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

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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

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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 UWMilwaukee

“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.”

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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.”

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Read the original on WIRED.com

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.

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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

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

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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