If the point of a closed system, like the one set up in this work, is to move from kinetic to potential energy, to the calmest state possible, then Sharma's questions run deep : How does entropy occur in a human body? Does the invisibility mean that it is dying?
Perhaps in response, are the artist's words : "The slow-falling flakes of clay and the floating tendrils of clay fog create a spiritual, calming element that I have not often associated with the idea of death. At the end of the hour long video, the falling debris creates a fog that eventually envelopes the head, signifying the way we are slowly forgotten in the memory of the living and are lost in history."
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The moving image of a face is projected onto a glass cast of the same face that is seated on a rotating pedestal. The viewer is able to turn this pedestal, thereby creating optical distortions of the digital projection. As the cast is turned, ghostly reflections of the mutated face travel along the walls, its eyes constantly moving, looking around at its environment, and often times making eye contact with the viewer.
The projection of one's self-image onto a copy of that image only to be confronted with a non-ideal, problematic or different one is a notion several post-glass video artists seem attracted to. In Dreamcast, the mirror, i.e the static object that receives one's self-image, is a three-dimensional casting, fixed in both contour and time. But the image that falls upon it, i.e. digital video from the projector, changes. Since the designated "mirror" is not reflective, no image bounces back. Instead, it is subject to distortions due to transmission of light through the clear glass cast. The evolving image of a human is trapped and mutating within his static, ideal portrait. In a disturbing encounter with a floating face, as it meets ones's eye occasionally, the mirror acts as a lens.
In this way, Swenson's work demonstrates a recurring area of interest, to be discussed later in this blog, as it emerges from several post-glass works : perceptual shifts using the materiality and metaphor of the mirror.
The artist says, "Pictorialist photographers, active around the turn of the twentieth century, subscribed to the idea that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Their photographs were characterized by atmospheric effects achieved by using soft focus, special filters, lens coatings and experimental printing processes. By using the material qualities of glass to achieve a painterly effect in a digital video work," Hogarth draws our attention to the role of glass in development of optical and imaging technologies.
In an interesting flip of technological sensibility, she transfers the effect of a still camera to the context of a moving image. The subjects move very slowly and the slight shifts in light are transmitted through the glass membrane cum lens cum filter. Yet the image formed in one's mind is of still nature. In contrast to artist Betsy Dadd's video, which unpacks the moment of a the work provides an interesting connection between old, (rendered) obsolete media, materiality and new media.
Table is a collation of several scenes, each depicting a person engaged in an activity set at a table. This stop frame animation is generated from oil painting on glass.
Painting on glass is an old and integral part of the material's history. This includes reverse painting techniques, oil, enamel and gold painting across European, Islamic and Asian cultures, in themes ranging from scenery to patterns to portraiture to story-telling. The vocabulary finds place in contemporary glass as well, with artists painstakingly airbrushing or hand-painting images of (often) personal narrative on vessel surfaces, sometime in several layers. Especially because of the invisible materiality of glass that holds no memory of its own. No matter what the outlet or form, it seems as though joy in the process lies in a basic movement - that of pushing pigment around. Playing with tactile color to form and erase lines, contours and densities. Yet the tenuous struggle between excitement and frustration, acumen and experiment, during this process is lost to the final outcome. A painted canvas reveals the artist's strokes and inclinations with a certain finality. It is static.
Dadd's video is beautiful in that it simply "un-freezes" the painted moment by bringing into view decisions of time, not just stroke. Glass, as a membrane that offers no texture of its own is the perfect substrate. The subjects in these paintings are formed, come in and out of focus, are pushed around as desired. They move and flow, meld and erase as the pigment slides on the smooth surface of glass. In a William Kentridge-esque manner of creating a figure in a story, without explosive narratives and complex agendas, Table inspires unadulterated joy of an image being formed and dissolved at front of our eyes.
While thematically centered around acts at a table, the animation is just as much about the materiality of glass as a membrane and process of mutating images on its surface.
The 1951 'Festival of Britain' was intended to encourage post-war regeneration and optimism. It was a statement of social, scientific and cultural achievement. 18 million visitors saw pioneering work in many fields including the first radio telescope and post-war housing solutions. However, the utopianism of the Festival was short-lived: a month after its closure, the Conservative party gained power and the future was re-interpreted through individualism and material aspirations.
Preview and Guide presents the Festival of Britain (FB) through quotations and pronouncements, both predictive and diagnostic. The lack of its concrete-ness is indicated by no direct representation of the festival, and the future it proposed is realized obliquely, perhaps disappointedly, in the final image of social housing in the present day.
MacKisack uses the transparency of glass to present the opacity of history. In the layering of images, we see the marks of time, instead of its flow. Glass, here, has the illusory capacity to look back through time while video helps the artist do so fluidly, without friction, only to realize that a history, or the ideas it proposed, are not fluid. Without critical awareness, one's understanding of the present is sometimes abrupt. The treatment of video in the work highlights this disjunct. Preview and Guide uses a flowing visuality to present exactly the opposite nature of history and its consequent present.
The biological process of cell division in which a parent cell splits into two identical daughter cells is called Mitosis. Highly regulated and complex, errors in mitosis kill or mutate cells causing disease such as cancer. However, if seen at a more fundamental level, mitosis is part of the study of fusion, of how an entity is created and how it propagates. It is the starting point for the paradigm of "relationships" at a cellular level.
Potter uses, in a reverse sort of way, the analogy of mitosis to explore the space of fusion, for that is where she believes relationships lie, be they human or with materials like glass. In The Opposite of Mitosis, she enacts the coming together of two molten glass bubbles through a play of their shadows.
Devoid of extraneous contextual information, and relying only on their densities of black and white as filtered by light through a screen, two dark "pods" at the end of black sticks enter the frame. Slowly, they are filled with breath. They expand, touch each other and share a common membrane. In one instance, the contact point is minimal and the weight of the individual personalities preclude a wider contact area. In another, one bubble slips away, forming a cord-like connection, only to break off (as the glass behind the screen gets cold). A bubble pushes too much air into itself or grabs the second to overwhelm the other in size. At other times, the two bubbles meld in a balanced, reciprocal manner...
The very specific process of alternately blowing air into and then sucking air out from a hot glass bubble until it cools and will expand no more, has been used to determine the lifespan of each encounter. The ultra-thin membrane between the two bubbles is then blown back and forth until the bubbles break, sometimes like a steady dying heartbeat, and at other times, like a fish gasping and struggling for breath when placed out of water. The artist's attention to dynamics from several such interactions form the exact moments of interest in The Opposite of Mitosis.
This visceral video of the shadow of two bubbles meeting and melding into one is installed in a petridish and set on a steel table. In an attempt to engage the psychological space of fusion, one that is neither always identical nor regulated as defined by mitosis - the installation references a clinical study of relationships, the emotions surrounding them - those seductive, volatile, unequal, entanglements - and the possibility of therapy.
The Opposite of Mitosis is one of several works that use glass as a membrane, a theme of perceptual shift that will be discussed later in the blog.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Heightened is a quiet and playful exploration of the similitude between water and glass, both clear and colorless.
Open hemispheres of glass, like rimmed half bubbles, float around in a pebbled water body, sometimes alone, other times, in groups. In doing so, they assume several forms; they are activated by various phenomena; they engage with their environment in different ways - They act as lenses and magnify the pebbles underneath. It seems as though a strange suction has occurred on spots on the water's surface. A negative space that has displaced the water that would have filled otherwise. They mingle with real bubbles marking the water. They may be white rocks or floating loops of thread. Or reflections from the sky just like the trees around them. They interact with ripples formed in the water body's calm. At night, they appear like cells, with their edges glowing as though injected with a dye under a microscope.
Filmed in a location devoid of man-made intrusions, the vessels floating on the water subvert the standard orientation of the horizon, thereby exaggerating the floati-ness of both materials being explored. Against the backdrop of shifting horizon and focus, Lynch explores the flirtation between illusion and substance. This work is the artist's response to living within an urban landscape in Ireland, "seeking the natural amongst my manmade habitat".
The emotion of feeling trapped is wistful and sometimes, oppressive. Hostiou uses glass, and water, a glass-like substance, to speak of invisible barriers such as time. Desiring for a view of the city, a woman is able to enter her balcony through a large, open window. But she is unable to return into the room because the open space now bears an impenetrable transparency. The only - and momentary - indication of this surface is the vapor of the actor's breath, soon replaced by streams of water running down the glass plane as though they were tears on a face. Trapped, the world behind the woman becomes dark. The subject disappears behind the torrential wall of water, only to leave behind a few streaks of water on the invisible glass pane and a few dots of light in the background.
Through this mutation and disappearance of space, location and person, Hostiou presents the notion of time as a filter for matters or actions one way but not backwards. Her work is unique in this festival for the way in which it shift the perception of glass' invisible hardness : as a one-way membrane. In doing so using video, she weaves doubt between absence and presence to represent two states of mind, time or situation.
Pack features a straightforward yet enigmatic gesture : A hand is held out. It closes into a fist. A glass glove appears to encase the fisted hand like a clear casket that fixes the body in space and time.The hand opens up and reaches out of the glove, as though it were just a memory.
In her attempt to trace lines of meaning between a concrete gesture, the association and its fleeting memory, Bacon maintains a constant rhythm of adding and dropping frames. Speaking about her process, Bacon says,"Frames were printed on transparent paper. The body becomes transparent like the glass boxing glove. Frames were then piled one on top of the other, creating an accumulating image, a pack. As a few frames are added on top, one is taken from the bottom of the pile in a constant rhythm."
The hand is imparted the quality of glass by printing on transparent paper. This is merged with the appearance of the glass glove that is transparent in its materiality. A single image, yet layered. In both a material and metaphorical play of transparency.
The gesture is frozen in the physicality of the boxing glove. Only here, the shifting transparency serves as a ghost to speak of something imaginary. Is the glove, by virtue of being of a real, physical substance protecting the hand or locking it? Yet the hand escapes the glove and we are once again in the realm of an echo. Pack is an incredibly short animation developed from this incredibly intense process.
In this digital version of the Super 8 Black and White film Untitled, Kay pays homage to what we often describe as antiquated tools in the style of early video art, where the crossover between film and video were explored.
By nature film is a transparent membrane. Images are formed when light passes through each frame. With the aid of a film projector, television, analog video camera and VCR, this work is created by continually layering imagery. The membranes of tracing paper, the glass of the TV monitor, the image being played and VCR feedback vary the level of opacity from the re-shot projection.
The result is a collage in flux, one that may never need to have a definitive end to its process, using the television glass screen as a canvas.
6 Berlin Views are short segments shot aboard Berlin's commuter trains. As a train departs from, transits through and arrives at various stations, the artist focuses his camera on the visual landscape formed on the glass windows of the fast-moving container inside which he stands.
Like most non-glass makers, Sonnenschein's relationship to glass as a material is defined by its presence in everyday objects, frequently mirrors and windows. Consequently, his understanding of the material is shaped by observed phenomena : reflection and transparency. In 6 Berlin Views, he brings together the two seemingly opposite surfaces - a mirror, which is typically opaque and reflects the subject standing across from it, and a clear window, which allows the subject to see through it - onto one projection surface. This is the window of the train.
Using simple documentation of events they unfold, he removes all pretense and deliberation on his part to guide the viewer towards a specific narrative. Instead, like light diffraction patterns, he allows the viewer to go back and forth between the "mirror" and "window" aspects of the projected image. At times, the images are discerned At other times, the images merge in ghostly ways. In a sense, he describes a screen as a combination of moving image and glass, and within that, a repository to hold what lies beyond the materiality of its substance, be it shadow, reflection or scenery.
Typically, studio artists apply images of landscape on vessels through engraving, enameling, layering, sandblasting, cutting, etc. As artists, we are constantly trying to encapsulate or represent what lies beyond the confines of the vessel on its surface. What Sonnenschein does flips that relationship around and changes the scale : He sees himself as being contained within the vessel (the train) as opposed to looking at it. He creates the image onto the object's surface in real-time using the optical qualities of the object itself (the train) as opposed to manipulating the vessel's form by say, cutting into it.
We are, of course, familiar with several devices in the long history of objects - the camera obscura, magic lantern, telescope, microscope, etc - that bring the outside world into a confined space. Usually though, a device accomplishes one thing at a time. A moving train, as Sonnenschein has discovered, indulges various optical activities simultaneously. It is a vantage point, a lens or conduit for light to pass through, a projection or reception screen. Keenly experiencing these aspects during his daily commutes, the commonplace yet unique perspective Sonnenschein adopts in this work presents the train as an object he is contained in as well as a device that captures moving image . In turn, the video exposes a cinematic space that is created by a vessel onto its own walls in an ephemeral marking of passage of time.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
The human body discerns moving image through the eye, our biological video camera. In a short study, I Eye I captures on digital video the image that is held by the artist's eye.
The human eye lens is fascinating in nature : Its surface reflects the object it sees while its cones and rods capture details of the object at an astounding frame rate and transmits the same to the mind. It is a mirror and transparent membrane at the same time. A surface from which an image bounces back at us, also absorbs the image, allows it to pass through and projects it into the human mind. The mind in turn, becomes a sort of projection screen and its space, a camera obscura that receives an vision from outside its chamber. In this sense, our body's native video tool, the eye, brings the world that is external to our bodies, within it.
The question is, what does Sasaki's eye see that she seeks to internalize? To the artist, her studio is the space where she spends most of her time, where her ideas transfer to physical objects. They get visualized into comprehensible entities in the studio just as what our eyes see are concretized in the camera obscura-like space of the human mind. In an unspecified critique and without narrative outcome, in an act of ocular endurance, this work is Sasaki's attempt to understand what the space of her studio means by holding its image in her eyes across day and night.
The Only Thing You Can Count On Is Your Family uses the metaphor of glass in a manner of confrontation. Here is a dialogue with (homo)sexuality, homophobia and identity, especially through confrontation with the conceptual understanding of their shifting boundaries.
Salgado places his figure in the metaphorical space of the mirror to reflect an image of the Other or monstrous. By transforming from a white to black man, he evokes long-drawn discussion of racial divide. He chooses to become the religious Other when he removes the cross of Christianity from his body. As he unclothes to reveal a slender frame, shaves his head and all facial hair including his eyebrows, he moves more delicately into territory that is past heterosexuality. As he reads the contents of personal communication with his family, the artist removes every evidence that is identifiable and presumed about him in the Euro-centric world: white, christian and heterosexual. The narrative is very personal, and before our eyes, he transforms from what is socially and familially acceptable to what is not, what is questionable, alienated, disapproved and perhaps despised by some.
It is said that without reflection, gaze and shadow, we would have little understanding of ourselves as a whole entity. A child at six months lacks coordination and is unable to fully comprehend what goes where and how one part of its body fits into the other. Yet it is able to recognize itself in the mirror. This synthesis of a whole image delights the child, at the same time producing a sense of contrast with its seemingly fragmented body. From the ensuing tension begins the construction of the Ego and consequently, projections (and subjugations) of identity-related biases. The mirror phase was defined by the psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan in 1936. He proposed that Ego is the product of a fundamental misunderstanding, a false recognition, which situates the agency of the ego in a fictional direction. The child becomes alienated from itself before any sort of social determination can take place. In other words, the mirror stage introduces the baby into an imaginary order. While this idea has been criticized widely because for the infant to recognize itself in the mirror, it must already have a sense of self underway, Lacan's concept finds place in literary critique : the mirror separates us from our selves; In order to recognize myself, I have to be separate from my self. Modern media too, utilizes this infantile fascination with the reflected image, by showing us pictures into which we are invited to project ourselves.
Salgado uses our familiarity of being implicated in such projections well. He sets up an intimate cinematic space - not voyeuristic but point-blank - as if a mini-stage has been emptied of everything but his private moment. We are privy to his actions. He sets up the simple unquestioned device of a mirror for us we watch him undergo changes in physical appearance. As we listen to his words and watch, we comprehend everything he is doing step by step, as it is reflected accurately in the mirror. Yet, by the end, in the style of the impending growth of a horror film (where a bathroom mirror sucks the person into a distant land), we are returned with an image that is so far removed from the subject. We are now confronted with "the person who is not".
Along with a stark visual comes the revelation that these differences are in (social) perception. And that the unfamiliar alien, the misunderstood and distasteful Other is but one of two sides of the same coin, the coin being the self. Through "intimate and provocative portrayals,... clandestine moments for public reception", Salgado hopes that "the viewer considers the private but wholly real social politics of prejudice, sexuality, and violence."
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Glass Haircut is a post-glass artist's rendition of giving herself a haircut. Using fire from molten glass as her scissor, the artist burns her hair to achieve the desired length and style.
In a strange displacement from everyday life, every expression on her face is evidence to the smell of burning hair; the careful gestures of her fingers imply the hot and dangerous substance touching her body....almost. The glowing goo at the end of a metal rod looks mysterious, especially to those who are not familiar with glassblowing. It is only the smoke coming from the hair that implies what this material is.
With all external references to the immediate, physical environment removed (perhaps a glassmaking studio), the video's composition uses its reference to the "Black" or Claude Mirror well. An oddity today, the Claude Lorrain Mirror is made of black glass, slightly convex, and produces a reduced, upright reflection. It was used by landscape painters in the 18-19th centuries to concentrate on form, line and perspective by suppressing color saturation and muting tonal values. The black mirror was a pre-photographic optical instrument, a virtual reality device of sorts. It edited a natural scene in very specific ways to make it easier for the artist to focus on drawing what was important to the scene.
By removing all evidence of her immediate physical background, Ben Abba does something similar. She creates a black mirror that directs the attention of the viewer to a very specific scene. She transforms what would otherwise be read as a reflective surface to one that absorbs her image. Her reflection is now, an actor in spotlight on a stage, the subject of a "moving painting" and not someone standing plainly at front of a mirror.
In this way, she uses digital video to reclaim and manipulate the optical space of the mirror. In a sense, the mirror becomes the protagonist who captures the performer's transformation, her sense of calm and conviction in the end when she is happy with the results. As she tosses her hair about and walks off with a smile, one wonders about a curious pattern this work falls into : the tendencies of post-glass artists to subject their bodies to wierd ways of doing something normal (in this case, getting a pretty haircut).
A significant number of artists, many featured on this blog since 2009, seem to subject their bodies to strange interactions with glass. These individuals are women. Is this mere coincidence? Is there an increased engagement of feminine body politics in a field that has historically been characterized by machismo? Glass Haircut is representative of these questions while presents an awkward yet tantalizing choreography of what would otherwise be mundane and normal.
And of course, the observation made above about women post-glass artists will be discussed further in the days to come.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Set, shot and edited in the Do-It-Yourself style of home videos, Untitled: The Shape of an Emotion II documents the process of grinding, by hand, a whole glass beer bottle into the very small pieces.
The most "visible" component of this work is, curiously, its audio track. The incessant grinding of glass against harsh concrete speaks of endurance in the same way that someone grinds their teeth in pain. Just as the sound of grinding teeth fills the head of a person, causing it to throb, the prolonged determination of the artist's action fills the screen with its non-human scream. The pitch of the grinding sound shifts higher and higher as the bottle disintegrates into smaller and smaller piece, and begs the question: when will she be done?
Even though the viewer is aware of the outcome, and the video shows no surprise otherwise, watching the video requires a certain amount of endurance on the part of the viewer, knowing that the act itself is of the same quality, and no effort is made to cloak or edit it in a prettier, more appealing fashion. In Untitled :..., the aggression assumes form of slow, non-vocal and painstaking destruction. If the bottle were to symbolize one's pain, would grinding it away relentlessly with the goal to convert it into dust - to erase completely all form - heal?
This video is also an example of a recurrent theme amongst several artists : the penchant to work with broken glass. What meaning is there, to be found or made, from the act of destroying glass? The theme will be discussed in a later post.
A glass bottle, once broken is not recuperable. It has lost its function and must be discarded. Its contents have spilled, are spoiled and cannot be consumed anymore. The little pieces it has broken into are dangerous: they will poke and cut, and must be collected carefully and thrown away. In the contrary spirit of optimism and hope, Healing depicts the puzzle-like reconstruction of a broken milk bottle, shard by shard, into its former whole self.
Unlike other works featured on this blog that treat breaking as an aggressive act, Di Bella's gesture in the video is one of tender care. It is a patient, calm and painstaking endeavor of a hand to put back in place every broken piece of an object that was shattered previously because of being dropped. This is particularly poignant because the object is a bottle that contained milk, a symbol of nourishment and an unconditional relationship of love. Di Bella reminds us, by example, that the hands that spill are the hands that collect. The hands that destroy are also the hands that create. And the process of healing is often slow, with much effort and attention going into which parts fit where and which do not.
Healing clearly uses a metaphor for dealing with loss and closure of a wound. The metaphor of a heart of glass is an old one. As the saying goes, " Be it a piece of glass or a heart, its finality lies in shattering to innumerable bits". By reversing the above fate, Di Bella allows the viewer to re-appropriate the metaphor in their own way; to perhaps assimilate a space within which they can reflect.
This video is also an example of a recurrent theme amongst several artists : the desire to engage broken glass. What meaning is there, to be found or made, from the act of breaking glass? Or connotations therefrom? The theme will be discussed in a later post.
A hooded male emerges from an elevator into a dark space. He holds a spot-heating gas torch, turns it on and directs the flame frontally, towards the viewer. The flame is small and pointed, and as the focus of the camera fades in and out, the scene appears to be from a dark, slow dream.
In a split second, however, there appears a gaping, smoking hole, suspended mid-air between the viewer and the man as he turns his torch off and disappears. Only to re-appear and repeat the action at a different spot in mid-air. Over several episodic appearances in this dream-like state that fades in and out of vision, the cinematic "space" between the artist and the viewer reveals itself to contain a large clear pane of glass.
From this point onwards, Execution begins a game of expectancy with the viewer: what will happen next? at what point will the glass break? what happens to the man when it breaks?... Impacted by bullets of heat repeatedly, the invisible glass surface is replaced by a completely opaque broken surface of tempered glass. The cinematic space that was previously transparent is now blocked by a screen. The executioner is now inaccessible and but a silhouette standing behind a hole-ridden portrait that is beautiful in its ghostly form.
This video demonstrates a recurrent theme amongst several artists : the penchant to break glass. What meaning is there, to be found or made, from the act of breaking glass? The theme will be discussed in a later post.