Tuesday, August 20, 2013

STEVE MILLER: Crossing the Line

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Signal Relay, 2003, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 50" x 37.5"

STEVE MILLER (www.stevemiller.com) is a photographer, painter, and sculptor who has been making work at the intersection of art and science for over three decades. In his current exhibition at the National Academy of Sciences titled Crossing the Line, Miller presents a body of work based on his long-term collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist and biophysicist Rod MacKinnon. Curated by Marvin Heiferman, the show expands on an earlier exhibition by the artist that took place at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in 2007. For the catalogue for the earlier show, which was curated by Michael Rush and titled Spiraling Inward, an extensive interview was conducted between Heiferman and Miller. What follows is an abbreviated version of that interview prefaced by Heiferman's introductory essay for the current show along with a selection of images from both exhibitions. Concatenations thanks both curator and artist for permitting the republication of the texts here, and the artist for providing such a wealth of images.

Crossing the Line: Paintings by Steve Miller will be on view at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. through January 13, 2014. The catalogue for the show can be accessed here: Crossing the Line catalogue. The catalogue for the show at the Rose, which contains essays by Michael Rush and Mark Auslander in addition to the full interview, can be found here: Spiraling Inward catalogue.

Factory, 2008, dispersion and silk screen enamel on canvas, 80" x 120"

Crossing the Line: Paintings by Steve Miller 
By Marvin Heiferman

Over the past decade, Steve Miller has made numerous and provocative artworks based upon his collaboration with Rod Mackinnon, a Nobel-Prize winner in Chemistry in 2003. They met at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, when Miller, interested in advanced imaging, was working with scientists there and MacKinnon was investigating protein structures in order to better understand their functioning. Scientists and artists routinely make and rely upon images to problem solve in the course of their work. And so it was not surprising that Miller became fascinated with the visual nature, vocabulary, and tools of MacKinnon’s work: the graphic quality of his calculations and diagrams, the computer modeling he experimented with to grasp the three dimensionality of proteins, and X-ray crystallography technology itself.

MacKinnon was investigating how potassium ions moved across cell membranes. Miller’s work engages itself with the crossing of borders as well: moving back and forth between photography and painting, shifting from micro to macro scale, combining representational and abstract imagery and what is theorized with what can be seen.

Commenting on his long-standing interest in working with scientists, Miller says, “we’re all asking questions, trying to understand what forces make or shape who we are.” For him, art and science are parallel dialogs about possibility; when they intersect, the context of each changes. What results, as these paintings reveal, can be unexpected, engaging, and powerful.

We Need the Following Qualities, 2007, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 38.5" x 29"

Every Body a Spectacle: An Interview with Steve Miller
By Marvin Heiferman

Today, electronics and automations make mandatory that everybody adjust to the vast global environment as if it were his little home town. The artist is the only person who does not shrink from this challenge. He exults in the novelties of perception afforded by innovation. The pain that the ordinary person feels in perceiving the confusion is charged with thrills for the artist in the discovery of new boundaries and territories for the human spirit. He glories in the invention of new identities, corporate and private, that for the political and educational establishments, as for domestic life, bring anarchy and despair. — Marshall McLuhan, 1968 [1]

Marvin Heiferman: This quote by Marshall McLuhan, which I find myself returning to often, seems to suggest some ways to start this conversation about your work. In the past, you and I have talked about artists’ contributions to the visual language and their responses to the technology of their time. What is the visual language at work in your work.

Steve Miller: Visual language today is complex; I don’t think we can really say it is one thing or another. At first, I responded to McLuhan’s claim, that artists are the only people who don’t shrink from the challenge of facing up to novel perceptions, by saying, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely right.” But now that I’m thinking about it—and about Google, YouTube, and MySpace—it seems like everyone today is more comfortable communicating with and through technology, which I think is the point of the exhibition, in a way. What used to be considered specialty languages no longer are.

People understand that information, image, and language systems can change and change quickly. Every artist I know uses Photoshop, and so does everyone else. Anyone can capture and manipulate images—adjust, annotate, and distribute their snapshots, animations, and home movies. Today, visual culture is much less specialized than when I started out.

MH: When was that, and what kinds of ideas, images, and issues interested you then?

SM: In the early 1980s, I started to use computers to manipulate and translate images. I became increasingly interested in what happened when an image was reprocessed. Back then, you could put an image onto a computer and digitize it, have it automatically morph into another form of visual language, which seemed advanced at that time. You went to specialty studios and worked for hours on what can now be accomplished by pressing a single button on a home computer. But what was important to me was the notion that you could take an image, put it through a translation system, and automatically code it.

MH: If we’re talking about the visual language of culture at a specific time, can you talk about the images and specialized visual vocabularies of the time that you wanted to explore?

SM: My interest in the visual language of science and technology grew out of my growing disenchantment with painting. The habitual gestures of making paintings had become frustrating and were feeling meaningless. But because I like making paintings, I was caught in a contradiction. I was bored and frustrated, but I was still looking for new ways to bring some energy into the work. I started looking at Rorschach blots because they gave me a preexisting image to work with—somebody else’s piece of paint, not my own. In the course of appropriating those forms, I inherited their content. Since I didn’t want to paint Rorschach blots, I scanned images of them on a computer, made silk screens of them, and began to print them on canvas. By not being responsible for the image, by not being responsible for physically and traditionally painting an image, by having the meaning taken out of my hands, I found a perfect way to keep painting going for myself.

MH: But, then, what was left for you to do?

SM: What I started to appreciate was that inkblots tested for a kind of content I hadn’t been thinking about when I started this work. I was using images from science that were used to test, on some level, someone else’s psychic energy. Rorschach blots, from what I understand, while no longer used much, had once been thought useful in revealing pathology. Because the pathological aspects of culture fascinate me, I began to think about what else would constitute literal images of pathology. I started looking at medical textbooks, at images of viruses and cancers. I was interested in them both for what they were and what they looked like—completely abstract images as seen through an electron microscope. This was in 1987, when images like these weren’t widely reproduced. Looking at them was like being under water in a coral sea, or being on the moon surrounded by lunar rocks. All of a sudden, I realized there was a whole other world that couldn’t be seen by the eye but could be visualized through new technology. And the content of the images was really powerful, even if not very directly, at first, for a lay viewer.

MH: What interests me about images, all images, is that different communities make images for specific purposes and understand and use them differently, depending on their need, knowledge, and perspective. What was it like for you, a visual artist, to throw yourself into this new visual language of medical and scientific imagery?

SM: The beauty of these images, to me, is they are the biological, technological, scientific equivalents of the Rorschach blots. I didn’t know what these images meant; neither would anybody who wasn’t a scientist. So, to answer your question, a scientist might look at an image and see technical information. (“This is the virus.” “This is the cancer cell.” “This is the healthy cell.” “This is the cell in the bloodstream.”) A contemporary art observer, looking at the same image, sees something perhaps closer to surrealism, a crazy juxtaposition of unknown things. What became interesting to me about the work was that, in an art context, images that were literal and useful to some became abstract and useful in another way to others. Unless I specifically name the images, you don’t know what they are. So, viewers have the possibility of looking at paintings in a state of fantasy, of projecting onto them, or, at some point, going deeper and finding out what the images actually are of and about.

MH: How important is it, to you, that people know what they’re looking at?

SM: At one level, not important at all. I think art, especially painting, has to sustain viewing and work off of a certain level of visual interest. That has to do with aspects of surface, size, composition—all the technical, formal aspects of making a picture. Then, there’s that other aspect of engagement, when an artwork starts making you ask questions. In the case of my work, it’s logical to ask, “What is that? What am I looking at?” And if you do, that takes you to the next level of involvement. In the case of the work in this exhibition, if the wall label references my collaboration with Rod MacKinnon, who is a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, that might lead you to ask some questions about painting or art history, about medicine and technology, or even, quite literally, about the meaning of life.

MH: Let’s talk about people’s fascination with, and fear of, scientific images that seem to require a specialist’s knowledge to understand.

SM: Since most people know little about molecular biology, this kind of specialized imagery can put viewers in a defensive position; it reminds them of how they struggled in high school math or chemistry. On the other hand, there are many ways to enter the work—other than dredging up memories of a set of equations on the chalkboard.

MH: You talked earlier about your disenchantment with painting and about people’s willingness to look at abstract images and test out something that’s not clear to them. Photography seems to help ease that transition and helps make people feel grounded in what they’re looking at. Photographic imagery plays a big role in your work; can you talk a bit about that?

SM: All of my work is photo-based. That’s interesting to me because, while it’s photo-based, you look at images that are microscopic, technical, and graspable, and yet there are no references in them to what looks like the real world. If you’re sitting in front of the painting, in this exhibition, called Potassium Channel, it looks pretty abstract. People have commented that it looks like “a landscape,” an “aerial view,” or “a satellite view of the world.” In fact, the painting features a detail of the X-ray crystallography machines that Rod uses at Brookhaven National Laboratory to image his protein structure, so he can understand their function. The photograph, then, is both literal and abstract, and that’s the part of photography that I love. What I also like about photography is that it’s a quick way to get an image; one click and you’ve got it.

Potassium Channel, 2007, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 80.5" x 81"

MH: Yet, the work is far from what you’d characterize as photographic. You’re painting and drawing on top of and around images all the time.

SM: I would say that ninety percent of my practice is drawing, which I love because I can work through ideas quickly. Painting is different, slower and more process-oriented. And, then, there’s another visual language at work here—the texts and notations that come directly from Rod’s notebooks, which I’ve photographed, and that introduce a whole other kind of mark-making and meaning.

MH: Rod’s texts suggest graffiti, which, historically, has played an interesting and sometimes controversial role in painting.

SM: All that text is a record of touch; it’s about human presence, which I like in the midst of all this technical imagery and information. The human touch and presence is important in this body of work; it reflects part of the process of a scientific discovery that’s important because it helps explain how we function physiologically, biologically, and on a molecular level. The images and the text in this work are metaphors for the process of inquiry, of looking inside of the work we have to do.

MH: Meaning?

SM: Meaning, scientists are looking for something, looking for meaning, but so am I. So are you. So are most thinking people. We’re all asking questions, trying to understand what forces make or shape who we are. Lots of people talk about that as being the job and a goal of both art and science.

MH: One of the things I like to talk about with both scientists and artists is their appreciation of, and fascination with, the process of searching and dealing with their work when things do or do not fall into place. You’ve spent a lot of time with scientists. What’s similar about the ways artists and scientists work, about how they visualize and find their way through problems?

SM: For painters, for instance, part of the beauty of a painting is knowing when to stop. There’s a famous Monet quote: “The difference between me and any others is I know when to stop.” If you overwork a painting, you kill it. With science, you keep going, no matter what. You keep exploring. And scientists keep looking, too, but the process is different; they work with very specific tools. The freedom in art is that you can let anything happen. When I talk to scientists, they never feel like they have that freedom to play. When I work with scientists and we start using the equipment, they always want to get everything in focus, to make everything work, to get me a certain kind of image. And I tend to say, “No. I want just the opposite of that. Do something you’ve never done before. Make it out of focus.” They love to do that, but the equipment is so expensive and their tools are so rare, they feel they can’t waste time and have to be efficient. The freedom of art is something scientists appreciate and, even, envy. One of the reasons I’ve been successful in working with scientists is because I give them the opportunity to play on someone else’s dime.

MH: A quality of the work in this exhibition that interests me is how, in the process of exploring the way that science is presented in imagery, there’s a sense of spectacle and of the spectacular at work. The work is big. The images have an explosive quality about them. There’s a sense of special effects at work. There’s a sense of friction and excitement in the constant juxtaposition of language and image, the drawn versus the photographic. The work suggests that every body, every cell, literally and figuratively, is a spectacle, that something big is going on and needs to be looked at. And that something even bigger is yet to come.

If They Exist, 2007, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 80" x 81"

SM: I never thought about it that way until now, but the body is spectacular and the notion of spectacle is a big part of art and of culture. I’ve always been interested in work by artists like Jack Goldstein, who painted images of fireworks, volcanoes, and airplanes with contrails flying through the skies, dropping bombs. In work like that, there’s a sense of watching a spectacle from a distance. In my work, the spectacle is just as big, but it takes place close by and on a much smaller and more intimate scale. What Rod MacKinnon does in his work is astounding. He figured out how a positively charged ion moves across a cell membrane, from a protein to a cell, at a rate of a hundred thousand to a million ions per second. That’s a spectacle I never thought about as I was representing it, but when I step back and look at it, it is spectacular, on a macro-micro level. His work and the images it generates are cosmic in a sense; the ions he studies interconnect all of the electricity in the body so we can communicate with each other. Those are pretty incredible notions.

There’s another level of spectacle at work, too: the massive amounts of money being spent on this research. Drug companies stand to make huge profits when they find the specific protein that targets a specific cell that’s diseased. Which adds yet another level of complexity to the work: Science cures disease and makes money. The image of a virus or a protein that might kill or sidetrack disease looks beautiful in a painting. In that sense, the work mirrors the complexity of what’s going on in the world today.

MH: Since you’ve brought up macro-micro issues, let’s end by addressing the issue of scale in this work.

Liquid Wrap, 2006, spray enamel, dispersion, and silk screen on canvas, 57" x 39.5"

SM: Conventionally, scientists see their images reproduced small scale, in the lab or when they’re published in journals. An image might get blown up in a PowerPoint presentation, but this kind of imagery is seldom seen on a large scale, or in a context removed from everyday work and the laboratory. When art and science intersect, it changes the context, beefs up the scale, and alters responses to imagery in unexpected ways. Images of the smallest of things become images you can get lost in. Scientists may not need or necessarily want that kind of scale or distraction. They’re making science; they’re looking for specific solutions. I’m making art and trying to communicate with a different audience, and scale is just one of the ways I try to do that.

What’s ultimately important about all of this is that things and events minute in scale are monumental in terms of meaning and impact. Images are central to that process. Rod’s work employs image-making for its function. Art is about function, too, but of a different kind. My job is to use specific kinds of images to grapple with the experiences of life and of culture, and to engage viewers in a dialogue about possibilities.

[1] Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, War and Peace in the Global Village (San Francisco: Hardwired, 1997), 12.

Curator and writer Marvin Heiferman organizes projects about photography and visual culture for institutions that include the Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, International Center of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the New Museum.  A contributing editor to Art in America, Heiferman has also written for The New York Times, Artforum, Bookforum, Mousse, ArtNews, Aperture, and BOMB.  His most recent book is Photography Changes Everything (Aperture, 2012), and new entries to Heiferman’s Twitter-based project, WHY WE LOOK (@whywelook) are posted daily.

The Chicken and the Egg Problem, 2007, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 80" x 60"

Definitely Tested, 2007, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 80" x 80"

Left: Protein #299, 2003, inkjet, pencil, and silk screen on paper, 19" x 13"; Right: Protein #395, 2004, pencil, enamel, and silk screen on paper, 19" x 13"

Soap Opera, the Second Season, 2005, dispersion and silk screen on canvas, 51" x 40"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

PIA MYRVOLD: Works in Motion

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Video Spiral - Videoloop - Pixel Cubes - Pink Hue, Venice, 2011,
32 LED screens, signal splitter, PC, video loop, cables, 160 x 160 x 360cm

PIA MYRVOLD (www.pia-myrvold.com) is a Norwegian artist who has resided in Paris and New York since 1992. With an interdisciplinary art philosophy, she has since the early 80s explored and simultaneously combined media: painting, sound, video, design, infrastructure design, living art urbanism and new technologies. Myrvold’s hybrid and overlapping research with visual media has introduced the art and design worlds to hybrids like cybercouture, clothes as publishing, multi-surface works, female interfaces and art projects involving dualities of virtual and real space, the keyword being interactive art interfaces. Her large output of paintings, prints, sculpture and video uses a visual narrative with references to technology and infrastructure, microchips and sensor-based interfaces, where dialectics of objects and space create suggestive agendas and new codes for how society can use and develop sensory abilities. Myrvold’s work is a conquest of space and new creation in the world of visual art. Her latest projects with 3D animation as sculpture and painting with multiscreen architectural strategies and digital mapping place her at the forefront of current technological realities.

What follows is a selection of work from Myrvold's recent show at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway titled Works in Motion: New Parameters in Painting and Sculpture (November 22, 2012 - February 3, 2013) along with essays by Peter Frank and Christine Buci-Glucksmann, both written for the show's catalogue. Concatenations would like to thank both authors for giving their permission to republish the articles here, and the artist herself for generously providing so many images.The show's catalogue, which includes an introduction by the artist and many more images, can be accessed here: Stenersen Catalogue.

FLOW - Stargate - Video Loop Expandium - Blue Hue, Venice 2011,
7 LED screens, aluminum frame, glass, and 3D animated video shape. 360 x 340 x 100cm.

Pia Myrvold: The Nature of Total Art

By Peter Frank

The modern Gesamtkunstwerk, logically enough, is and must be grounded in the digital. But can it simply reside there, amidst so many calibrated pixels? That would not be very gesamt. Pia Myrvold revels in the power of the digital, but harnesses it to a vision broader than the computer screen. For all the software and hardware upon which she depends, Myrvold still thinks like a painter, still sees her shapes and colors as figures, figures – certainly not representational, but figural nonetheless – in motion and evolution, to the point where they become distinctive characters. Digital media give Myrvold ready access to three and four dimensions, allowing her to invent and animate images of magical immediacy and perpetual evolution; but these images originate as much on a plane as they do in time and space. Their presence is as luminous, their form as voluptuous and witty, to the wink of a single eye as to the gaze of two.

Myrvold’s “characters” seem at once to be inscribed on the surface of their visual field and embedded solidly into a murky serum. They themselves resemble primitive organisms, protozoa or bacteria, their plasticity metamorphic and their own surfaces smooth and continuous but sensitive, even hyper-­‐ reactive, to (usually unseen) outside forces. Seemingly hybridized from the organic and the mechanical, they bob and flow and ooze before us with a measured, pensive slowness directly counter to the frenetic pace of most contemporary animation.

In fact, Myrvold neither thinks nor works like current animators. (If anything, she inherits her aesthetic from earlier painter-­‐animators such as Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, and Robert Breer, even in the way she integrates sound into her Gesamtfeld.) Rather, she endows the images she generates with a thoughtful, deliberate grace, allowing them to appear, birth one another, and dissolve into their stately, enchanting choreographies. Their radiant, dignified sensibility seems more baroque than modern, at least at first, their motion and their evolution as languid as undersea corals or large planets. They are restless, relentlessly modern presences, to be sure, moving and metamorphosing in the oddest manners, many assuming the form of bursts and explosions. But the way they glide, hover, and even decay embodies a preternatural patience, and require the same from perpetually distracted audiences more habituated to sudden, violent movement. The kinesis suffusing Myrvold’s imagery is as appropriate to a Versailles court as to a latter-­‐day club.

This is certainly not to say that Myrvold’s universe is more appropriate to the 17th century than to the 21st. For all their rococo finesse, her liquid abstractions ultimately posit current, immediate metaphors rooted in today’s natural and technological world. Whether suggestive of undersea life or of meteorological phenomena, micro-­‐organic, even sub-­‐atomic conditions or those pertaining to the cosmos, Myrvold’s peculiar imagery bristles with inference. Giddy and beautiful, her paintings-­‐in-­‐motion are never just patterns dancing for our entertainment, but pageants of presences whose eerie familiarity reminds us how not-­‐alone we are on the face of the earth. Their organic variability piques our curiosity; their extravagant variety insists that we understand our actual environment as heterogeneous – and exquisitely balanced.

To paraphrase both Paul Klee and Jackson Pollock, humankind does not have to seek nature, it is nature. All art, then, is “natural” – but only some of it reminds us of our naturalness. It may be presumptuous to read Pia Myrvold’s oeuvre and aesthetic as a spur to ecological awareness. But in its evident employment of a formal language rooted in nature, commingling the organic with the mineral, the botanical with the zoological, the molecular with the stellar, and, yes, the natural with the artificial, Myrvold’s art gives body to an artistic world view rooted not just in other art or technological possibility but in the biosphere itself. The enormous variety, relentless power, and increasingly apparent fragility of that realm find vivid, compelling reflection in Myrvold’s. Her art, it might finally be claimed, is nature itself, virtualized.

PETER FRANK is art critic for the Huffington Post and Associate Editor for Fabrik Magazine. He is former critic for Angeleno Magazine and the L. A. Weekly, served as Editor for THE Magazine Los Angeles and Visions Art Quarterly, and contributes articles to publications around the world. Frank was born in 1950 in New York, where he received a B.A. and M.A. in art history from Columbia University and was art critic for The Village Voice and the SoHo Weekly News, and moved to Los Angeles in 1988. Frank, who recently served as Senior Curator at the Riverside Art Museum, has organized numerous theme and survey shows for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and other venues. McPherson & Co./Documentext published his Something Else Press: An Annotated Bibliography in 1983. A cycle of poems, The Travelogues, was issued by Sun & Moon Press in 1982. Abbeville Press released New, Used & Improved, an overview of the New York art scene co-written with Michael McKenzie, in 1987. He has written many monographs and catalogues on a wide array of modern and contemporary artists. Frank has taught and lectured extensively throughout North America and Europe.

Helix - Mirror Cubes - Transforming-Green, 2012, Digital print on acrylic glass, 162 x 130cm

Venus Transforming - Red Cloud, 2012, Digital print on acrylic glass, 162 x 130cm

Helix - Mirror Cubes - Exploding Spiral, 2012, Digital print on acrylic glass, 162 x 130cm

Installation view: Monochannel loops

Installation view

The Metamorphoses of the Virtual

By Christine Buci-Glucksmann
Translated from French by Anya Buklovska

The passage from a culture of objects and stability to that of flow and instability resulted in a new kind of image, where processes are superior to fixities and the transient is superior to the immobile. The “crystal-image” (Deleuze) of modernism, made of reflections, superpositions, doubles and crossed timelines, gave way to what I call the flow-image, with all of its experimentations and metamorphoses. Programmed though transient, without an outside reference, it multiplies the passages and the gaps between the idols and the icons. This is the “place” of Pia Myrvold’s latest Venice pieces (2011) or her recent Oslo exhibition, Works in Motion (November 2012): to explore all of the visual and musical dimensions of 3D images, between their appearance and disappearance, in all their “sequence of events” and their “visual variability,” to use Peter Weibel’s terms.

Transforming Venus. Venus, the myth of female beauty, from Venus de Milo to those of Botticelli or Dali, is no longer but a stylized body, abstract and organic, an artifact floating in the digital curtain spaces, in turn red, yellow or Klein blue, a kind of resurrection of a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf (32000 BC), without head or arms, a fertility symbol. But little by little, this Venus changes colors and is invaded by lines that grip her until she disappears in a visual cocoon, to the point that the initial form is metamorphosed into its own phantom disappearing.

Therefore, all of the virtual artifacts, including the six main ones on view in Oslo (Transforming Buddha, Mother Shape, Floating Pillar, Snow Crash and Venus) are doomed to the same “transient life between the fullness and the crash or the final chaos,” to quote Pia Myrvold. For isn’t the crash that borderline moment when one can ‘look, breathe and see the disappearance giving way to another appearance’? Make no mistake, if, according to Lacan, “the language isn’t a code,” here the programming of these flow-images elevates the code to all the meanings, differences and hybridizations of artistic practices. Hence the employed conceptual method: to explore ‘life’s interfaces’ and to transform all the practices—painting, fashion, design, video and new media—into one Fluid Identity.

For the questioning of codes and a fluid vision of art are in the heart of the whole work. Well before these 3D images, in her paintings from 2004 (Slow Emotion, Sun Passage or Perception in Blue), one could already see the codes painted between windows and screens. Digital codes, electronic chips or Pollock’s codes, all these abstracts doubled the world in order to show the current revolution. Venus was already moving, lying down between the codes. But with the 3D image, evoked by the creation of virtual buildings by Zaha Hadid that were ‘a revelation’, the codes are now functioning as an abstract aesthetic machine, producing plural worlds and “stealthy objects”, wandering and fugitive traces of a fleeting life. A fleeting of the images’ passage, a fleeting of an irreducible modulation to only the present moment as a breaking of time. For it is the passage that is the essence of these “images in between”, in the words of Raymond Bellour. Therefore, projected onto the walls, the ground or the ceiling in Tunnel Vision or in Video Spiral, the flow-images lead an autonomous life that envelops the spectator and transforms his perception. Thus in Star Gate, they are deployed onto the structure of a false 7-sided octagon, and one walks on these colorful flows taken in their sculptural and musical process. This is also the scenario and the choreography of the big Oslo exhibition in The Stenersenmuseet: to illuminate new sets of parameters in the paintings and sculptures revealed through the artist’s research with digital animation.

You enter the exhibition and discover a strange technological animal made of rings of images: the Video Spiral sculpture. On these spiraled circles the images float by and give birth to all sorts of affects and mutating sensations. For the technological spirals evoke all of the humanity’s history. Prehistoric, Celtic, Islamic, Christian, baroque or contemporary (Smithson’s Spiral Jetty); the spiral is indeed a sensitive universality that often marks a cyclic and open time span. A ‘will of art’ is an ornamental stylistic, in the words of Alois Riegl. Here though, the spiral is a Warholian “Post machine.”

One then discovers, in another room, the six big models of the flow-images on black background that are metamorphosing in a permanent luminous and musical choreography. Transforming Buddha, round and laughing like the Chinese Poussah, but as abstract as Venus, is a curious organic shell reduced little by little to a Biomyth. Another example: Floating Pillar with its stacked membranous surfaces that gradually break up in order to better recompose in this aerial space with a weightlessness that Pia Myrvold is so fond of. Made of layers as well as of changing and perishable layouts, could it be a metaphor of pillars as fragile as our society is? In both cases, these are pure sculptures in transformation, made of primitive forms rhymed by a pulsating sound.

Weird corporal impressions: burst metallic membranes, multiple second skins, diverted batiks, virtualized textiles; these Works in Motion, also present in photographs, are continuously coupling design’s and color’s mechanical and organic elements in all possible textures. The “sex-appeal of the inorganic” according to Walter Benjamin’s quotation.

Such research into the world’s surfaces, mise-en-abymes and weightlessness of the bodies is a reference to Pia Myrvold’s numerous earlier works. Female Interfaces, an installation presented in the Centre Pompidou (Ecoute, 2004), where she and another performer each equipped with 24 sound and voice captors, created an interactive interface where both sound and images where controlled by the user. Urban Upwind: an architecture made of fabrics with various urban patterns, connected over the length of 500 meters Bernard Tschumi’s Folies to the Parc de la Villette (1999). From a piece of clothing sewed to a canvas (1982) to the cyber-fashion shows to the transient architecture of la Villette in the 1990ies, one can see the same multi-sensorial concern that anticipates the networks and digital interfaces of the future. For the aesthetics of the virtual explore all the possible envelopes and second skins up to the ‘inter-facial intimate sphere’ (Sloterdijk), thus reconnecting with the myths of Proteus and Icarus, the metamorphoses and the space flights.

At the same time, contrary to the crystal-image that references a time within a time, the memory time in the present, the global screen of images authorizes all the eventual multiplicities and all the topologies that bind force and form, a geometrical and smooth stripe of unlimited spaces. It is then the topology itself that becomes a flow in a curious geometry of waves that creates and envelops all body’s artifacts. ‘The diagrams of the Idea’, Duchamp would have said, he who was interested in the fourth dimension and in the ‘inexact geometry’ of incorporeal constellations. The programming of digital images presupposes the use of the new possibilities opened by the science of fractals and chaos that allows the elaboration of new patterns and an exploration of painting’s and sculpture’s parameters. In this way, in Snow Crash, the interior lighted eggs are moving before a background of heterogeneous colors, all doomed to disappear. As if virtual life and death were transforming to produce different eventualities. For one can now think in optic series just like the avant-garde of the twenties dreamed. Moreover, one can now produce liquid machines shaped by water, fabric or membrane. For it is the flow itself that is the modality of the transient and it is accompanied by all the doubles and hyper-surfaces of the world.

Passages from one form to another, from time to image, passages of identities: one can recognize the artistic and contemporary cultural hybridizing, one that puts an end to all the ontological dualities of pure and impure, of being and nothingness, of subject and object. It is the virtual that gives rise to the real and explores the realities that had been for a long time excluded from western metaphysics as well as from classical science. Abandoning the nor…neither of all the exclusions, it puts a dialogic standard where a part is the whole and inversely, just like in cosmos and in fractal science. New landscapes and new forms of vision and imaginations have replaced the stable image. As Foucault said in his research on ‘other spaces’: ‘the visibilities are not defined by the vision, but are complexes of action and reaction, multi-sensorial complexes that are coming to the light’(1). These complexities then create a multi-dimensional and transversal knowledge inherent to the new models of science. A Fractal Dreaming.

Such is, to my mind, Pia Myrvold’s approach and method: to introduce into art a multi-sensorial and meditated complexity, the one where she considers herself a painter of the flow-images and where virtual models create new parameters for sculpture as well as painting. I remember the New Code photographs from 2009. Nude photographed bodies floating in all possible poses in the middle of bizarre textures of human origin, made of super-impressions, aquatic landscapes and prehistoric skeletons. With the help of the virtual, bodies are now an all-organic abstraction. The invention of Venus led to, starting in 2010, studies and multiple screen video projections. The artistic forms are therefore at the same time hybridized and always different. In the era of the digital, Pia Myrvold chooses the richness and the complexity of technological and human possibilities. She plays with them, creating the ‘in-between worlds’ like those of Paul Klee.

One can oppose the melancholic transience of Vanities and spleen to a more positive and cosmic transience of different futures, far from binary logic and hierarchy. At a time when merchandise is aestheticized and reduced to images, Pia Myrvold maintains an aesthetic and critical gap with the world. From this come the ‘poetic of relation’ and interfaces inherent to her flow-images that capture time and the ambivalence of a culture, more and more hybridized.

I look at Expandium one last time. The membranous forms of a metallic grey, internal or external, a fluid and animated sculpture that explodes, fragments scattering, and a batik-like form floats by such as a planet or a sun. All is flowing in a post-transient world, perhaps ours.


1) On these ‘other spaces, the heterotopies’ cf. Michel Foucault, Dits et écrits, 1954-1988, 1994, Gallimard, p. 752.


Pia Myrvold, Interfaces, Innoventi and to texts by Bradley Quinn, Lars Elton et Gaël Charbau.
Pia Myrvold, Arts Works, Editions and originals, 2012-2005.
Christine Buci-Glucksmann, La folie du voir, Une esthétique du virtuel, Galilée, 2002.
Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Esthétique de l’éphémère, Galilée, 2005.
Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Philosophie de l’ornement, d’Orient en Occident. Galilée 2008.

CHRISTINE BUCI-GLUCKSMANN, philosopher and Honorary Professor at the University of Paris 8, is a French specialist on aesthetics and contemporary art. She has taught at Tokyo University as an Associate Professor and has participated in many conferences abroad in academic contexts and on the occasion of international exhibitions. She is the author of many reviews, articles, exhibition catalogues and personal books that have been translated in various languages. Her works include: Gramsci and the State (Fayard, 1975), translated in 6 languages; Tragedy of the Shadow: Shakespeare and Mannerism (Galilée, 2000); Aesthetics of Time in Japan (Galilée, 2001); The Madness of Viewing: A Virtual Aesthetics (Galilée , 2002); Chinese Modernity (Skira 2003); The Ephemeral Aesthetics (Galilée, 2005); and Philosophy of the Ornament: From Orient to Occident (Galilée, 2008). As an AICA member (International Association of Art Critics), she recently participated in a symposium on hybrids in art during the Johannesburg Fair (2012). She is currently working on the virtual arts with internationally renowned French artists Miguel Chevalier, Pascal Dombis, and Orlan. She was recently interviewed by Radio France Culture in the broadcast “Nude voice,” in which she spoke about different aspects of her work.

Wire Form study, Artist's digital archive

Wire Forms, Orange, 2011, Digigraphic edition of 10, 56 x 153cm

Transforming Buddha in Red, 2011, Digigraphic edition of 10, 56 x 153cm

New Waiting I, 2012, C-print original, 62 x 48cm, private collection; digigraphic edition of 20, 75 x 58cm

Installation view: Left video loop: Mothershape, 2011; Right video loop: Transforming Buddha, 2011