Transcode

South African exhibition catalog, featuring stuttering, static, and works from Distill Life and Call and Response.

TitleTranscode: Dialogues Around Intermedia Practice
Author: Gwenneth Miller
Publisher: UNISA (University of South Africa) Art Gallery
Date of Publication: 2017 (exhibition 2011)
Language: English

Download PDF (17.8 MBs)

M Magazine

Scanning the World

MILWAUKEE-BASED ARTIST CHALLENGES HOW HUMANS RESPOND TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT

BY ROCHELLE MELANDER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT HAAS

m-mag-shootTo call Nathaniel Stern a Renaissance man might be an understatement. An associate professor of art and design in the Peck School of the Arts at UW-Milwaukee, Stern is a Fulbright grantee, published author and TED Talk speaker; his artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, and he’s on the forefront of using scanner imaging photography. Stern is also the co-founder and core team member of the UWM Student Startup Challenge and the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship, along with Dr. Ilya Avdeev, UWM assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation.

In viewing Stern’s vast expertise and interests, a common theme emerges: interaction. He wants people who view his art and the entrepreneurs he coaches to think about who they are, who they can be, and how they relate to the world and one another. As he said at the conclusion of his TED Talk, “Think about the kinds of relationships and environments we’d have, if we thought more about the relationships and environments we have.”

Stern did just that when he created his stunning visual images, playing with how our interaction with technology and the world produces beauty. He strapped a desktop scanner, laptop and cus- tom-made battery pack to his body, and then wiggled and jumped, capturing images as he moved. The image you see in the gallery might be a result of his breathing, or cracks in the glass, or a fly attracted to the light of the scanner beam. Then, as Stern says, “The dynamism between the three — my body, technology and the landscape — is transformed into beautiful and quirky renderings, which are then produced as archival prints.” Stern’s visual images were displayed most recently at the Tory Folliard Gallery this past summer during Gallery Night and Day. (Tory Folliard represents Stern’s artwork in the Midwest.)

Perhaps the best way to understand Stern’s work is to participate in his interactive art. Stern has hacked full-bodied gaming control- lers so that viewers trigger animation, spoken words and more by moving their bodies. In a sense, the interaction between the viewer and the technology creates the art. For example, in “Stuttering,” the viewer’s movement produces words on a screen. Move slowly, and a few words appear, spouting zen-like wisdom: “Take a deep breath.” “Read.” “Consciousness.” Move quickly, and the screen stutters, lighting up with a cacophony of phrases. But as with everything Stern makes, the art is more than just art. “I like to think that ‘Stuttering’ helps us practice listening and performing in the world with a little more care,” he says.

Stern witnessed this firsthand when all four of his interactive works were displayed, alongside the work of Tegan Bristow, in a show called “Meaning Motion” at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. He watched people move from one interactive exhibit to another, sometimes stopping to teach a friend or stranger how to interact with the art. At “Elicit,” a piece in which every movement evokes a sea of text, he watched viewers silently invite each other to dance. “Their relationships to each other and themselves and the art shift, and they leave that space thinking, moving and interacting differently,” Stern says.

Milwaukee residents can interact with these works when “Body Language” is shown this November and December at the INOVA gallery at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts.

Download this article as a jpg or PDF, or see on the M Magazine site.

Companion to Digital Art

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Image from Scott Snibbe’s Deep Walls, featured in my chapter, Stern Nathaniel. ‘Interactive Art: Interventions in/to Process.’ A Companion to Digital Art. Ed. Christiane Paul. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell (Blackwell Companions to Art History), 2016.

Digital art is a complex and vibrantly dynamic form whose diversity reflects the exponential growth curve in computing power. This new companion to the genre gives readers an inclusive, in-depth understanding of digital art, covering its history and evolution, aesthetics, and politics, as well as its often turbulent relationships with established institutions. The volume provides a platform for the most influential voices shaping the current discourse surrounding digital art. Their nuanced insights afford a robust and coherent appreciation of the current state of the field – and the possible paths its future development may follow.

Combining the seasoned perspectives of leading international experts with fresh work by emerging scholars, the companion tackles key issues in digital art. It showcases critical and theoretical approaches from across the spectrum, taking in art-historical, philosophical, political, and gendered perspectives, among many others. The volume also covers digital art’s primary practical challenges – how to present, document, and preserve pieces that could be erased forever by  rapidly accelerating technological obsolescence. Up-to-date, forward-looking, and critically reflective, this authoritative new  collection is informed throughout by a deep appreciation of the technical intricacies of digital art.

 
Title: A Companion to Digital Art
Editor: Christiane Paul
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell, Blackwell Companions to Art History
Date of Publication: May 2016
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1118475208
ISBN-13: 978-1118475201
Order this book from Amazon.com

Art Education

Art Education Nathaniel Stern Cover

Cover image and feature article on Nathaniel Stern’s work and practice.

“In this month’s Instructional Resource, Christine Woywod presents the interactive artworks of Nathaniel Stern who often blends art and technology to generate participatory installations through which audience members may bodily experience art, performing images into existence.” – James Haywood Rolling Jr.

Woywod, C. (2016). “Nathaniel Stern: Performing images into existence.” Art Education, Volume 69 Issue 4 pp 36-42.

Downloadable PDF of the above article is forthcoming. Firewall version here.

A companion web resource is available here.

NPR / WUWM


Download this mp3

Giverny of the Midwest: A Conversation with Artist Nathaniel Stern

with Bonnie North on Lake Effect
Artist Nathaniel Stern speaks with Lake Effect’s Bonnie North about his use of scanners to create beautiful images.

Nathaniel Stern’s intensity is palpable. The media artist always has multiple bodies of work going on simultaneously, he’s a Fulbright scholar, a professor of art, a parent.  Talking with him, you get the impression he never stops thinking about, or exploring, art and life.

Stern’s current exhibition at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend is called Giverny of the Midwest. The work has had previous exhibitions in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, but this is its first stop in the United States. The scans are a nod and homage to the Impressionist painter Claude Monet…if Monet were painting his lilies while immersed in the pond rather than sitting on its banks.


Nathaniel Stern, detail, Giverny of the Midwest, Digital print installation, 2011, Lent by the Tory Folliard GalleryCredit: Musem of Wisconsin Art.

The work is technological, thought-provoking and unexpected. And although his work has been compared to photography, Stern would disagree. “It’s probably closer to print making.” He continues that as opposed to the objective distancing you get in photography, “where you’re looking through [a] lens and seeing what you’re capturing, (with this work) it’s more that you’re on top of or a part of your medium,” says Stern.

When he isn’t scanning his environment, Stern is an Associate Professor of Art and Design in Peck School of the Arts at the UW – Milwaukee.

MKE Journal Sentinel

Nathaniel Stern’s “Giverny of the Midwest” makes U.S. debut
This article by Rafael Francisco Salas appeared in both online and print editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MKE_JS

Claude Monet was in his 80s when he painted his way into eternity with a 42-foot long triptych, “Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond,” famously hanging at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and created in the artist’s aquatic gardens in Giverny, France. Many believe that painting as an art form did not catch up with Monet’s water lily works, which numbered in the hundreds, until the Abstract Expressionists came along a generation later.

In this series of prints, Stern straps a desktop scanner, laptop and custom-made battery pack to his body, and performs images into existence.

Artist Nathaniel Stern, who grew up in New York and knows the MoMA triptych intimately, has used Monet’s artistic cataclysm and deconstructed it into a similarly scaled artwork. Exhibited internationally, his “Giverny of the Midwest” is being shown in the U.S. for the first time at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Giverny of the Midwest (detail) - R17

Stern does not try to overtake Monet’s masterpiece but rather makes quotations from it and reinvigorates the debates it spawned. Is realism an image or an emotion? Is an object more important than the light that reflects off of it? When is a painted mark a water lily or simply a daub of painted material?

Stern’s work is not a painting. Rather, it’s a performative series of photographic scans printed on watercolor paper. The artist strapped a high resolution scanner and battery pack to his body and began capturing the elements of a lily pond in Indiana by mucking about in it and scanning plants, water formations, earth and sky. The pieces are hung in an grid formation, further expanding the notion of deconstruction. The images are still, but describe his process of documentation, which was often in motion. We see imagery pulled into swimming tendrils as he moved the scanner through water or over an insect’s body. Abstraction and startling realism combine and allow us to experience objects, color and movement all at once. The warping and pulling of the images is filmic and beautiful.

Giverny of the Midwest (detail) - M18

And it is important to note that this work is indeed beautiful. I admit, the process sounded interesting and fun, but I did not expect the results to move me sensually as well as intellectually. Stern does not forget that his subject matter is eminent, and that nature and how we experience it, through digital processes or in paint, has unfathomable potential to excite us. His work resounds with content about how we view the world and through which lenses, whether it be technology or our physical selves.

In the end, I was seduced beyond content. It was the tensions between realism and abstraction that kept confounding my readings of the work. In all honesty I have never seen anything quite like it.

With that said, it is at times difficult to see. The scale of the work requires a distance from it, and the shallow hall where it is hung doesn’t allow the viewer to take it all in. So, while I was able to appreciate smaller moments, an overall view is hard to get at.

Nathaniel Stern’s “Giverny of the Midwest” is on view at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, 205 Veterans Ave., West Bend, through Sept. 6.

Rafael Francisco Salas is a painter, an associate professor of art at Ripon College and a regular Art City contributor.

This article by Rafael Francisco Salas appeared in both online and print editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Engadget

The photos you (probably) won’t find on Instagram

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Scanning while swimming

Artist Nathaniel Stern had taken to carrying a desktop scanner, a computing device and a battery pack around to “perform images into existence” for his “Compressionism” series. By jumping, twisting and adjusting distance, he accomplished some interestingly glitchy scanner-based images. Last July, he upgraded to a new “marine rated” setup and took the whole kit diving off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

The result was the “Rippling” series, where he applied the same tactics underwater to create off-the-cuff aquatic imagery. The pictures were affected by nature, human interaction and the inevitable technological quirks that occur when bringing office gear into underwater environments.

See on Engadget

WIRED

‘Beyond the Interface’ deconstructs the human-machine matrix (Wired UK)
Daniel Culpin

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The relentless assault of technology on the rest of our lives is the subject of a new exhibition and series of events, Beyond the Interface — London, opening at the Furtherfield Gallery on 25 April.

The show is a “remixed” extension of an exhibition shown at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality 2014 (ISMAR) in Munich. Curated by Furtherfield and mixed reality media artist Julian Stadon, it brings together a number of leading contemporary artists to explore how technology disrupts, enhances and alters the way we live.

On the approach to the gallery, in the McKenzie Pavilion in the heart of Finsbury Park, you’re immediately immersed by the transformation of the walls into lush, teeming images of water lilies; a hacked Monet for the 21st century. Giverny Remediated, by US-based artist Nathaniel Stern, is part of his Compressionism series. Defined by shifting, interactive prints, and inspired by classic Impressionism, the images were captured with uniquely twenty-first century methods — Stern strapped a scanner to his body to capture the blooms.

“I might scan in straight, long lines across tables, tie the scanner around my neck and swing over flowers, do pogo-like gestures over bricks, or just follow the wind over water lilies in a pond,” Stern writes on his website. “The dynamism between my body, technology and the landscape is transformed into beautiful and quirky renderings, which are then produced as archival art objects.”

Water and fluidity as a metaphor for data is a central theme of Stern’s work. As part of Beyond the Interface — London, Stern has also been commissioned to create a brand new installation, Rippling Images of Finsbury Park, a public artwork based in the park’s boating lake. Visitors will be able to download the artworks by public USB installed in the gallery’s walls, using anonymous file-sharing network Dead Drops.

Also in the show, Zach Blas’ Facial Weaponization Suite is an uncanny, disturbing protest against the dehumanising effects of biometric facial technology. The New York-based artist creates “collective masks” from facial data collected by participants in community workshops. These masks — distorted, amorphous blobs, almost resembling chewing gum — erase the recognisable features of the human face, ensuring wearers are unable to be detected by biometric facial scanners. Fusing a cry against government over-surveillance with a sympathy for those frequently pushed to the social margins, Blas’ work is provocative and politically charged.

Also on show is Jennifer Chan’s Grey Matter. The Hong Kong-raised, Chicago-based artist employs videos, gifs and webpages to cast a wry, quizzical look at representations of gender and in modern media culture. In the five-minute video, Chan adopts the persona of a teenage internet user creating her own confessional online diary, using social media — sharing, posting, following — to confront issues of privacy, voyeurism and online identity.

Beyond the Interface — London runs at the Furtherfield Gallery until 21 June, 2015

See original post on WIRED UK

MKE Journal Sentinel

Nathaniel Stern scans artwork into being
Mary Louise Schumacher for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MJS-Rippling
It’s a quirk of human nature to want to see the world through facsimiles of it. That instinct — to look at pictures — is as old as humankind. It defines us, really.

So what happens when the world itself seems to be a terrain of copies, when our days are filled with more images of people and places than actual ones, for instance.

This is the territory of Milwaukee artist Nathaniel Stern, who just had a solo show at the Tory Folliard Gallery, some of which remains on view. Stern creates work he calls Compressionism, images made by strapping a desktop scanner to his body and scanning various landscapes in steady long lines, sweeping motions, quick pogo stick-like hops or while scuba diving underwater. These scans are then turned into artworks using photographic or inkjet printing processes.

In “Soft,” for instance, we see what looks like scrubby, organic matter undulating in water and pressed up against glass, presumably the face of the scanner. It’s akin to what we might expect from a work of art, a pictorial depiction beneath glass. But we also see the gravity of it, the sensation of these wheat-colored plants with a faint purple tinge brushing against the surface.

Distorting waves, not unlike those of an analog TV screen with the horizontal hold out of whack, are a visual hint that we’re looking at manipulated media. Throughout the series, mysterious digital hiccups, skips, drags and scratches are further pictorial pointers. In them, oscillations of time and movement are inferred. Some works have an inherent quickness, while others are more unhurried and stretch out a moment in time.

Barely detectable inside this expression of narrative is the artist himself, and the sense of performance he brings physically to the work. He says he “performs images into existence.” I like that. I like that the primary artistic act of this work, fundamentally about the mediation of imagery, isn’t made with a computer but with a body out in the world doing things.

It is intriguing to consider our changing visual literacy, by the way. Much of Stern’s iconography would be unintelligible to our 19th-century counterparts.

The best works in the “Rippling Images” series, for me, were those where realism, simulation and abstraction combined in playful and surprising ways, when the digital ripples and the watery ones that are Stern’s subject become inseparable, when reality and its copies dance.

The result is something quite transporting, works reminiscent of the primordial and the pliability of human perception in the 21st century. My only quibble is the somewhat informal presentation of the works, which are set loosely into the frames so that ripples in the paper are visible. I’m told this is intentional, that the artist wants us to see these prints as objects with a surface. I’m just not sure this works.

Stern is represented by the Tory Folliard Gallery, 233 N. Milwaukee St., which is currently showing some of his works. He also has related work up at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, 273 E. Erie St., through Saturday, Dec. 6. He will also have a show at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, 205 Veterans Ave., West Bend, opening April 11. For more information: nathanielstern.com

TEDx talk

“Nathaniel Stern is an awkward artist, teacher and writer, who likes awkward art, students and writing. Stern’s talk, Ecological Aesthetics, discusses tweets in space, scans at the bottom of the sea, interactive installations, and art in virtual worlds – all work about the complex relationships between humans, nature, and politics.”

tedx uwmilwaukee

What is TEDx?

“Imagine a day filled with brilliant speakers, thought-provoking video and mind-blowing conversation. By organizing a TEDx event, you can create a unique gathering in your community that will unleash new ideas, inspire and inform…. A TEDx event is a local gathering where live TED-like talks and videos previously recorded at TED conferences are shared with the community.” – from the TED web site

 

 

WIRED

This Guy Takes Awesome Underwater Photos With a Desktop Scanner
Jason Kehe

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Nathaniel Stern is diving off the coast of Florida, scanning the gorgeous seascape before him—literally. He’s got a desktop scanner strapped to his back, uploading images to an on-board Windows tablet. A few jellyfish, a bit of coral, the expanse of blue—he scans it all. He isn’t capturing these images for science or study, but for gallery walls.

Stern is a digital artist, and for the past 10 years, this has been his medium. His latest show, Rippling Images, opens today at the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee (it premiered at South Africa’s Turbine Art Fair in July). Its 18 “underwater performative prints” are distorted swashes of vibrant color—what you’d expect if you scanned, say, a school of fish—but beautiful just the same.

“For me,” Stern says, “the way time and space are folded into each image—as vertical slashes or angled swooshes of movement and stasis—are like potent mappings of land and sea, body and technology, together.”

The series, which the artist calls “Compressionism,” began in 2005 in South Africa, where Stern was living at the time. He’d been experimenting with various kinds of interactive art, and galleries started seeking his work. He had no idea what to do, so he simply showed up at a gallery with his “mobile studio”: laptop, video camera, scanner, and hard drive. Then he scanned every object he could find, from windows and walls to doors and benches. He hung each print alongside to its subject—a scan of a window next to the window, for example—and hoped people would get it.

“I thought this would be an intervention in how we understand space and tech,” he says. “People went gaga for it.”

One of Stern’s favorite artists, William Kentridge, attended the show, and said Stern’s prints reminded him of Japanese woodcuts like Hokusai’s classic The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. “You should go out and scan the landscape,” Kentridge told the artist.

For the next decade, he did just that.

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Making His Own Water Lilies

His favorite work—prior to Rippling Images, of course—was Giverny of the Midwest, his techy homage to Monet’s Water Lilies. (Stern is a self-described fan of the impressionist.) To create it, Stern brought a laptop, five scanners and battery packs, and two student assistants to South Bend, Indiana, to spend three days scanning a lily pond. The water claimed two scanners and his phone, but they wound up with 130 scans that Stern then spent two years editing into an installation composed of 93 prints. Laid out in a Mondrian-like arrangement, the piece covers more than 250 square feet and is nearly identical in size to Monet’s masterpiece. Giverny of the Midwest was shown in South Africa in 2011, but Stern’s continued to work on it since, and it will have a US debut at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in April next year.

After he’d waded through water for Giverny, Stern decided it was time to go under it. His brother-in-law Emyano Mazzola, an Italian scuba instructor (and Stern’s occasional photographer), suggested scanning a coral reef. He sought a grant from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he teaches. It loved the idea, so he became a certified diver and went to the Florida Keys.

Though he’s been using rigs of various sorts over the years, going underwater posed a particular challenge. He designed 10 rigs, built five, and brought three. One consisted of a FlipPal portable scanner and a DryCase for the tablet. But the “most fun” rig, Stern says, was made entirely of Plexiglas. Vacuum-sealed with a bike valve, it kept his Windows tablet dry.

To a point. The rig started leaking at 30 feet (it was supposed to go to 60), and some of the images included scratches and bubbles. “I love this,” Stern says. “The work is meant to frame and amplify the forces of land and sea, show how they affect movements and actions and performances. None of this technology ever did precisely what I wanted or intended, and you can see that in every image. It’s beautiful.”

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Scanning On

That’s one reason Stern wants to keep creating this kind of art—an unusual move in an era when digital artists are expected to constantly grow, adapt, iterate, change. “To stick with one image-making process for 10 years—and it’s easily going to be another 20—is not something most digital artists do,” says Stern, who’s planning an ice dive for his project. “The process and what comes out of it are so rich and full of wonder.”

Don’t believe him? If you meet him on the street, Stern might even give you a try: He loves watching people attempt to scan their world for the first time. “They want to move quickly,” Stern says. “But the images don’t capture anything. Then they start to slow down. And instead of just moving, they’re moving with, or moving around. It’s pretty magical to watch people dance with the landscape.”

“You can hear,” he adds, “that I’m a hopeless romantic.”

For Rippling Images, I worked with a team to produce a marine-rated, desktop scanner-based imaging rig, and performed a new series of digital artworks while scuba diving on a live coral reef off the coast of Key Largo in Florida.

Length, 2m40s

download Rippling Images as mp4 QuickTime

Play Video
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Read the original on WIRED.com

MKE Journal Sentinel

Visual Arts Splash Fall Season with Color: Must-see exhibits, projects are on the calendar
This article by Mary-Louise Schumacher appeared in both the online and print editions of the MJS

MJS-Rippling

With a number of shows that look at the landscape through a 21st-century lens — whether Nathaniel Stern’s underwater impressions, Terese Agnew’s contemplation of layered epochs, Pegi Christiansen’s walks through a sculpture garden or John Shimon and Julie Lindemann looking at the state of Wisconsin as a medium of sorts — the coming months promise many ways to consider the world.

Here are some visual art exhibits and projects not to miss in the coming months, including several that will be open for Gallery Night & Day, the citywide art crawl this Friday evening and Saturday.

Nathaniel Stern

Tory Folliard Gallery, 233 N. Milwaukee St.

This is pretty much Nathaniel Stern’s year. While he’s shown some of his collaborative works in Milwaukee for some years, he has not shown the solo work he is most known for internationally. For this work, he straps a scanner, laptop and custom battery pack to his body and “performs into existence” his strange and beautiful artworks. What’s more he does this in and under water with a special rig made at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There are moments of intense clarity that surface from the visual skips and drags. These 21st-century versions of Impressionism debut Friday at the Tory Folliard Gallery. Stern will speak at 1 p.m. Saturday. He also will have work exhibited at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, 273 E. Erie St., as part of “Vital Technology,” starting Friday and at the Museum of Wisconsin Art starting April 11.

Read the rest of this article in the online or print editions of the MJS

Popular Mechanics

These Stunning Underwater Photos Were Taken With a Desktop Scanner
Tim Newcomb

Stern traverses the land- or seascape with a desktop scanner, computing device + custom-made battery pack, + performs prints into existence.

Rippling Images is a fitting name for Nathaniel Stern’s latest works of art, and in more ways than one. The collection shows off 18 prints captured under the rippling water of a live coral reef near Kay Largo, Fla., and he made those images using a device known for rippling: a desktop scanner.

Stern has been known for more than a decade for his method of scanning landscapes. The inspiration for this aqueous art came when his brother-in-law suggested he take the idea under the sea. Stern says he designed 10 different subaqueous scanner systems, built five to completion, and took three with him underwater. The scanners used custom electronics, plus melted and welded Plexiglas, metal, towels, and even some duct tape to operate in the ocean.

“They leaked, they broke, and they captured things I never wanted and never intended,” he says. But that’s what you get with experimental work.

For Rippling Images, I worked with a team to produce a marine-rated, desktop scanner-based imaging rig, and performed a new series of digital artworks while scuba diving on a live coral reef off the coast of Key Largo in Florida.

Length, 2m40s

download Rippling Images as mp4 QuickTime

Play Video
Click To Play

Using custom-made rigs and battery packs, Stern strapped the devices to his back or held them out in front as he swam to capture the beauty and color of the reef and the marine life that frolics nearby.

“My goal was an exhibition where site and technology—their limitations, possibilities, and potentials—take great agency in the constitution and construction of printed forms,” he writes on his website. “I provoke thinking and feeling and movement that never would have came to me had I not worked beyond the scope of what was possible.”

Stern’s images debuted during a July art fair in Johannesburg, South Africa. They now lead a solo Rippling Images show that will run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 15 in the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisc.—Stern’s hometown. A scan through the 18 prints can toss a ripple into what you thought possible from a nearly antiquated piece of electronics.

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See the original article on Popular Mechanics.

MKE Journal Sentinel

Artist Nathaniel Stern scans a subaqueous terrain
This article by Mary-Louise Schumacher appeared in both the online and print editions of the MJS

sub-aqueous-terrain

If memory serves, the first time I laid eyes on Nathaniel Stern, it was in a Facebook profile picture years ago. He was standing up to his chest in a lily pond, a straw hat tipped over his brow and sweeping what looked like a desktop scanner over the surface of the water. I remember thinking, “Who is this modern-day Claude Monet pondering perception in new ways?”

Since then, I’ve had the chance to get to know Stern, who is a contributor to Art City, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s online journal about art, architecture, design and the urban landscape. And while I’ve seen many of his installations, prints and videos here in Milwaukee, I’ve not had the chance to see some of his highly unusual scanner work, except in online reproductions and a few small prints.

Though they’ve been exhibited elsewhere in the world, including South Africa, they’ll be exhibited here for the first time at the Tory Folliard Gallery in October. For his more recent scanner pieces, Stern straps on the scanner, laptop and custom battery pack and “performs images into existence.” Lately, this process has taken Stern beneath the water’s surface to subaqueous terrain, too.

Truth be told, by today’s standards, scanners are pretty quaint technology, not the kinds of machines one typically dunks in the drink. Stern not only took months of diving lessons to be able to do this work, he spent countless hours with a team at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee designing a special rig for his equipment, which leaked horribly in the first several attempts.

7a-scan-underwater
Nathaniel Stern has a desktop scanner strapped to his body while scuba diving to create his latest series of art images.

The resulting images, some made on a coral reef off the coast of Key Largo in Florida, are beautiful and strange. I can’t wait to see them on the gallery wall. I’m reminded of the way the mind perceives, less directly than we might imagine, filling in pieces of what we see not unlike the way computers fill in pixels based on sophisticated, technology-driven guesses. There are moments of intense clarity that surface from the visual skips and drags. They are so otherly, but the images will also be familiar to anyone used to the digital hiccups of the 21st century.

As a writer at Gizmodo asked, maybe this is how fish see the world.

“The resulting artworks are full of care, thought, and wonder,” states the website for the Tory Folliard Gallery, 233 N. Milwaukee St. The show opens Oct. 17.

Mary Louise Schumacher is the Journal Sentinel’s art and architecture critic. Follow her coverage at Art City: www.jsonline.com/artcity.

See the original article by Mary-Louise Schumacher online or in print.

Juxtapoz

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After much trial and even more error, artist Nathaniel Stern was finally able to create an underwater casing for a flatbed scanner. With the help of a team, Stern was able to develop custom software and hardware that he would use with his underwater scanner while scuba diving off the coast of Key Largo, Florida in a live coral reef. The resulting images are bold abstractions of the coral that Stern captured with his scanner and mirrors the ripples of water in the way the scanner creates each composition.

text by Canbra Hodsdon

Metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

mangrove

Metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

reef

metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

school

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

composition

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

flower

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

fossilized

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

jellyfish

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

mushroom

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

shallow

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

formation

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

bryum

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

fanning

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

fishness

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

metallic

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

soft

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

aqueous

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

shoring

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

surfacing

 

TAF Catalog

Interview: Nathaniel Stern, Featured Artist
Photos: Nathaniel Stern
Publisher: Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg
Date of Publication: 2014
Language: English

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 This artist waterproofed a scanner to create stunning ocean art
James Trew for Engadget

Nathaniel Stern dives beneath the sea armed with DIY photography rigs toggled from custom electronics. The artist's results? Bizarre and beautiful.

“In my ongoing series of “Compressionism” prints, I strap a desktop scanner, computing device and custom battery pack to my body, and perform images into existence.” That’s how artist Nathaniel Stern describes his collection of unconventional images captured with a desktop scanner. An extension of this project is “Rippling Images,” a new collection which takes the idea underwater. Stern worked with a team to create a “marine rated” scanner rig, which he took with him as he scuba-dived off the coast of Key Largo, florida. The results in the gallery below show the ocean environment as interpreted through Stern’s scanner and body movements. That explains the rippling part, at least.

Metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

mangrove

Metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

reef

metallic print (2014); 500 x 1000 mm

school

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

composition

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

flower

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

fossilized

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

jellyfish

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

mushroom

metallic print (2014); 300 x 500 mm

shallow

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

formation

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

bryum

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

fanning

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

fishness

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

metallic

metallic print (2014); 210 x 305 mm

soft

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

aqueous

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

shoring

metallic print (2014); 130 x 200 mm

surfacing

See original slideshow and post on Engadget

CNET

Homemade undersea scanner finds strange new world
Nathaniel Stern dives beneath the sea armed with DIY photography rigs toggled from custom electronics. The artist’s results? Bizarre and beautiful.
by Leslie Katz for CNET

Nathaniel Stern dives beneath the sea armed with DIY photography rigs toggled from custom electronics. The artist's results? Bizarre and beautiful.
This rig has a bicycle valve so Stern can vacuum-seal it closed when he goes underwater. He got it down to 30 feet before experiencing leaks.

It’s easy to find a good compact underwater camera, but artist Nathaniel Stern opted to go a different route for his deep-sea imaging. Really different. He strapped on homemade rigs built from custom electronics and software, melted and welded plexiglass, plastic bags, duct tape, and other bits and bobs and proceeded to dive into the subaqueous world.

The resulting odd and beautiful renderings make up “Rippling Images,” a new series of fluid and often-abstract images of flora and fauna created as Stern and his marine-rated contraptions dove along a live coral reef off the coast of Key Largo in Florida. Because Stern wears the gizmos, his movements help compose the shots, some of which would look more at home hanging in the Museum of Modern Art than among other, more typical undersea photographs.

As he puts it, “I perform images into existence.”

eyes.jpg
Stern gets up close with a three-eyed undersea creature, or maybe that’s just the photographic effect.

“My movements underwater, my relations to life and gravity, what I see and cannot see, fish and plants, breathing and fluidity, all affect and are affected as these images [are] being made,” Stern, a professor of art and design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts, says on the project’s website.

Nathaniel Stern dives beneath the sea armed with DIY photography rigs toggled from custom electronics. The artist's results? Bizarre and beautiful.
Nathaniel Stern dives beneath the sea armed with DIY photography rigs toggled from custom electronics. The artist’s results? Bizarre and beautiful.

The images are an outgrowth of Stern’s ongoing “Compressionism” series, in which he hitches a flat-bed desktop scanner, computing device, and custom battery pack to his body and moves through the terrestrial world doing things like swinging over flowers or jumping over bricks to capture images of objects and spaces. When he captures a shot, every part of the image is broken up into moments of time because of how the scanner beam moves across the surface of the scanner and how Stern maneuvers the entire custom rig across the landscape.

For the aqueous version of his art, Stern spent three months getting certified to scuba dive. He and his team designed 10 underwater systems, and built 5 of them to completion. He toted 3 of these hacked-together getups under the sea.

“They leaked, they broke, they scanned scratches on the surface of the boxes, they reflected, they captured things that I never wanted and never intended,” Stern reports, “and that is precisely the nature of experimental work.”

Stern, whose art often focuses on how people engage with and experience the world, previously afforded us Earth-bound social-media addicts the chance to tweet to aliens.

“Rippling Images” will be on display at the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg from July 17 to 20, and as a solo show at the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee in October. For a deeper dive (so to speak) into the project, watch this video.

flower.jpg
“Flower,” a digital print on metallic paper. “The colors and hairs and mossy-like textures came out stronger than I ever could have imagined, in formation, soft and aqueous,” Stern told Crave of his technique.

metallic.jpg
“Metallic,” one of the “Rippling Images” pieces created with one of Stern’s undersea rigs.

bryum.jpg
Some of the works from the series look like they’d be at home at a modern-art museum.

Read the original article on  CNET