stern wireframe

Apologies for the aggressive enlargement and resulting blurriness and artifacts in this photo by Joy Garnett. It's an installation of some photos of a performance work by Nathaniel Stern called The Wireframe Series: Sentimental Construction #1. Some clearer photos are here. This blog had its own wireframe aesthetics series a few years back so the topic is of interest. Paddy Johnson has little use for Stern's piece in her review of it today but it merits a stab at a long distance defense. The idea is to haul an Oldenburgized version of a 3-D computer drawing (what might be called "giant soft building outline") out into the streets of Dubrovnik and photograph people erecting it in the style of an Amish barn-raising. Thus hard becomes soft, virtual becomes actual, private becomes public. The sculpture is not of itself interesting--it is activated through its contact with people (like certain objects by Franz West or Helio Oiticica that were meant to be carried or worn) and by being photographed. In the photos, the softened or molten outlines of the rope building become a classic surrealistically "problematized" image, re-envisioning something hard and artificial as pliable and organic. They also represent a regression or devolution of the CAD-generated modernist box by being juxtaposed against the cobbled streets of an older Mediterranean city, and by their handling by real live human beings. Looks good from this side of the Atlantic and this side of the computer screen.

- tom moody 6-19-2007 8:19 pm

Interesting take. I also read PJ's critique and have my own thoughts on the (documentation of) the piece. To suggest that the work is a transformation of a "virtual" into an "actual" is problematic since the exhibited products of the piece (the documentary photos) in the gallery exist as traces of an event; or, a mediated representation of a largely conceptual piece. The barn, grid drawing, or construction is never actually realized, never exists outside of the ceaseless social dynamics required for the piece to operate: the necessary players "activating" the piece, the documentarian taking pictures, the art historical narrative that authorizes this sort of activity to be contextualized as interactive or conceptual art, the understanding (or misunderstanding) of the participants and what they are involved in, and so on. All of these relations form a complex web of interrelated and interdependent possibilities that never exist in stasis... so my question is, if this is true, what constitutes actual? To suggest that the resulting documentation is worthwhile on its own (ie good pictures) would require a careful look at those images, and, judging from a glance at the flickr page linked, I'm not convinced.

As far as Nathaniel's piece goes as a whole, I think I'd side with Paddy and suggest that the artist needs to take an extra step here in the direction of marrying more significantly the conceptual barn (where did the design come from? what's the significance?), the social activity activating the piece (why is it necessary?), and the finished documentation. Your reading of the work is interesting, but I think you give Stern the benefit of too many doubts.
- bxk (guest) 6-20-2007 11:37 am

Hey Tom,

I really like the original drawing he did on a napkin (with the stick figures) and feel like that piece alone might have better displayed without the additional cc licensed photoshop drawing and performance documentation. Since we are dealing with a simple photoshop drawing, I feel like "CAD-generated modernist box" overstates the use of computer software. Your description of the rope piece as a "soft building outline" though very accurately describes Stern's objectives for the piece (which he described to me.) I didn't see the actual performance either, but I really felt like the photographs made the work look better than it was, and the sound track for the video was really really cheesy (twinkle feel good music). The idea behind the piece wasn't that bad, but there are some real problems in the execution.
- Paddy (guest) 6-20-2007 11:44 am

Bxk asks "what constitutes actual?"

A: the photos (including the photoshop drawing of the "building") and their documentation of something no one disputes is happening (people on city streets erecting the crude, CAD-like building as a rope sculpture).

I can't speak for the video, and should make it clearer that the use of the blurry Garnett photo as "documentation of the documentation" was to reinforce that this is my reading, meant to be read against my previous discussion of John Carpenter and Stephen Hendee as a different ramification of "wireframe aesthetics." In other words, I'm talking about the parts of the piece I like and make no claim for any parts that suck.

- tom moody 6-20-2007 6:14 pm

Loads of wireframe(ish) material here (and tons of interesting stuff generally).
- LeisureArts (guest) 6-20-2007 11:36 pm

Hi all,

I took part in the performance and it was fun. From Ana Husman giving the slap-down to some self-important Croatian hotel manager ('dis is a private beach') to the feral Dubrovikian children tearing the sculpture to pieces, it really gave a lively example of what happens when you take art work to public without warning.

This was a first time experiment of a concept that has lots of potential and Nathaniel learned a lot re: execution on the next one. It's a developing series and I'm looking forward to the next installment :)
- twhid (guest) 6-20-2007 11:37 pm