“Swipe, Sweep, Flick, Fold”
Through photographs and sculpture, Susan Giles and Jeroen Nelemans investigate individual gestures within the digital realm. Each artist considers how visual experience or memory can take physical form. As the name of the exhibition suggests, both artists explore the intersection of the personal and the collective that ultimately reflects a desire for individual expression within a homogenized platform.
With a wealth of parallel experiences available at our fingertips, what distinguishes individual encounters? Interested in iconic monuments and how they embody national or official histories, Susan Giles seeks to discern in what ways personal narratives might intersect or diverge. In large scale time-lapse photographs printed to human scale, she records her subjects as they describe their memories of visiting historic monuments. The marks they leave behind with the movement of their hands trace an inherently personal memory of the site that may differ from fact. These gestures produce a sculptural light-writing that hints at a connection between human neural pathways and digital platforms.
Giles additionally incorporates Google Earth to source the working material for her related sculptures. The corporate crowd-sourced platform layers parallel individual experiences into a communal archive, which she then 3D-prints. The resulting sculptures become physical talismans or micro-monuments that illustrate the collective desire to record a memory or experience of place. Giles also highlights how the digital platform freezes time through shadows, that while fleeting in real time, become a permanent part of the structure of the recorded site in these online images.
What do we want from these platforms and how do we coexist with new technology? For Swipe, Nelemans examines how personal gestures dictate what we might desire from a device. Using a translucent gelatin to highlight RGB color filters, he swipes his finger across a digital screen capturing a lasting record of his marks. He flattens the resulting image and removes any trace of identifying fingerprint to create a universal abstraction. Digital media, unlike analog materials, is valued for precision and regularity often producing sharp, focused images. Here, Nelemans subverts its intended use to create a flattened kaleidoscopic abstraction that still traces the history of his own hand on the surface of the screen. This physical swipe gesture suggests that our primal imperatives persist even with access to the most advanced devices.
Nelemans takes on a different kind of icon in his sculptural works, using as his starting point Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1923). He investigates how physical space is translated into RGB sub pixels by scanning a computer screen that projects an image of Brancusi’s work and manipulating the output into a sculptural photographic print. Bird As Space suggests the desire to translate the closed circuit into a physical object. Whereas Brancusi, inspired by Modernist principles, used vectors to suggest the freedom of the bird’s flight, Nelemans instead encloses the sculptural work within an acrylic box effectively caging the bird.
Together these works communicate a shared desire for human connection in a digital platform. Could the insistence on personal gesture fight the advance of digital homogeneity? Despite the near infinite archives available online we continue to tell stories that give voice to our individual experiences. Although digital platforms have attempted to standardize human output the works in this show suggest the continued need for human inspiration and vision, with all of its flaws and idiosyncrasies.
About Jeroen Nelemans
Jeroen Nelemans was born in the Netherlands and currently lives and works in Chicago, IL. His work has been exhibited at Aspect/Ratio (Chicago, IL), the Fabric Workshop and Museum (Philadelphia, PA), the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Space (Miami, FL), the Institute of Contemporary Art (Greece), Elmhurst Art Museum (Elmhurst, IL), Nice&Fit Gallery (Berlin, Germany), and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (Grand Rapids, MI). His work has been screened at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami, FL), the Banff Centre (Canada), Gallery 400 (Chicago, IL), Werkleitz Centre for Media Art (Halle, Germany), the Magmart International Video Art Festival (Naples, Italy), Dublin Electronic Arts Festival (Ireland), and the Kortfilm Festival (Copenhagen), and the 25th Festival Les Instant Video (Marseille, France).
About Susan Giles
Susan Giles is an artist working in sculpture and video. She has an MFA from Northwestern University and an MA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Giles’ work has shown in Chicago at THE MISSION Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Renaissance Society, as well as Mixed Greens in New York and Galeria Valle Orti in Valencia, Spain, among others. She has received several grants, including an Individual Artist Project Grant from DCASE in 2015, awards from the Illinois Arts Council in 2014 and 2009, a 2005 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and a 1998 Fulbright Grant to Indonesia to conduct research on the intersection of tourism and culture in Bali.
Giles is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Contemporary Practices at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.