Artist Profile: Mark Dorf

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

Mark Dorf, Untitled (Sketch) (2014)
 
Kerry Doran: Your work, though seemingly based on nature and natural formations, is very much about human-made, technological constructs, using a visual vocabulary we are familiar with to show us unfamiliar and often invisible forces like networked activity and virtual spaces.   More broadly, it probes at the notion of “the scientific,” or what we consider to be objective truth. As religion and its iconography once were, science is now our foremost means of making sense of our landscape; a way to understand the world through categories, systems, principles, equations, and technologies, which are all human-made and therefore arbitrary or fallible. How do you use landscape as a catalyst, and even a sort of iconography, to deal with the construction of objectivity or lack thereof?

Mark Dorf: Landscape itself is the set of symbols that human beings have been looking at the longest— perhaps only second to the body. It's where we originate from, so it follows suit that our symbols originate from here, too. With such a deeply rooted biological and elemental connection to the land, we find its aesthetics intensely fascinating. For instance, you would be hard-pressed to find a single person on this planet that would not consider a photograph of the Grand Canyon, even of the most amateur of quality, a quintessentially idyllic scene. We are drawn to these images, and upon seeing these kinds of symbolic references, there is an immediate sense of connection despite a void of human presence.

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Don't Fight It: On "/Performing the Text," curated by Kerry Doran

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Screengrab from Martine Syms's Nite Life (2015)

"Don't you believe me?" "Huh?" "What's wrong with me?" "Somebody…" "You know what I'm saying?"

Asks Martine Syms's Nite Life. These texts appear through an invisible cursor on a purple backdrop, mimicking the rhythm of a nervous diction before quickly deleting themselves. Some level of interaction seems to be expected, but there is no way to reply—in contrast with Syms's recent project with Gina Trapani for Seven on Seven, Insecurity Questions.

The website's performance of these words—which Syms culled from Sam Cooke's asides to the audience on the record Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963—is diametrically opposed to the bravado we often associate with recordings like "A Change is Going to Come" or with Cooke's voice in general. Even after successfully crossing over from Gospel to Pop (a transition that included a comparatively restrained appearance on Ed Sullivan), Cooke's live performances were characterized by their energy and the intensity of the audience's interaction. These characteristics resulted in executives deeming this live recording “too black" to be released; the recording did not see the light of day until Cooke's style was no longer in vogue.

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