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Peter Sarkisian : New Video Work

Fall 2012

Book 1, 2011

Unique edition of 10 Found book, powder coated steel & aluminum, video projection 13 x 10 x 20 in.

In Book, a small man is seen crawling about while rewriting a dictionary, symbolizing the ongoing and sometimes sloppy evolution of language in the modern age. The figure whistles “Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall�, while scribbling misspelled words, SMS chat abbreviations and poorly written notes across the pages of the book.

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Cup’a Joe, 2011

Edition of 4 Powder coated steel and aluminum, oversized ceramic cup, concrete, tinted polymer resin, paper, coins, video projection, audio 16 x 11 x 22 in. In this work, Sarkisian has created an allegory for the death of 1950ʼs American idealism and the middle class that came to represent it. As a cup of coffee sits on a modernist Formica countertop in a bustling American diner, a suited man named Joe floats face down in his Java, apparently dead. Nearby a waiter is heard calling Joeʼs name and complaining that he never paid for his coffee, a fact made evident by the presence of an unpaid check left sitting beside the oversized mug. The abandoned cup of coffee turned watery grave is a far cry from images typically associated with the national beverage, which, even in depression era America was marketed as an escape from the cold and hunger of a bankrupt nation. Thus, the hopeful idealism of the American middle class dies with Joe, the iconic and affluent “everyman”, who came to symbolize the American dream.

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Golden Drain, 2011

Edition of 4 Powder coated steel and aluminum, video projection, audio 22 x 16 x 11 in. In Golden Drain, animated rivulets of black sludge trickle across a decaying landscape toward a sparkling drain, which swallows the secretions without ever becoming tarnished or less vibrant. As the drain remains a shimmering and seductive focal point, almost beautiful in appearance, the earth around it splinters and breaks up into a field of broken concrete shards. This decay unfolds very slowly and without detection, even as the viewer is busy staring into the hypnotic drain itself. In this way, the drain serves to symbolize our obsession with consumer objects and material beauty, which occupy our thoughts in the form of desire for coveted possessions. Ironically, the golden drain itself symbolizes our best efforts to contain and manage the waste byproducts of this material obsession, just as buying new plastic bags to dispose of old plastic bags is an ecological paradox that is practiced commonly today.

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Ink Blot, 2011

Edition of 4 Powder coated steel and aluminum, found ink bottle, tinted polymer resin, notepad, video projection, audio 16 x 11 x 22 in.

In this work, the demise of ink and the death of pen and paper are explored through the encumbered journey of a small ink covered figure struggling to reach a note pad. As an anthropomorphic representation of ink itself, the figure emerges from a small pool of black liquid and crawls with great effort toward an open pad of paper resting nearby. He leaves in his wake an inky black trail before coming to rest on the notepad, where, obsolete and no longer relevant, he fades slowly and forever away.

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Floating Pencil, 2010

Edition of 4 Powder coated steel and aluminum, pencil, video projection 13 x 10 x 20 in.

This work represents an ongoing effort by Sarkisian to realize new and sometimes startling results from the otherwise commonplace medium of video. Just as his Extruded Video Engine reconfigured the flat two-dimensional surface of a video screen into a fully spatial and volumetric vessel for his imagery, so does the Floating Pencil use video to create the perceptual illusion of material levitation. The work is meant to confuse the viewer始s sense of perception through the subtle use of image, light and movement.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST Peter Sarkisian (46) is an American artist and filmmaker whose work combines elements of video and sculpture to create a hybrid form of multi-media installation. He has exhibited widely throughout the world in major museums and public venues, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Musée Picasso in Antibes, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sarkisian’s work has been featured in many international exhibitions and festivals, including the Istanbul Biennial in Turkey, the Vidarte Festival in Mexico City, the Whitney Biennial in New York, and the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. In 2007 the National Endowment for the Arts named Sarkisian “a master video artist”, and in 2008 the University of Wyoming Art Museum organized an extensive mid-career retrospective of Sarkisian’s work. The ongoing exhibition has since traveled to numerous museums throughout the world, including the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Sarkisian studied photography and film at the California Institute of the Arts and the American Film Institute in the late 1980’s, and then began working with video as a sculptural element in the mid 90’s. The underlying premise of his work remains committed to using video as an instrument against commercialized media, namely television, in order to transform the act of watching video from an experience-killing act to an experience-creating act. He accomplishes this by joining sculptural elements with projected video imagery to create audio/visual illusions that trap the viewer between conflicting interpretations, thereby forcing a state of selfawareness that is otherwise absent while watching television.

All of Sarkisian’s work is grounded in the idea that video, in it’s ubiquitous and most popular form, is an experientially void medium, and that by depriving ourselves of experience in favor of information-based images, we have become unable to grasp the meaning of consequence or to coexist with mutual understanding. His installations therefore attempt to steer the world’s most influential medium back on a collision course with the viewer in order to reintroduce an element of experience to the viewing process. If the filmmaker’s traditional goal is to distract viewers through the suspension of self-awareness, then Sarkisian’s goal is to create a sense of heightened self-awareness by engaging the viewer in constructed environments that blur the line between what is real and what is mediated.

Sarkisian Exhibition  

An online exhibition featuring the work of video artist Peter Sarkisian