Monday, July 03, 2006
These Five Video Stills (1990's) are some of the most accessible works created by Sternime after his resurfacing from the dark decade of the eighties. After creating such foreboding works as the Blackened Life series and photo essays like Grey Matter (1988), he turned to a more colorful approach and wholeheartedly began his study of popular culture, in particular the world of Advertising and Television. The perfect fusion of the heightened elements of these worlds is manifested in the Infomercial and an exploration of this is presented in I'll Cut Off Their Heads and Charge it To The Corporation (1990's)
When studied closely many of his photos appear to have moire patterns - the visual interference patterns that can appear if one takes a photo of a video image. They also frequently reveal pixelations. Occasionally he would glean a few images from hours of random television video recordings and then photograph them at precisely the chosen moment without pausing the image. But many of Sternime's photos were actually photos of a video screen displaying scenes that he had previously shot on traditional film. Having gone through these several transformations they begin to reveal some imperfections. These interference patterns are a welcome and intentional aspect of the final image presented by Sternime.
The scientific explanations for these patterns are clues to the role these interference patterns play in Sternime's study of popular TV culture. If one stands close to a television while it is displaying an image, one notices that the seemingly smooth contiguous images are in fact composed of a series of grid alternations of a few primary colours. The screen constantly refreshes itself several times per second. It does not do this all at once, but by alternating every other line across the screen, then it refreshes the missing lines right before beginning again. The human mind simply fills in the missing lines like it fills in the missing movements in a projected reel of film. The photo image sometimes catches it in the process of refreshing so that every alternating line is out of phase. Every alternating line is actually from the previous refresh wave right beside a line from the next refresh wave. The moire pattern is an interference of these lines.
What seemed poignant to Sternime was that "the interference results from the interaction of the past wave with the future wave and what we are left with is the present image - a clearly imperfect record of the marriage of what has already occurred to what has yet to happen."
This deconstructive view of a video image is richly filled with evocative symbolism. By bringing this process to light Sternime is playing with the notions of temporality, reality, appearance and memory. In its most basic definition, all art is merely some form of reflection. The manifestation of this reflection is also recorded in some physical form. It can be said that reality or truth is reflected in a work of art such that the truth of a peasant's life is in some respect reflected and recorded in Van Gogh's painting of a pair of torn and tattered slippers that have been flung upon the floor.
But what could be said to be reflected in a work of art that records examples of advertising? Sternime's answer is rich and layered. The first thing to consider is that Sternime's definition of art would be much more inclusive than one might find in any academic theory. For him, art can be present in just about any reflected medium. The ever-present media of Television can be home to art. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that the advertising commercials sandwiched within the shows can also be home to art.
Sternime makes no effort to present examples of art in advertising. What is revelatory for the viewer of Sternime's work is that by studying the processes of advertising one reveals a deeper understanding of the nature of art. For Sternime, Art and Advertising are both activities that seek to exploit a particular medium or media to invoke a powerful effect upon the viewer.
Nietzschean aesthetics speaks of forces of artistic nature that align themselves in an opposing duality. There is the orgiastic random passion of the Dionysian opposed to the organizing structured regularity of the Apollonian. A similar duality is explored in Sternime's own meditations on Art. He touches on the opposition of the individual with the collective and the varying perception and understanding of the same world when viewed at the micro or macro levels.
The question asked by Sternime is "what can we come to know of the whole by studying the parts, and what do we come to know about the part by studying its whole?" The locus of the experience of art begins with the reflected image, but the image exists as both an interesting physical process of perception and a more interesting mental process of appreciation. The experience of art begins with something that is perceived and something that is appreciated through that perception. In these Five Video Stills Sternime reminds us of the reflective nature of the perception.
... - to be continued.