Berlin, Apr. 2013: Enter the void. Decipher dark from light, temporal from physical, motion from stasis. Robert Seidel’s recent installation at 401contemporary encompassed video projection, sound, and solid-state artwork in an absorbing ode to the outer reaches of consciousness.
Most certainly, the cinematic elements of Seidel’s enchanting projection sculpture necessitate pervasive blackness, but this is to ignore the material component of the work, the variegated contours and curves that remain invisible when untouched by light, lurking. Therein lies the paradox; that it must simultaneously be both light and dark to make visible every facet of Tearing Shadows, and Seidel as an artist.
Tearing Shadows examines these contradictions and attempts to draw connections between the seemingly disparate elements of projection, sculpture and sound. Air-born textures are created from the play of the prismatic spectrum, as Seidel’s filmic projection conflates with the undulating dimensions of the physical sculpture. The lull of mesmerizing patterns is intermittently interrupted by glimpses of pure rainbow convergences; an illusion that embeds itself deep in your retina and forces you to question the clarity of your perception.
Seidel’s next exhibit will take the form of a water fountain projection, to be displayed at the Lichtsicht Biennale in September.
Melissa King: How do you devise a relationship between sculpture, projection and sound in a work like Tearing Shadows? Does one element come first and then inform the others?
Robert Seidel: As with all of my work actually, sketches are the entry point for the development of the structural discourse for my sculptures. While I cut these from the material by hand there are however always further adjustments and extrapolations of the form. Additional overlaps form sketch fragments on the shapes. As a finalizing element I apply heat, which rips the shape from its two-dimensionality, realizing the relief-like interwoven objects that the viewer experiences.
The projections are constituted in parallel. I actually hail from experimental film, wherein I mainly collate complex, abstract forms from a myriad of sources (3D models, 3D scans, x-rays, sketches, videos, scientific analysis data, etc.) into a fluid whole. Sometimes however I solely work with filmed, naturally occurring processes, such as wash outs, burnings, or disentanglements, which undergo temporal and spatial restructuring. Until recently I had not utilized these for sculptural projections, and wanted to delve into formalizing the transformative processes inherent in light and shadows with the work Tearing Shadows.
For most of the works I work in collaboration with different composers and musicians; this time the sound experiments are my own though, constituted from field recordings of mine. These were then arranged into a dense whole with timing that allowed for singularity in the renditions, which constantly changed in direction and mood, allowing the viewer to walk about the sculptural space always encountering new light-sound constellations.
The actual installation is only wrought from all of these elements when the work is set up, thus is only really realized on location. A lot of material remains unused, but could however be all-important for the contextualization of the piece at an alternate locale.
MK: The sculpture mimics the form of torn up sheets of paper. Is there a connection between this destructive act and the nature of film as a temporal, perishable medium?
RS: Actually I started with temporary paper sculptures, however, within the gallery context a temporally more stable and robust material was more fitting. Within the scope of my materials researches I learned to appreciate the properties of plastics, which transform, similarly to celluloid, dramatically under the influence of heat. Films themselves are not only a perishable medium, in my works I also render abstracted processes of creation, constitution and dispersion, be it of memories, structure or constellations.
These effects may also be transferred to sculptural surfaces I project upon, which in and of themselves represent a finalized state, but through projections are then however disassociated from their own temporal states by light, reallocating them to a new state of limbo. All the materials of my sculptures operate within the scope of their perishable nature and dissolution, amongst them also “folds”, where I projected upon plaster casts of Ancient Greek sculptures.
MK: Tearing Shadows plays with optics and distortion of the senses. Can you tell us more about the rainbow color flashes used in the work and what effect you hoped to achieve by embedding these?
RS: As a momentary aspect within the projections I wanted to engagingly dissolve the sculptural space. In experimental film there are flicker-films, that, in their fast, repetitive renditions of extreme contrasts dissolve the silver screen and generate different effects of altered perception. As the viewer may however interactively venture through the installation, not passively observing from a theatre seat, I reduced the intensity. I rather wanted to remind the subject of microscopic depictions, and their chromatic aberrations. For some viewers the experience turned out to be rather more extreme however, making the space feel almost boundless – the extrapolation upon human perception is truly difficult...
MK: Using two-point projection has limitations in that only certain aspects of the facade of the work are highlighted. How do you achieve multi-dimensionality without the subject being able to access a dead angle in the sculptural space?
RS: The arrangement of the sculptural elements in their differentiated spatial depths distracts the viewers’ attention consciously from the limitations that this aspect entails. Also, there are projected shadows that intermingle with the shadows caused by the projector angles, constituting an ever-changing rhizomatic space. The lighting technicians of film, theatre and opera have founded a technically limited but innovated effective discourse, which I also deploy in my works.
I would love to develop an installation with multiplex numbers of projections. To date I only had a comparable chance to do so at Young Projects in Los Angeles. There almost all of my film and installation work met, and the internal development and interrelationship of my work became perceivable. In Germany's institutions it is unfortunately often even problematic to attain a single feasible projector…
MK: To your mind is film documentation, illusion or something more abstract?
RS: Film as a medium can be anything; it is actually a container for any form of ideas, which are then compounded into a whole. In my abstract works this has many forms: the raw material for experimental film; conserved shape-giving processes enlivened in projections of dead material; the expansion of the perceptions of space that serves the documentation of a work; or in extreme cases all of this resulting in the subjective image structuring and editing, constituting a work within itself.
Film, and its derivatives, remain the medium with the most artistic potential in our day and age, which is unfortunately not equivalently reflected in the current exhibition sphere. It is really sad to see that the art world retains a phobia of the technical complexity of the medium, but exactly for this reason one should stand in opposition to all the arbitrariness of contemporary advertising and Hollywood film practice as an artist.
MK: Where do you plan on taking your practice in the future?
RS: After this I hope to be able to work more on a "pure" movie, I would like to again develop a work which does away with the limitations of the real world – film is thus also a place of salvation, to round off the above list.
ArtSlant would like to thank Robert Seidel for his assistance in making this interview possible.
(All images: Robert Seidel, Tearing Shadows; Courtesy of the artist)