The video (blatantly) depicts fetishisation modern pop culture made out of nature as a means for marketing to machine assisted generations. In the absence of physical labor, mental and emotional labors are extracted as modes for perpetuating life processes.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
As if out of nothing, after two years of cogitating the possibility of making an exhibition that would speak deeply of our longing for a reconnection of body and spirit, Ex Nihilo comes together embracing difference and individuality. Even though the titled, Ex Nihilo, was chosen two years ago, Pieve di San Cresci, a special place-space emerged out of nothing presenting us with the very same question, which we have thrown in the deepest void vacuum of ideas, and desires that reside nowhere but within us. Building blocks began falling into place until it physically appeared in the most magical way, building our confidences and throwing us back into the unknown. This exhibition was conceived to be a communion and an exchange among those artists, with themselves and with the space that it inhabits. The display of the art objects was designed in harmony with what is, to create what it can be. Creation, therefore, becomes a movement from inside out outside in, in the particularity of everyone’s heart.
Ex Nihilo installation is dedicated to putting form to an ongoing dialogue with 5 international, women artists.
In our attempts to make sense of the strength and fragility of human life, we began to speak about how things come together, take form, and from what often appears as out of nowhere from nothing.
Latin for ‘of nothing,’ Ex Nihilo installation focuses on existence, conditions of the body, and the ‘Barely There’ nature found in artwork of women.
Ex Nihilo looks at the emergent qualities of a given situation and the space from which the exchange, like 5 elements of nature, 4 plus void, the appearance of nowhere comes from a combined dynamic.
What artist Rachel Wolfe calls: “la beaux monde creatif,” is the ‘Barely There’ thing that emerges from an ongoing conversation of trust, collaboration, and witness as it forms the basis for making, it’s also an often over looked, because of its immaterial qualities. While immaterial, the ‘thing’ made from emergence is for sure not “no-thing.”
When artist Sweet Samson invented the term: “Nesslessness,” ‘ness’ the essence of something denoting quality and state, -‘less’ “without,” the state of being without state, the essence of empty, what does this feel like? Something so empty, it becomes full, full of possibility.
The question Points of Connection, Ex Nihilo continues to ask: How to make present the sense of mercurial absence, from which life force flows?
In continuing the work of Ex Nihilo, we 5 artists working together realize and expand themes of work to include ways women-as-seers historically have been made ‘Barely There.’ We take this quality into our forms, and let it inform, in a positive way together.
When we see each other, presence takes shape as an offering, a gift, and the ‘Barely There’ echo of possibility transformed into the something emergent from Ex Nihilo.
Hand patched silk, mirror, and wig
79 x 56 and 79 x 56 cm
Mimicking the church floor considers the importance of primitivism. The conquering of countries development of their own hegemony, we now call identity. I believe humans are more ritualized than before. Black satin emphasizes mourning we are born with and how a self is in juxtaposition with pedagogy. A mirror beside the satin checkered tile rug symbolizes freedom of the underworld as our ancestors believed, the wig signifying a once lively eternity.
The Garden, 2017
Installation design, co-curation by Marcella Gottardo.
“The Garden” is an exploration in what artist Andre Feliciano calls “Floressiance.” By themselves these paintings are small moments of ‘nothing.’ Together, the whole experience becomes something to take in, all at once, a feast for the senses. The room is heavy in orange fragrance. 🍊
Acrylic painting on bed sheet
“Soudad” An Arabic word, about ‘journey’ loosely translated: “to see from the highest place of your dreams.” I have been taking this painting with me to every location of Points of Connection. It has all the indexical marks from all the other paintings I have made along the way. It’s a registration. The shapes form themselves through layers of time, trust, and highly calculated risk. It’s the thing that’s always underneath all the other paintings, the thing most unseen. It has become the provisional, situational foundation.
“If I take this thing and reposition it, over and over and do things to and put it in different circumstances, when and how will that thing take on that ‘Barely There’ quality? Things that are the most discarded have this. Things that travel a lot have this. What goes into making something that has a magnetic presence no matter how simple it appears?
I’m interested in how an aura is actually formed. What is the mechanism?
Walter Benjamin wrote: “We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of a ritual—first the magical, then the religious kind. It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function.”
Ritual is a form of repetition, a way of participation, to build a relationship with, to belong. Ritual is transforming discomfort into comfort, discord into balance and harmony, senselessness into meaning. When I think about this as relates to dance, I think about it in terms of gesture and posture. Gesture, an action repeated over and over and posture, a fixed shape. Posture emerges from the gesture itself, sometimes as a stop, a pause, a wobble, of its own volition. This can be applied to mark making in a painting.
All the pours, casts, imprints and registrations: are from gesture. The fixed appearance of movement, posture.
Between the two things of gesture and posture is something else -something ‘Barely There.’
The Language of the Sun, 2016
Ceramics, plaster, and galvanized iron
430 cm x 320 cm
Soon after moving to Italy, after living twelve years in the United States, I felt an immigrant, a migrant, again. The burden of language, it’s limits, beauty, grace, and the continual sense of being misunderstood -even when standing in my own country, Brazil, granddaughter of Italian immigrants. The weight of the stars hit me, crush me, torn me upside-down, inside-out, fired me, freeze me as an un-programmed thermostat. Under yellow orange green brown oak trees, I walk, surrounded by ancient histories and mountains; I ponder the heart of lost civilizations buried beneath my feet. Homeland less, walking this land crushing leaves and bones, smelling blood and crying out, looking up and looking down, my littleness, meaningless existence.
While the morning dew reveals the spider trap among sweet purple flowers, the undisturbed mud beneath the water pond hides death and decadence. An accelerated unsettle heart craves more, beats thunders welcoming what cannot be possible known within words.
Teknovisuell Experience, detail of detail #5, 2015-2016 34 x 134 cm Photograph on vinyl
Memoria Technica is a series of 5 monolithic film exposures realized as seasons, axiomatically marking the vertical landscape in relationship with the human body in magnetic resonance imaging. The monolithic image as marker in the sense and perception of passage through time.
Works in Ex Nihilo: Summer, a caustic season; Spring, a vernal pour; Autumn, a hieratic vessel.
Absent from Ex Nihilo: Winter, an imaginary obelisk; and Origin, an aorist horizon, are absent. The absences create, as Jamie Grace Davis calls, Points of Connection.
Teknovisuell Experience is a series of 7 images. Dimensions vary relative to Architecture. Images of water emphasize ethereal qualities of digital imaging technology and engage viewers in a physical relationship with the image/vision and body/space.
Rachel Wolfe (b. 1984) is an American-born artist and photographer, living in Norway since 2015. Her work is realized in mediums of images, installation, drawing, painting, video, performance, and traveling objects. The Print Atelier represents images from Human Needs.
Rooted in disciplines of dance, painting, drawing, piano, voice, Wolfe has been making solo and group projects, working with land, space, light, and photography since 1999. Theories in Chinese medicine influence her work navigating themes of beauty, sense, feeling.
Awards and scholarships include: 2015 First place by the jury, Imagining New Eurasia exhibition in Gwangju, South Korea. 2015 Woelffer scholarship and 2014 academic merit award from Otis College of Art and Design, 2013 Academic scholarship for social psychology study in Matsuyama Japan, 2009 Historic Pathways winner from Indiana State University.
U: Who are you and what do you do?
RW: I am Rachel Wolfe I make art considering the site and utilizing materials and images of photography, including light, video, sound, and performance of body.
U: What characterizes your work?
RW: Sensory dynamics in the nature of desire. Human, felt experiences are important in a bottom-up approach to understanding versus a concept-to-completion mode of working. Beauty services the process in various forms as elements of nature are always in the work.
U: How would you describe your personal style?
RW: Based on what I am learned about style I would say everything must always be in service of dynamic movement.
U: How do your own experiences influence your work?
RW: Synesthesia is something I thought everyone has but later came to find out, they certainly do not. I use my sensory sensitivities and route them through a process of omission relative to the site, and to a history I am interested in daisy chaining with.
U: What will you be showing at the uncontaminated festival?
RW: I’ll be exposing ways of gazing upon a horizon to consider the perception of motion through time. This sense of temporality as a form of continuous movement and how that relates to bodily senses.
U: What do you want to communicate through your work?
RW: Reverence as an important tool in agency. Trade economics are sometimes spoken of as a force in opposition of life, and in the sense of hurriedness or performance anxiety, one could certainly become at odds with their lives and relationships. My work is demanding in a subtle way of slowing down, that most to gain by giving in to what is working through choices with what’s there. My hope is locating an orientation of intrinsic desire and value-to go forward from an aesthetic experience with an embodied sense of wholeness.
U: Do artists of today have some kind of social responsibility?
RW: Responsibility is such a rich space for conversation. Artists have the responsibility to keep making work, and to start talking with people in a way that doesn’t create an intellectual paywall.
U: What does uncontaminated mean for you?
RW: Uncontaminated is an idea about an ideal. For example, the idea of blue blood or a form of purity that in reality is an impossibility. For example, mud is still always dirt. That kind of aspirational dreamstate feels a lot like a mental space one could achieve through traditional forms of meditation.
U: What is the most important thing in your life?
RW: Being alive.
U: How do you feel right now?
RW: I feel like having a proper bath. Where are all the bathtubs here?
U: If you could change one thing in the world today, what would it be?
RW: Remind people the generative quality of cooperation and the value of a well-considered no.
U: What are the main reasons you are joining us for the festival this year?
RW: I am interested in art and fashion and want to connect with people to learn about what they desire-what brings people out of their homes to connect with each other in public spaces.
U: Who or what do you value as a great inspiration for you creatively?
RW: Opposing points of view from books, family, and friends. Paying more attention to noticing phenomena in nature. How many different ways can something I think I’ve seen a million times reveal something new about itself?
U: Can you elaborate on an important moment in your life where you experienced a big change, chose to make one or another event which altered your way of thinking or your approach to creativity?
RW: Deciding to be the author of my time, which is a never ending dance I still trip over my own footing with. After decades of training, the red thread is making something out of the desire to make and create value in the satisfaction of the making process.
U: How does digital and social media affect or inspire your life and creations?
RW: Being prone to affective disorders, I really try to keep an arms distance with the broadcast version of life. I wonder a lot about the ways in which the intimacy of viewing a distant life up close affects psychology and if there could be some kind of epigenetic change relative to the emotional change in media technology.
U: What do you define art?
RW: Art requires discipline, something that is worked on by an artist and through a diligent practice and vision work is made. Is Duchamp’s urinal art today? No, that was an artefact as a testament of a notion that somehow art is one thing or another-that art is about ideas or feelings or one thing or the other. Art is art. To conflate art as anything other than the word itself services rhetoric or belief-both of which I am interested in being free from. I have a great faith in people and the ability to know. Art and artefact can have a close relationship but they are different. I as one among many people practicing art today may be in a practice of making artefacts more than art, and that’s something I’m always looking closely at within my work as well. Does this diminish what artists are making; I don’t think so. I do find the conversation valuable moving forward.
U: What is your definition of artistic freedom?
RW: Discipline. Having gone through a phase of coming undone, and going in many directions, I’m in a process of refining.
U: Is there a difference for you between art and commercial/commissioned work?
RW: Commissioned work has always been easier for me, to work in a dialogue. Making art for myself entails far more responsibility which then requires a lot more time. A few months at a residency can accomplish a lot, but it is still not the same as having years to work on art.
U: Do you struggle to find artistic freedom in the span between commissioned work and your personal needs to express yourself?
RW: Personal expression is not an area I struggle with or work with in my art.
U: What do you aspire to? In the near future? In life in general?
RW: Aspire is a great word. I wouldn’t go panting after doing I do though. The question I’m often asking myself now is what is truly essential and can I live with today, tomorrow, and 50 years from now.
U: How do you feel art and fashion intervene?
RW: Aesthetics and function. The formal qualities of how something looks conveys a great deal of ideas. Aesthetics as signs of ethical choices isn’t a new concept. There’s a lot of value in considering what aesthetic choices are relative to fashion, and then wondering the function, does this work. And if it doesn’t work, ie can the body stay warm, does the systems circulate healthfully, this kind of questions have a lot to do with the intersection of art and fashion. The head and body need not be severed from the other, you know?
U: What is a great example of a fashion art collaboration in your view?
RW: I cannot look at fashion and not see art. When I see art, I have a desire to somehow become the art I see. I have seen so much incredible and daring fashion and art these past years, I am afraid I can’t call out anything specific right now.
U: Where do you think art and fashion is heading in our digital age?
RW: People are demanding more from each of their purchases. Less is not more now. More in fewer items is the thing. A lot of the digital future is already available today but not yet on a wider scale. Someone once advised me to invest in black clothing, that this pigment would become rare in the future. For some reason this stuck with me.
This week marks the completion of my first artistic residency after graduate school. As an overview, I have planned to write a post about each specific site during the residency to perform as both an archive, diary, and site for future reference. There were quite a plenty experience with the residents and participated individually I would like to cover. Some of the images at the end of this entry offer hints about the writing to come.
The month-long residency with PRAKSIS Oslo, in Oslo Norway, involved balancing working (for wages) and the deeply laborious effort of artistic practice. As a group, we visited several sites to encounter specific bodily experiences such as an anechoic chamber in Moss, Norway. The delightfully accommodating SEAS had our group to experience their chamber. At once I felt myself atop a snowy mountain and deep within a sort of Platonic cave without any shadows. Several of the artists experienced the sensory deprivation experience where I had been working at Bare Flyt in the Sagene area of Oslo. We visited the Vigeland Mausoleum with an echoic resonance making of the voice, a sense of a holy experience. Most days of the week, several of the artists would gather at NOTAM, and we would discuss our individual projects and where they intersect. We met with Stephanie von Spreter, the director of Fotogalleriet, as she graciously joined our meetings to review our work. The organisers of PRAKSIS, Nicholas Jones and Charlotte Teyler, hosted several delightful dinners in which members from art, educational and political actions in Oslo joined us for some memories I feel honoured to raise a glass towards.
The sort of things we discussed were plenty, but some themes that contininually surfaced:
synchonicities, esp, perception, embodied sensations, the real, imagined, virtuality, personal biography, the other, whether or not free will or choice really exists and the implications, what constitutes collaboration and through careful consideration by the lead artist of the residency, Lindsay Seers, we landed upon corroboration.
This residency offered a stark contrast to many of the institutional experience I encountered during graduate school. I was surprised and encouraged by the supreme openness, warmth, curiosity, and supportive nature of this group of genuine artists. Quite often, I will find closures or endings terribly tragic, that all promises to remain in contact result to be words in vain. This time there really was not a sense of goodbye, but the real sense of vi ses, or we see, next time.
And so I am reminded of a poem I wrote in Chicago and performed at the Green Mill many years ago. At this juncture of writing and saying aloud these words, I was in a a cognitive space where I found the division between work and leisure to be a construct of value only to the markets which asked me to pay my wage to their products or objects. I sought a life where there would be no division of work and leisure. That even this word leisure seemed in 2007 (or was it 2006, or 2008?) an ideal about an attitude. What if the ridged way of marking time with days, hours, activities could be dissolved? Of course these kind of descriptors of time remain in play today, and quite often I may appear as a totally absent minded person, but more importantly, this seeking I had set out for became fully realized throughout the duration of the residency. I brought with me to the residency a vague notion we may create a work together or share an accumulation of many small works together one day (as Lindsay has already been creating several videos for each of the residents), and gained something more immediately of value-the dissolving of concepts, beliefs, allusions. A more cohesive experience of living and creating. Yes, I experience this quite as sensationally as it may sound. To be a more complete and whole practitioner of embodied reality, not forced or coerced by preset standards. And again, as in science, quite often the proof has been created by whatever set our minds towards. Here is the poem, at last:
sit atop a twiddle my thumbs tuesday
aching for the ever acclaimed weekend
i bide my time with silly banter until
we can be near
i’m singin’ a tune you had better listen to
but no good at games
i’m claiming innocence and honesty
will someday gather me a man
who can handle my moves
not try to tame my heart
but hold my hand
no room for tears
for we never say goodbye
only see you next time
Ceiling of anechoic chamber at NRK
Vigeland Masoleum image courtesy of their website
Heavy Water from Rjukan
Metronome in the SEAS anechoic chamber
foggy walk on chainlink fenced off terrain
interior of the anechoic chamber at SEAS in Moss
completed full body participating knitted work of errors