"The field of the finite is all that we can see, hear, touch, remember and describe. This field is basically that which is manifest, or tangible. The essential quality of the infinite, by contrast, is its subtlety, its intangibility. This quality is conveyed in the word spirit, whose root meaning is 'wind, or breath'. This suggests an invisible but pervasive energy, to which the manifest world of the finite responds."
- David Bohm Quantum Physicist
"What, then, is this experience of encountering art on the Internet? I know what it is if no one asks me what it is; but if I want to explain it to someone who has asked me, I find that I do not know."
- Augustine remixed by ROLU
I am endlessly fascinated with this unknowable process of visual sifting on which I embark via the Internet each day. Some elements of this journey are random, others chosen. The images I encounter daily easily number into the thousands, and it seems likely at least hundreds of those fall into a category I would loosely term "art images." I think of the experience as this sort of "magnetic wind" that I walk into and pass through some things sticking, others falling away. What is this energy I sense in these images that stick ... and more specifically, what are these fragments of art I encounter? Photographic documentation of work that occupies actual space somewhere, usually in places unknown to me - installations and sculptural forms that I'm forced to apply my own sense of scale to - instantly and unconsciously landing in my imagination's version of some 3D modeling software. There are distances to navigate - and time, sometimes eras, political and social considerations to absorb - eventually arriving at a personal understanding and then finding a place in the vast reservoir of my memories of art, both experienced physically and not. But do I know this work? I will admit that I am suspicious of this process whenever I notice it but, over time, Ive come to enthusiastically trust it, too. I sense that it is leading somewhere good.
Three of the four artists' works I discuss here have been experienced solely online. Each represents work that has connected with me deeply. What I find most interesting is that the distinction hadnt occurred to me until I started writing this piece.
In Crumbs to Bricks, the first solo exhibition by artist Natalie Rognsøy, a series of objects and sculptural assemblages explore "a mixture of memories and events the potential of finding stories within found objects. My objects look like things that often lay around in a basement or garage ... a piece of an old sweater you dry your hands with, or a broken mirror that no one seems to throw away." I believe these stories she speaks of are visible in the images of her work, and while I can't know them, I can sense them. I encourage you to explore her work.
Lisha Bai's work alludes somewhat literally to this topic of the tangible vs. the intangible through themes of time and space. Her black sand sculptural forms conjure a sense of organic possibility, and in turn, the limits of possibility. Hanging on the wall relating directly to the sculptures hangs a print - an ordinary calendar on the lower half, an image that looks like a stock NASA photo of some indefinable galaxy on the upper half. Her work is beautiful, mysterious, and vast.
Sarah E. Wood's restrained sculptures are so delicate and simple in appearance that they somehow transcend the meaning of both those words. I experienced the work physically in a booth at the NADA Fair recently in Miami Beach and spoke frequently of its impact. Some Google searches later acquainted me with the image presented here from the artist's gallery. It's this image I remember when I think of her work. It occurs to me that the first time I saw this particular piece it was surrounded by other artists work, imperfect lighting, and art fair people. That visual experience has been supplanted by this image.
Jo-ey Tang's work often involves what he describes as "imperceptible perceptual changes." As part of the 2010 UCLA New Wight Biennial, Another Romance, all of his objects were moved forward by 5 inches, out of the spotlights, after the opening night. The piece unlimited capacity is a 96" custom-made mirror (the bevels are the same width as the mirror surface) on a glass candle. The candle was lit and the mirror cracked in half.
Most of the art I love is object-based and earthbound or ultimately finite, and it is the questions and provocations that it creates for me that I cherish. Art experienced on the Internet continues to provide glimpses of the intangible.
Matt Olson is co-founder of ROLU, rosenlof/lucas, ro/lu, a design and art studio located in Minneapolis that released their first line of ROLU Furniture Fall 2010. Various pieces have been on view at Art In General, MONDO CANE, MoMA PS1, Golden Age and at Art Basel Miami Beach through the Arratia, Beer gallery, Berlin. ROLUs practice has a strong link to landscape design work and also extends to relational architectural projects, urban planning work and innovative collaborative public art. Matt blogs daily about architecture, art, design and culture at ROLU BLOG and writes a bi-monthly column about art and visual culture for Threshold, a joint site for the AIA-MN (American Institute of Architects) and MASLA (MN - American Society of Landscape Architects).