Friday, September 10, 2010

[Theme] On Breaking :

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.

[Theme] Of Body and Performance :

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?

[Theme] Of Perceptual Experience :

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.

[Theme] As Membrane :

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.