WORT fm

Stern traverses the land- or seascape with a desktop scanner, computing device + custom-made battery pack, + performs prints into existence.The 8’oclock Buzz: Return of the Frankensteined Scanners

Last time we spoke with Milwaukee artist Nathaniel Stern, he was trying to jerry-rig dozens of flatbed scanners to take peculiarly framed, high resolution underwater photographs. Well since then, Nathaniel reports that nearly everything that could possibly go wrong with that project did. Nathaniel Stern joined the Monday Buzz once more by phone from Milwaukee with an update.

Download the mp3 (13mb), or listen to the entire interview about performative printmaking / Compressionism with host Brian Standing:

WORT fm

The 8’oclock Buzz: Frankensteined Scanners Under the Sea

Last time the Monday Buzz talked with Milwaukee artist, Nathaniel Stern, he was sending tweets into space and subverting Wikipedia for his own nefarious artistic ends. Now, he’s jerry-rigging flatbed scanners for high-resolution, time-shifting underwater duty. Listen as Nathaniel explains to host Brian Standing how to turn a flat imager into a self-contained scuba camera, the philosophical nature of an image, and more.

Download the mp3 (13mb), or listen to the entire interview about performative printmaking / Compressionism with host Brian Standing:

MKE Journal Sentinel

‘Surfacing’ at Lynden Sculpture Garden
This article by Diane Bacha appeared in both the online and print editions of the MJS

MJS_think-inkJessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern, colleagues at the Peck School of the Arts, took their kids on a trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo one day and came back with an idea for a collaboration. That was three collaborations ago, and they don’t plan to stop.

I can only imagine the conversation that day at the zoo. I am picturing a continuous loop of ideas and theory interrupted by chatter with the kids and pauses to watch the polar bear play. They would have been two families walking at various paces, passing groups moving in other directions, everyone having different conversations about different things while the animals moved in their enclosures. In the background the sky and clouds had their own rhythm. It’s a familiar scene at one glance, but there’s a lot happening on closer inspection. And that’s the way this collaborative work feels: a layering of experiences, moments, ideas, and intersections that teeter between mundane and complex.

Stern is a video and installation artist and Meuninck-Ganger is a printmaker. Although any description of what they do requires asterisks – their work doesn’t exist in silos – their collaboration draws on those specific disciplines, then veers.

“Surfacing” is their latest installation together, and it’s at the Lynden Sculpture Garden until March 24. In it, Stern and Meuninck-Ganger continue their fascinating exercise in layering printmaking and video one atop the other. Each of the six pieces in the small Lynden gallery is a framed, rear-projected video over which has been laid a translucent editioned print or, in one case, a drawing. The viewer sees a static black picture in the foreground and moving, color images in the background. The static image on the skin is taken from a moment or multiple moments occurring in the video beneath.

“Pantograph” uses transportation to convey the idea of layered moments. It’s four minutes in the life of a city intersection where rail, automotive, bicycle and foot traffic converge. The static image is a collection of moments from the traffic – an electric railroad car entering the frame at right, a woman guiding some children at left, a row of automobiles cutting through the middle. As you watch, moving images interact in conflict or harmony with the still image. “Midst” is seemingly less complex: the video depicts a man doing tai-chi exercises on a waterfront, his movements barely visible beneath a woodcut. In this case, a dragon’s form on the static woodcut introduces an element outside the literal. 3-D interpretations of the original woodcut hang on each side of the framed piece. Still more layers.

Other pieces depict a bowling ball striking pins, the Allen-Bradley clock tower, another street scene, and two seated subway-car passengers with their backs to each other. The video loops range in time from 15 seconds to 5 minutes.

Where Stern’s video ends and Meuninck-Ganger’s printmaking begins is fuzzy, since the two have traded off roles depending on the piece. They want to blur the lines between individual contributions and also between the two media. The image applied to the video gives the video a new meaning, and vice-versa. Each is a singular experience – neither video nor print but a distinct hybrid.

Someone viewing this work for the first time might not see it that way. You find yourself fascinated by the technique, so you’re aware of it and you’re trying to figure out its trick – when will the images line up with each other? Is there something I’m supposed to see when it does? Are there other sleights-of-art to watch for? And why was this particular moment chosen as the static image?

Then there is the blending of old media and new and all that’s implied with that. There is the idea of time stopped (perhaps a memory) and time looped (perhaps an obsession). One thinks of the “key block / color block” elements of traditional printmaking. And of the endless possibilities of a particular moment in time, and how few of those possibilities we usually perceive.

What are we to make of these images as a whole? Is it a fable about patience? About being watchful for the beauty in mundane moments? Each piece is different enough in tone, context and even technique that the overall experience doesn’t feel cohesive.

Ultimately, what I found most rewarding with “Surface” was the meditative experience it offered when I let my questions go. It was akin to finding a park bench to watch the world go by. Like most times I’ve spent on a park bench, it takes a while for me to empty my mind and just observe. The rewards come throughout the process, not just at one moment.

Adjacent to the exhibition space, in a porch whose windows overlook the snow-covered sculpture garden, there’s a lovely echo of this experience. The artists have created an installation here by using the windows as a membrane covering the landscape outside. Images drawn on the windows repeat static elements of the landscape in the same way they do on the framed pieces. This time, the movement comes from whatever happens outside randomly, but also from the viewer who changes position to discover visual alignments and misalignments. In a nice interactive touch, the artists have invited visitors to add their own images to the glass.

Meuninck-Ganger and Stern offer up a beautiful opportunity to shift our way of seeing. It is a more conscious way of seeing, to be sure. How often does that happen in the Age of Attention Deficit? The possibilities are exciting.

read the entire article online
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M Magazine

Scanning the Artscape
Five artists on the rise in the cream city
by Tory Folliard with Christine Anderson; portraits by Dan Bishop

Milwaukee’s Third Ward has been named one of America’s Top Twelve Art Places 2013, which recognizes neighborhoods in the largest 44 metropolitan areas in the country where the arts are central to the social and economic vibrancy of a neighborhood. Even with a flourishing art scene and a wealth of talented artists — in the Third Ward and beyond — many artists still remain unknown to most Milwaukeeans. Here are five artists to watch chosen by Milwaukee art curators….

nathaniel-lynden

“I believe that art can change what we see and do, and are.”
— Nathaniel Stern
, Milwaukee: Interactive, Installation and Video Art | nathanielstern.com

Giverny of the Midwest (detail) - R5

Curator: Graeme Reid, assistant director of the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
“Stern is one of the most creative, articulate, imaginative artists in the state and, frankly, the country. He should be an international art star. Actually, he is! I can’t think of too many other artists in the state who are building a similar resumé.”

nathaniel stern scanning water lilies

Back Story: The former New Yorker has an impressive resumé of exhibitions and awards from all over the world. (He recently exhibited in January in Johannesburg, South Africa.)

Stern’s interactive art often centers on bodily performances. In his current “Compression” series of prints he straps a laptop and desktop scanner to his body and performs “images into existence.”

Moving his body while he scans the landscape around him, Stern creates images that are later made into prints. He is an associate professor of art and design at the Peck School of the Arts at UW-Milwaukee. His work is on exhibit locally at Lynden Sculpture Garden in a collaborative piece with Jessica Meuninck-Ganger.

Download full / print article (PDF, 1.5mbs)
M-Magazinepage74

Dynamic Stasis

Dynamic Stasis catalogue, Nathaniel Stern + Jessica Meuninck-Ganger

Exhibition Catalogue and Videos

Title: Dynamic Stasis / Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger
Essay: Richard Grusin
Design: Andrew McConville and Jeff Ganger
Photos: Jessica Kaminski
Documentation Videos: Brian James McGuire
Publisher: Gallery AOP, Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger
Date of Publication: 2013
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0-620-55064-2
Download Dynamic Stasis as PDF (6 mb)
Available from Gallery AOP, Johannesburg

Art South Africa

art south africa nathaniel sternDirty Hands or Hands-off? – The Print Matrix in a Mediated Milieu
by Dominic Thorburn

Since the very first images were made by dipping hands in natural pigment and pressing them on cave walls in Lacaux and Altamira, artists have been getting their hands dirty to make their mark. These simple images have to be some of the most economical, powerful and evocative symbols known to us. I believe it helpful to revisit visual images of this nature, to regain perspective and seek solace in them.

Just as language cannot be defined as alphabets, words or syntax, printmaking cannot be defined as a series of technical processes. It is defined by its function, its philosophical approach and the ideas and images it generates. Print may stake claim to creative territory that goes beyond any map; the meaning of the images produced by print media are the expanded terrain, the mediate milieu of the dialogue, the larger picture.

Nathaniel Stern is a prolific experimental video installation and time-based artist and writer who harnesses printmaking to extend his repertoire:
“I combine new and traditional media to create unfamiliar experiences of that which we encounter every day. My art attempts to intercept taken for granted categories such as ‘body,’ ‘language,’ ‘vision,’ ’space’ or ‘power.’ It works to refigure fixed subject / object hierarchies as unexpected and dynamic engagements…
Through performance, provocation and play, my work seeks to infold our unfolding relationships with the world, and with one another. I invite viewers to explore, to embody, and to re-imagine.”

Compressionism is a digital performance and analog archive started in 1996 [sic] where Stern straps a desktop scanner, laptop and custom-made battery pack to his body and performs images into existence. He might scan in straight, long lines across tables, tie the scanner around his neck and swing over flowers, do pogo-like gestures over bricks, or just follow the wind over water lilies in a pond. The dynamism of his relationship to the landscape is transformed into beautiful and quirky renderings, which are re-stretched and coloured on his laptop, then produced as archival art objects using photographic or inkjet processes. He also often takes details from these images and reinterprets them as traditional prints: lithographs, etchings, engravings and woodcuts.

Michael Smith comments that “Stern’s entire process expands to encompass fairly traditional printmaking techniques, and a great tension is established by this…. The results are compelling, an amalgamation of visual languages from two very different ends of Western Art history…one that accrues a salacious, lo-fi quality that adds another dimension to Stern’s repertoire”. It is interesting to note that these works are not only painterly but undoubtedly printerly in their aesthetic; in addition the notion of compression and pressure that is so vital to printmaking is central.

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Third Coast Digest

Strange Vegetation' blooms at Villa Terrac“Current Tendencies II: Artists from Milwaukee” at the Haggerty
By Kat Murrell

Current Tendencies II: Artists from Milwaukee, newly opened at the Haggerty Museum of Art, is a curated potluck of work by ten Milwaukee-based artists. The pieces on view trend toward large-scale, expansive installations, with some quirky humor and pleasant surprises.

Jordan Waraksa “Untitled.” Zebrawood, walnut, steel.
Like many Haggerty exhibitions, the art starts happening as soon as you enter the door. Julian Correa has charge of the opening salvo with Contents Under Pressure, a combination of a sculptural (and rather carnival-esque) representation of an exploding spray paint can and panel paintings hung high upon the walls. There are lot of objects competing for attention, but some of the most gripping moments are in the grisaille background, with figures and images that are anything but wallflowers.

Two particularly strong installations bookend the exhibition, beginning with artist and musician Jordan Waraksa’s sparse but satisfyingly rich combination of sound and sculpture. Elegant conical zebrawood forms sit in twisted balance as music, combining strains of classical and folk-tinged songs, emanates from within. The visuals are arresting enough, the but music firmly roots the visitor to the space. This little gallery may be a favorite place to pause on repeated stops this autumn season.

13 Views of a Journey, Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger

13 Views of a Journey, Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger

Another of the smaller gallery spaces that stands out is the technologically savvy work of Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern. 13 Views of a Journey is more than a digital collage, more than moving images. Combining references of the contemporary world and historical works by artists such as Eadweard Muybridge and Utagawa Hiroshige, the piece sends the viewer on a journey, moving forward yet back in time.

Tactile sensibilities are played up in the fabric work of Sharon Kerry-Harlan, as textures and words circle around explorations of the the human face. Lisa Hecht brings together eye-dazzling patterned wallpaper and obliquely probing questions, while Mark Brautigam’s photographs seem straightforward until you start getting into the details. Humor and puzzles are to be found in works by Will Pergl, Reginald Baylor, and the charming, hilarious, and poignant drawings of Luc Leplae.

So what are the “Current Tendencies,” so to speak? They range freely over a wide range of disciplines and mediums. But generally, there is a sense of looking outward, to social commentary and response, telling a story or sending a message. This reflects a momentary cross section of Milwaukee’s creative energy, but this exhibition creates a unique touchstone as time, as well as art, marches on.

Read all of “Current Tendencies II: Artists from Milwaukee” at the Haggerty in context

Sunday Independent

Sunday Independent, Nathaniel SternCreating new Impressions
This article by Mary Corrigall appeared in both the online and print editions of the Sunday Independent

Impressionism has become so unsexy in the last couple of decades. Well, in art circles, that is. Mostly it’s because this once avant-garde French movement has been embraced with such gusto by the masses. For this reason many overseas public galleries wishing to up the foot traffic in their institutions and assert their relevance to society stage themed shows from this period, or exhibitions by artists connected to it.

The frequency of these impressionism blockbusters has rendered the art from that movement blasé. So it is surprising to find a multi-media artist who embraces what is termed “contemporary practice” to be so captured by the art of Claude Monet and in particular his artwork Water Lilies (1914-1926). As the title suggests they are paintings of the most banal of still life subject matter: tranquil ponds dotted with lilies Monet spied in his garden in Giverny, France.

For Nathanial Stern the radicalism of the impressionist vocabulary hasn’t quite worn off. He returns to it anew with an eye for reinventing it for the digitised era. Like many viewers who have stood in front of Monet’s large scale paintings in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Stern was seduced by the romantic, hazy lens through which Monet depicted this bucolic scene. In his version of Monet’s Water Lilies he has retained the large scale in his triptych Giverny of the Midwest – the pond he studied was in Indiana. Stern was aware scale played an important role in creating an immersive experience for viewers. He deconstructs and then reconstructs Monet’s approach, but this activity is not in service of demystifying, or satirising it, but re-enacting a moment in art history using digital media.

“Immersion” and “deconstruction” inform this body of work and Stern’s mode of documenting reality, which involves an HP scanner harnessed around his neck as he wades through the pond. Put plainly, he scans his subject matter. Because he does not remain static while doing this he generates images that appear life-like, but distorted. Not too unlike the kind of distortion reality undergoes under Monet’s heightened gaze, which amplifies the physical and sensual properties of his interest.

Just as Monet realised a purely figurative rendering of organic life doesn’t quite relay the physical experience or weight of reality, so does Stern recognise a straight life-like scan won’t do so either. Stern’s proximity to his subject matter facilitates a level of abstraction before he has even begun his process of “decompression”, which involves undoing the compression of the image. He is so close to his subject matter he doesn’t necessarily observe it, but is immersed in it. Because of this the view is distorted. It is a bit like putting the lens of a camera right up against that which is to be photographed.

Physical distance is a prerequisite for representation. Stern’s approach challenges this idea for not only is he immersed in his subject matter, but ironically he equips himself with a gadget that has no view-finder so he is unable to see the images he is capturing. As a result he records while not being trapped by, or implicated in, the act of recording. Thus representation is separated from seeing, it becomes an intuitive act of another kind.

This, of course, is the antithesis of the effect digital mediums have had on a society which has become more consumed with the act of documenting life that reality is viewed through a lens. In this way Stern succeeds in achieving what Monet never could: he is able to exist in a moment without the burden of reconstructing it. For this reason he is a participant rather than a detached observer. Stern is able to produce images that relay so much detail, like a insect caught in a petal or the veins of a leaf. These details might have evaded his detection despite his proximity and immersion. This suggests he was unable to fully appreciate the scene in its totality. In this way the full weight of reality is always withheld.

It is only in the processing of his scanned images, in which he stretches them out, that another encounter with his subject matter becomes possible. This encounter is obviously subject to his manipulation; he heightens the colours and decompresses the images to such a point that they are abstracted.

Stern doesn’t present one cohesive view of the pond, but a plethora of cropped details of it. The images are pieced together to form three larger “canvases”. They need to be scrutinised up close, where you can spy traces of the submersion of his physical being in the work – denoted by finger prints.

These works are excessively beautiful and compel immersion. Viewing them is a time-demanding exercise, which defies our usual consumption of imagery. This is exacerbated by the number of small canvases one must view, which appear like pieces of a puzzle even though they do not fit together to create a complete image. These are fragments of reality. Stern suggests a scene cannot be relayed in its entirety, so despite his reverence he challenges Monet’s work. Stern doesn’t order the visual world; he casts his garden pond scene as an indeterminate one that exists beyond the boundaries of any frame.

*Giverny of the Midwest has been on show at the Art on Paper Gallery in Joburg.

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SA Art Times

SA Art Times, Nathaniel SternInterview with Nathaniel Stern
This article by Wilhelm van Rensburg appeared in both the online and print editions of the South African Art Times

“The best decision of my life was to chase Nicole Ridgway halfway around the globe, and make her agree to spend her life with me.” So says Nathaniel Stern, world-renowned media artist. When he first met her, Stern was finishing his Masters of Fine Arts in digital art at New York University, where she was a visiting fellow.

He was completely enamoured with Ridgway the moment she began speaking. “She had that beautiful accent (now so familiar to me), and she was the most brilliant and generous person I had ever encountered. For two months I basically harassed her with a flurry of e-mails and letters on her door, and by sliding my arm in hers in the hallways, until she relented and agreed to go on a date with me. And then she stood me up!”

Figuring that Nicole was far too decent to do such a thing without reason, he checked and found a note saying that she was attending a talk by Vito Acconci at Cooper Union. Stern’s response was to show up at that same lecture with another woman on his arm – and one whom he knew would have to leave early for a class – so he could have another shot at Nicole. Finally, the two had their drinks at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge (cheap but watered down bourbon and soda) talking non-stop into the night. That cold February in the East Village in 2001 was when he decided to follow her back to South Africa, where she held a tenured position in the Drama Department at Wits. “I lived in New York until my early twenties,” Stern says, “but I grew up in South Africa.”

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, Stern quickly established himself. As video artist and performance poet, he worked with PJ Sabbagha and the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative on The Double Room, which took the FNB Vita Award for Most Outstanding Presentation of a Contemporary Work (2001). The Mail and Guardian newspaper tersely referred to him as ‘digital guy’ for some time after that. As teacher, he began working with Christo Doherty, Head of Digital Arts at Wits School of the Arts, lecturing in the newly established MAFA program (2002). And as fine artist, Stern won a merit prize at the Brett Kebble Art Awards for his interactive installation, stuttering (2003). With the money from that prize, he bought the software that enabled him to create a major winning work at the second and last Kebble awards for another interactive installation, step inside (2004).

At this point, Stern was offered a solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG, 2004 – 2005). The Storytellers, featuring both a 6-channel and 1-channel video installation, a large-scale interactive art work, and over 3 dozen prints, was sponsored by the American consulate and the JAG itself. “But that still wasn’t enough to cover the show,” Stern begins, an edge of sadness in his voice. He explains that Braamfontein-based Andrew Meintjes, “who was becoming a good friend,” agreed to produce the prints for the show at no initial cost. “As a believer in my work, he said I could pay him back once the pieces sold.” Only hours after their agreement was reached, Meintjes was shot dead in his studio, the culprits getting away with nothing more than a cell phone. “It still haunts me,” Stern vocalized. With only weeks to spare before the opening, Stern was able to use his Kebble winnings for art yet again, this time parlaying the money for his museum show. The Storytellers was dedicated to Meintjes.

In between all of this Nathaniel and Nicole flew back to New York to get married, and Stern did a short residency at Cornell University where he continued to produce video art; he collaborated with Marcus Neustetter on various work and exhibitions (both on- and offline), and worked on a second award-winning piece with PJ Sabbagha.

In 2006 back in Johannesburg, a major breakthrough occurred in Stern’s work. He produced a custom battery-pack and hardware in order to attach a desktop scanner and laptop to his body, and scan or perform art works in the landscape – chief of which was in a lily pond at Emmarentia Park in Johannesburg. The scanned data was compressed into narrow horizontal or vertical strips (playfully coining a new –ism in art, namely Compressionism) and then stretched and edited on his computer to form a new piece.

“I thought of the resultant prints as fundamentally electronic works, in which I attempted to bridge the analog and the digital; but a graduate student at Wits who I was teaching at the time, Richard Kilpert, said these were the best prints he had ever seen. So I asked: ‘Teach me about printmaking?” This led to a whole new direction in Stern’s practice. He soon teamed up with Jillian Ross at David Krut, publishing a new body of work and portfolio for his exhibition Call and Response with Alet Vorster at Art on Paper Gallery (now GALLERY AOP). Stern jokingly laments that Voster did not like the work he first showed her on his laptop, but she took a liking to the prints as soon as she saw them in the real world a few weeks later, and eventually published the catalog for his highly successful solo show (2007).

This was also the time, however, when Stern decided to leave South Africa to pursue a PhD abroad, with Nicole and their newborn, Sidonie Ridgway Stern. Most of the programmes he looked at were either practice-based, or focused on visual interpretations of contemporary work. Stern wanted to pursue written research on interaction and performativity in media art. This landed him study with Professor Linda Doyle at Trinity College, the University of Dublin, in the Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department of all places! “Here I was, a fine artist, in an Engineering Department, pursuing a humanities-based PhD,” Stern observes wryly. “Linda did not have a clue what I wanted to do, but she was completely open to my interests and had no agenda of her own; and most importantly, she asked really smart questions.” During his two-year stay in Dublin, Stern continued to exhibit there, in Cork, Johannesburg, New York and more, and completed a short residency in Belgium.

While he and his family initially intended to return to South Africa on completion of his doctorate, after submitting his dissertation to his supervisor in 2008, Stern accepted a full-time position in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM), moving his wife and now two-year-old back to the United States literally a month before the global economic crash. “Like most other places during the economic recession, it was not kind to the arts or education, and I have to live with budget cuts and forced pay cuts now; but I’m having a great time of it nevertheless.” He loves his colleagues in his department, and has been collaborating with local, but globally known American artists since his arrival – Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Yevgeniya Kaganovich in Milwaukee, and Scott Kildall in San Francisco – and writers such as Mary-Louise Schumacher at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The majority of his work now combines new and traditional media – concrete sculpture with 3D imaging, prints with video, electronics and mechanics with sculpture – a trajectory he credits Compressionism with.

Within three years, and thanks to major shows, awards and publications worldwide (including the Venice Biennale, Transmediale and several solos and duos in London, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Johannesburg), he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. At UWM Stern manages a fantastic mentorship programme, working with students who help him with his installations, prints and various forms of participatory work, while gaining important experience in the studio and in relation to professional practice. “As in South Africa, where I always did community work in the arts, I am continuing to help build the arts in Milwaukee, by working with organizations like The Upgrade and Milwaukee Artist Resource Network. In fact, I am trying to combine my efforts across cities. I’ve already brought several of my American collaborators to South Africa, and am currently trying to bring South African folks to UWM – taking advantage, for example, of renowned author and director Jane Taylor’s trip to the states in the Fall.”

South Africa, Stern says, is still home. He plays an active role in the arts, plugs his friends and colleagues into each other’s life and careers, and tries to come back to visit everyone and exhibit new work as often as he can – wistfully avowing to move back one day. His latest solo exhibition in Johannesburg is again at GALLERY AOP in August 2011, where he takes the scanning of water lilies to a new level. Entitled Giverny of the Midwest, Stern has become a latter day, albeit electronic Monet, basing his 2 x 12 meter installation on the Impressionist’s famous Water Lilies painting in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He will also show a selection of older work and a new 6-channel video installation as part of Transcode, curated by Gwen Miller, at UNISA, this September, then museum, gallery and festival exhibitions in the states, New Zealand, and Canada in the weeks that follow.

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Live Out Loud

Live Out LoudThe Art of Compression
This article by Christine Grové appeared in both the online and print editions of Live Out Loud

Delving into the intricate and compelling world of American-born and Joburg-based artist, Nathaniel Stern, one is once again emphatically confronted with the pure immensity that is art appreciation and philosophy. Because Stern’s work is embedded in extensive investigation into subjects so significant to human nature, currently and historically, his art is quite possibly some of the most relevant around.

A productive day in Stern’s life may consist of wading waist-deep in a water-lily pond with a desktop scanner, laptop and custom-made battery pack strapped to his body. Wielding this unique contraption he literally performs images into existence by scanning along table surfaces, swinging over flowers, hopping over bricks or, in this case, floating over water-lily ponds. This active engagement with his surroundings translates into quirky and organic but condensed renderings which he then re-stretches, crops and touches up on his laptop, and finally they are transformed into exquisite archival art prints for the gallery wall. This process of art-making he has suitably named Compressionism.

Stern follows a rather unique trajectory when creating his Compressionist works. From influential roots in Impressionism through to Surrealism imagery, ending in a postmodern sentiment, Compressionism is more than a playful allusion to historical art movements of “isms”. Allegorically, Stern’s term Compressionism dictates the nature of this day and age. In a world of time and space constraints threatening to slow us down, the concept of compression allows us to “zip-folder” large amounts of data into smaller spaces, which is also intrinsic to our lives of trying to fit an alarming amount of activities into one day.

His latest installation, entitled “Giverny of the Midwest”, on display at Art On Paper from 30 July 2011, is part of an ongoing series started in 2005 in Johannesburg. The main work, a 2 x 12 meter installation of 93 prints of water-lily pond scans was inspired by Monet’s work in Giverny where he spent over 30 years painting his famous water lilies. For this particular work Stern spent three days camping beside a lily pond in South Bend, Indiana with his scanner-laptop-battery apparatus, endlessly scanning his surroundings with only his studio assistant and an agitated snapping turtle for company. After this brief adventure, it took over eighteen months of editing and reworking images to achieve the full installation to where it is now.

Using Monet’s Water Lilies triptych at the MoMA in New York as his source for following movement and patterns of colour and light and Mondrian as the inspiration for the spacing of the images, Stern managed to create a kind of digital play between modularity and Modernism in this large installation.

Coining new terminology and experimenting with new hardware combinations are, however, not the only things Stern concerns himself with. He is also a prolific scholar of performative and interactive art and is considered one of the fathers of this progressive movement in South Africa. Throughout his career he has explored an array of different concepts including political commentary, performance, human interaction and language, and has deepened his research around these interests over many years.

Like most progressive artists today, Stern often collaborates with other artists. “I believe that artists no longer simply make images, they make discourse – they ask us not only to look but to look again, to re-examine,” he says, “Art is always dialogical – I mean, simply, that it is in dialogue – with history, with other art and artists, with current events, with politics and pop culture and more. Most of all, it is in dialogue with people, with real people.”

In his 2003/2009 updated work, “Stuttering”, one of his many interactive installations, Stern investigates how we affect, and are affected by conversation and comprehension. Each viewer in the space triggers a large-scale interactive art object projected on the wall in front of them. Body tracking software picks up the movement of the viewers and animates a quote about stuttering and is accompanied by an audio recitation of its text.

When questioned about bringing art to the people via interaction, Stern quotes: “There are a lot of reasons I work with interactive art. A large portion of this is to reach a bigger audience and get them excited about art, while also engaging with complex ideas and materials. And I also believe that such work can be serious stuff, which needs to be investigated further by those in the academy and elsewhere.”

Some of Stern’s other works will also be on display at UNISA in September.
For more information visit http://nathanielstern.com or www.artonpaper.co.za

see this article in the print edition

Shepherd Express

Sheperd Express / Express Milwaukee feature on Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-GangerPast, Future Combine in ‘Print Press Play’
By Robert Tilley
This article appeared on the web and in the print edition.

“Print Press Play,” a collaboration between Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and Nathaniel Stern that blends complex printmaking with 21st-century computer art, has opened at Elaine Erickson Gallery. As digital printmakers, they create images with tone, volume, color and dimension in rippling loops of “virtual” time with prints in motion, the new direction in printmaking.

These two nationally acclaimed artists reference the seascapes of Japan’s early-19th-century printmaker Hiroshige in The Multitude, an LCD-woodcut diptych with virtual “machinima” petrels climbing, circling and swooping from one screen to the other over a shimmering sunlit harbor.

Kinnickinnic is an intricate, remarkable work of images specific to Milwaukee. Two cameras mounted on the dash of a car, one focused forward and the other into the rearview mirror, capture video of Bay View street scenes. The video is then embedded into a traditional lithograph of the driver’s view through the windshield.

“Print Press Play” runs concurrently with other works from this series in “Distill Life” at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. With the delightful aquatint etching on copper plate, Meninas, the artists recall Velazquez in images of their studio, dancing through the doorway to meet viewers and invite them into their art.

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MKE Journal Sentinel

milwaukee journal sentinel feature on wikipedia artStern and Meuninck-Ganger at MWA and Elaine Erickson
This article by Mary Louise Schumacher appeared in both the online and print editions of the MJS

Artists Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, professors of art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, collaborate on artworks that combine some of the oldest and newest art forms.

They mount translucent prints and drawings on top of video monitors, which appear to bring moving images to life on paper. The juxtaposition of physical and virtual, tactile and electronic is wonderfully strange and novel.

Stern and Meuninck-Ganger have shown separately and together around the world. A show of their work opens Wednesday at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. A second show “Print Press Play” opens Thursday at the Elaine Erickson Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St.. An opening reception will be held at the Erickson Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. and an artists’ talk at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be there!

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Rhizome.org

rhizome feature on wikipedia artOn Nathaniel Stern & Jessica Meuninck-Ganger’s “Passing Between” at AOP Gallery
by Christo Doherty

“This past month, Johannesburg’s AOP Gallery, a space devoted to works on paper, hosted the exhibition “Passing Between” which showcased the collaborative output between digital artist Nathaniel Stern and printmakerJessica Meuninck-Ganger. At the outset, Stern and Meuninck-Ganger approached the collaboration as a chance to learn each other’s techniques. But they quickly chose to focus on their own strengths in a process they call [Distill Life]. For Stern, the move toward printmaking comes from a long interest in the technique. In recent work, he has engaged with an expanded form of digital print making, using a hacked portable scanner to produce densely patterned sequences of natural images, in a project called Compressionism. For “Passing Between,” Stern concentrated on using digital photo frames as a medium for displaying loops of video obtained through live filming, and sampled machinima taken from Second Life. Meuninck-Ganger responded to the framed video loops with an encyclopedic range of printmaking techniques from wood block to mono print, silkscreen, etching, and photogravure. In some cases, she printed or [drew] directly on the screens of the digital photo frames; in other cases, the prints were layered over the screens creating a delicate conjunction between the fibers of the paper medium and the illumination of the underlying video. In The Gallerist, a prominent New York art dealer is portrayed anxiously perched on a [raft] in [the] middle of a lithograph while below the surface of the paper machinima sharks circle him endlessly.”

“The effect is both magical and subtle. Jessica’s images often capture a static moment from the subject matter of the video in etching or ink. The pleasure offered by the composite images comes from the interplay between the stasis of the printed image and the temporal flow of the video, producing witty and sometimes fascinating results. In the diptych [Twin City] the 2009 tornado is represented with an animated twister from Second Life. Jessica’s lithograph shows a flying pig coming to rest momentarily in alignment with its outline before whirling back to the beginning of the looped tornado. In general, the artist’s subject matter is deliberately low-key and it presents samples from their lives as artists and young parents in Milwaukee and Johannesburg exploring moments of fun, awkwardness and good humor. However, the rich range of techniques and visual allusions layered over the works also references an entire history of contemporary art and print making, ranging from Hokusai to Velazquez.”

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Printmaking Today

Printmaking Today coverPrintmaking Today article on contemporary practices in South Africa. Covers performative scanner art, and Nathaniel Stern’s work with Jillian Ross at the David Krut Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nathaniel Stern / David Krut in Printmaking Today magazine

Nathaniel Stern / David Krut in Printmaking Today magazine

Guardian Unlimited

nathaniel stern: Guardian Unlimited art blog featureCatch of the day: Second Life’s new gallery
Three artists are showcasing their art in a new virtual gallery. But is this really the best place to see their work?

I’ll be honest. My experience of Second Life is fairly limited. Somewhere on Linden Lab’s virtual world, there’s an inert avatar I created, sat fully clothed in someone’s bath. Sorry about that. The door was open and I got a bit tired of people approaching me and trying to turn me into a busty lady, so I sought refuge in the first empty house I found.

But I’m not really the Second Life type. After seeing Wonderland: Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love last night on BBC2, I’m quite glad. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not as excited as some people about the launch of Ten Cubed, a new art gallery in Second Life, which goes live here today.

The gallery has been developed by Depo Consulting in association withGalleryica. Don’t get me wrong; it all looks very well designed. “Most virtual galleries are like your average website, poorly designed without any sense of optimising a visitor’s experience,” announced Depo CEO and creative director Peter Dunkley. “Ten Cubed has been designed by a professional architect to exploit fully the showcasing opportunities of the virtual medium.”

I’m sure he’s right. The inaugural show features the work of Chris AshleyScott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, all interesting artists whose use of new technology makes them perfect for this sort of project.

I just don’t get why viewing their work in Second Life is the best place to showcase their work. Dunkley insists the gallery is “perfectly placed to be accessed and visited by business people generally too busy to physically attend art galleries, which should benefit sales”.

Well yes, if you’re the sort of business person who hangs out in Second Life. But after a much publicised credit scam and a run on the virtual bank, the Second Life business model seems to be on shaky ground. And “Second Thoughts on Second Life” editorials have been springing up for over a year now – almost as soon as the mainstream press picked up on it (and about the time my avatar first went for a bath).

So – nice design, nice publicity stunt. It’s made me check out the artists online anyway, via their own websites. Which is the only place I’d even contemplate buying their art.

On The Guardian

Art Fag City

nathaniel stern: Art Fag City featured artistArt Fag City: featured artist

“One of the more exciting new features on AFC lands in our masthead, which will now feature a new emerging artist every two weeks. Click on the image and a page with the profiled artist and a full sized reproduction of their work. Kicking us off is the work of Nathaniel Stern, who headed up the residency I attended at iCommons last week in Dubrovnik.”

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