.::..Nicholas Sagan..::. …:.::..artworks and experiments…::.:…nicholassagan@gmail.com

Untitled Collaboration

Early into the fall semester of last school year I was enrolled in a class called Space and Place. If you have been following this blog the name might have come up from time to time. Before our class went on to produce our individual installations (see Waking the Invisible) we were assigned to create collaborative installations. After some discussion (and whining, believe it or not) our class broke off into our respective groups.

So together with Nic Ruley and Mary Mazurek-Khan, we set off to address issues of light (projection), meta-narratives within pop culture (the subject of portraiture) and experiment with controlling a space with sound (surround sound). As it turned out, we had some leftover painters plastic from black box-ing the installation lab we were assigned so we used that as our projection surface. Initially we did some testing with video feedback and projections but ultimately decided upon using a sitter for our portrait. We filmed her sitting from three different angles, each of which represented the positions and angles of three color-assigned projectors (that just means one was filtered blue, one red and one green). A little tricky image scaling and we had our surface and a clear image!

The audio is borrowed from podcasts that were distributed during museum tours, each describing a specific portrait in a collection. In order to tease out some highlights of the text, we edited out all of the instances where an artist’s name or title of the work was uttered. By abstracting the audio we were able to recontextualize it by way of creating a new interpretation of contemporary portraiture.

While the history of portraiture goes back a long way and much of art history canon is grounded upon the practice, there is almost a necessity to re-evaluate it’s presence within an era that is continuing to define a concept known as posthumanism. That’s right. We may not have been explicit about some of the ideas that fit into this more recent (1960’s, arguably) cultural movement but they were there when we began this piece. Portraiture is typically (or stereotypically) intended to portray the subject at a specific moment surrounded by signifiers.

We wanted to change or challenge that idea in light of many of the modern devices and methods of transmitting the “self” and “others” via that media. If structures such as Facebook exist as nodes for social interaction, then surely it the essence of portraiture…think about it: you post pictures of yourself in a variety of contexts, you surround yourself (profile) with all sorts of signifiers, etc, etc…The nature of this genre has evolved into something beyond, into something posthuman, where the physical body means less and less, as opposed to the digitized self rising to dominance.

Some people argued that we didn’t provide enough of an “in” for the viewer to get to know the subject. Those misunderstood because it wasn’t so much about representing someone in more modern interpretation of the genre of portraiture but that we were using this format, and simple technology mind you, to address the dynamic of subjectivity versus objectivity with regards to the responsibility of the viewer…

But enough of me. Hopefully even without experiencing the installation first hand, you will be able to get a sense of it from the video clip, superbly prepared by Nic Ruley. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, etc etc.

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