by Viola K Timm
From the overdetermined choice of venue, the MAve hotel, to the invocation of Euclidean geometry in the shapes of the opaque surfaces comprising the elements of the composition, to the title’s allusion to the unfinished epic of American camp aesthetics, Jack Smith’s “Sinbad in the Rented World” of Disney and MTV, Anne Sherwood Pundyk’s installation Rented World searches for the visual language of an identity that has lost its origin and sense of immutability. The Eleatic philosophers insisted on the immutable nature of a universe functioning according to unchangeable principles independent of human subjectivity. Such are the sky blue triangles Sherwood Pundyk composed for the installation to set off the triangular prism of the canvases signed with the unmistakable imprint of individual subjectivity. Like an Euclidean structure, the rented or borrowed identity, harvested, packaged, and distributed by Disney, MTV, or the Hilton hotel, contains as it imprints consumer subjectivity.
Sherwood Pundyk confronts the intentional installation visitor -- show participant -- like the hotel guest and the random passerby, with the visual process of negative image development as personal identity and signature in the age of mechanical reproducibility of art. What the Eleatics didn’t know and could not have foreseen was the age of the machine, which historically grew up and came of age, as Hans Sachs and Philippe Aries have argued, at the same time as human subjectivity and the invention of childhood. In the 2003 DreamWorks production of the legend “Sinbad and the Seven Seas” the sailor is indeed on a quest to save his childhood from the death sentence that the adult sailor had always performed on his voyages of dissemination. The monsters he encounters on his travels represent the phases of psychic development we all undergo on the way to adulthood. Mere mirrors and points of self-reflexivity for artists and scientists alike, Disney and MTV anchor the origin in its disappearance, a method of stage character development Christopher Pye traced all the way back to Shakespeare. In Sherwood Pundyk's canvases Sinbad the Passerby encounters the supplemental form of his own shadow setting off the childhood monsters of the modern "rented" world.
The artist readily offers that the idea of furnishing her idiomatically compressed two dimensional images with a three dimensional stage of identity performance animated not only this particular installation, but also the supplement of an invisible -- functional -- mourning process in her 2011 installation at Queens College Art Gallery called “Mourning Tower.” Thus the artist performs the sentience of an instinct as inability to let go of losses when she encases in a glass case everything that would otherwise unfold on the open stage as the tragedy of destruction and decomposition. In this installation the paper case of the library -- invoked in Smith and Warhol’s vampire paper coffins -- is replaced by the glass architecture of a hotel lobby. The shift in location is dictated by the need to reference the psychic materiality of the rented world of Disney and Hilton. The choice of venue may not have been available to the artist before the arrival of Paris Hilton’s media corpus, which offered another glimpse into the development and psychic integration of identity: like us Paris too grew up in a Hilton hotel and she shows us how we like to perform the tragedies of our own passing phases. The mourning process for both artists, Sherwood Pundyk and Hilton, does not end in decomposition and radical finitude, but becomes an ornament of existence and an expression of emblematic aesthetics. The loss of a stable and immutable origin is sublated in the performance of its tragedy under a glass casket.
The dreamlike quality of the images compressed and buried under the three distinct palettes of the canvases reach for the reference points of articulation and translatability through the "rented" structures. They articulate their presence and their right to ontological status through their relationship to the surrounding and encasing world. The canvases do not dissolve into the psychic mirror offered by MTV but perform a powerful and aesthetically mature integration of the very margins of being we learn to shed on the endless voyage to adulthood into their host structure, the Rented World.