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Art by Rosalind SCHNEIDER
A small world- an inflated ball fourteen feet across- floats in the middle of an endless darkened room, a void as wide and deep and echo filled as a cathedral. The sphere is awash with a tightly focused video projection of water and land; the entire planet is consumed with the tidal musing of a sandy beach. Waves slide across the surface of the sphere, animating a longitudinal divide between earth and water. These tiny repetitious episodes enlarged and magically substantial in Rosalind Schneider 's video projection
Wave Transformations, have undergone an eerie kind of alchemy. The artist has created a paradox, an event perfectly and entirely true to its nature; modest, clear and immediate, but also something effortlessly grander and more generous than itself. A world presented within the cup of a hand.
The water chums, the rocks shift, the bubbles burst. Our focus is entirely upon the small and disembodied action-taking place above our heads but we do not feel for a moment that we are detached observers of an alien territory. Schneider's water world, floating in the gargantuan room is spookily whole and frighteningly vulnerable, commanding our concern. We feel viscerally engaged because the excerpted vision she offers feels strangely complete to us; our relationship with the planet is at once intimate and global. Scale and "completeness" alone could not create this sense of knowing urgency; in fact they might destroy it. The animated model planets now on display at the Rose Planetarium for example, place the vast landscape of an entire planet on display, and their vaunting ambition leaves them spectacular fakes. Entertaining and educational, perhaps, but distant and cold.
Blue Interior: digital print on canvas 49" X 36"
Schneider makes no attempt at geologic or astronomic completeness; rather her world is completed poetically. As the small breath of this one small section on one small beach stands for the entire world, it precipitates a vertiginous confusion of scales leaving the viewer awkwardly situated between places. We end up floating somewhere in space ourselves, unmoored and perplexed at a loss.
The sound in the installation contributes to the tactile reality of the experience no less emphatically than do the visual images. The clinking of the shifting stones the murmuring of the sluicing water is so immediate it vibrates the muscles in the back of the neck. We are there. We cannot comfortably pigeonhole this small planet according to some prior experience.
This world washes and cleans itself, it appears to live. It does not seem to be a display item constructed for inspection. Inevitably though, Wave Transformations realness, its integrity leads us to contemplate the delicately balanced biosphere it celebrates. It is the earth itself, and our presence feels like an intrusion. The ecological issues that lurk at the periphery of the piece are not imposed upon us polemically, but raise themselves more powerfully, not to say more insidiously, through our egotism.
Our intrusion allows us the luxury of - once again - thinking of ourselves, and immediately we begin to ponder our alienated state, the interloper status in our own world that we have created for ourselves. It is our appearance on the scene that put things out of balance. There is no overt intimation whatsoever of disaster in Schneider's image, yet the very exquisiteness of the event suggests a terrible vulnerability.
Schneider's installation archives another paradoxical state of being: it is simultaneously huge - overwhelmingly huge in its simple and majestic totality - and tiny, a small world afloat in a massive galaxy, a vulnerable inflation on a string. The planetary object ebbs and recedes in scale, a spatial illusion dependent upon the way we focus our attention. The context is everything. The world is huge, but the universe unbelievably more vast and foreboding.
Sphere of Influence: digital print on canvas, 48" X 36"
Other artists who have worked with dislocated or relocated video images, such as Tony Oursler, tend to be conceptual pranksters on the prowl, looking for the opportunity to insert the ironic or the pathetic or simply the horrifyingly unexpected into quotidian reality. The power of such work is derived as much from satisfying the sophisticated expectations of its viewers as from the inherent power of the object. It is the ironic, historically loaded and facile intrusion of the virtual into the real that is the real subject of such work; the emotional, subjective experience of actually being there with the object is entirely secondary. And when the preliminary run through we are required to make is immediate and emotional rather than academic or satirical, as in the work of Nam June Paik, we are led solipsistically back to a contemplation of the seductive magic of the televised image itself. Schneider is no ironist. Her work gently, movingly and ultimately more poetically fuses the object and the image into a single indelible moment. In doing so she not only achieves the inarticulate lightness and eloquence of art, but she also pushes her audience into a thoughtful meditation on the nature of the world itself.
The artist's background as a painter is evident in the emphasis she places on the translation of the literal to an abstraction. As one of the first artists to work with film as an art form in the 1970's, her continued uses of photography as the basis for experimentation has led her into the production of both moving image and still media. Her body of work includes paintings based on the fragmentation of photographic surface and hand built environments for film and video projection. Her most recent interest in isolating video frames for digital prints underscores this symbiotic relationship between the frozen and the passing moment which has characterized her so much of her work.
Words can dance around Wave Transformations, but the experience engendered by the installation is beyond articulation. Waves of water wash back and forth across a sand beach and the ebb and flow of the tidal motion creates an ambient grinding hum that erodes our vigilant self-consciousness into wonder as surely as it grinds the rocks into sand.
(New York 2000)
(Wave Transformations; Rosalind Schneider, Millennium Exhibition, December 1999 - January 2000. New York Hall of Science, Flushing, New York)
@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan Unver. Third issue. Summer 2000, New York