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home work visual written Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Art? A Problem of Memory: The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Formal Analysis of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies

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home work visual written Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Art? A Problem of Memory: The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Formal Analysis of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies

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Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Art?

The Artist is Present: The artist is in the museum. The artist is right across from you. The artist is art?

Marina Abranovic’s recent MoMA retrospective is a mix of looking back and looking forward. MoMA entire sixth floor is dedicated to the artist’s over three dacade long career. Past works, originally performed by the artist, are represented in the exhibition through various kinds of documentations. Slideshows with still photography, and video recordings of Abramovic’s early career and art of the recent past. Solo in addition to collaborative works, with the artist’s former partner Ulay, found their own section in the expansive four-room layout of MoMA’s sixth floor. Here, young artists perform life reenactments of some now-famous Abramovic pieces. These re-enactments are, in their own right a retrospective gesture, as well as they are a look into their own future. As Abramovic had executive power during the curation of the retrospective, it can be assumed that the artist authorized all the choices made. By choosing not only to show recordings of the past performances, but also to have re-enactments executed by performers other then herself, in-dicates the artist’s approach towards performance art’s intrinsic issues. Questions of ephemerality and aura are not being ignored but become a natural part of the show’s discourse. Specifically the retrospective’s structure seems to suggest that performance art survives the act of the first showing and is independent from the originating artist. Accordingly, after eliminating the original performer and through the re-enactments it seems to follow that idea is the essential thing in Abramovic’s kind of performance art. Not the artist that is performing is what makes the piece the piece, but the act of performing the idea created by the artist. However, there are problems. At this point it can be said, that the re-enactments seem to appear less daring than some of the documental recordings, considering the life nudity and extreme physical endurance that is being performed and that is so captivating and emotionally

original performance of the piece, in order to enter the exhibition space, the visitors had to squeeze in between to two naked performers, they had to make the choice of who to face. And most important, if the wanted to enter the space, they had to participate. The MoMA decided, or had to decide, to give visitors the option to partake or to choose a different entrance. It can be assumed that the experience changes noticeably if you, as a visitor, decide to squeeze through or not. The visitor can stay at a distance, which will put him/her into a significantly different situation than if there wouldn’t be such choice. On the second floor, the grand open space of the museum; the show’s title piece found its home. This new work, inspired by Night Sea Crossing, is another example of an original collaboration with Ulay. - Again, a look forward and into the past. - In the MoMA version Marina Abramovic is present. No trained performers, but the artist herself is dressed in a heavy, long gown, and sits on a substantial looking, wooden chair, with a table in front of her. On the other side of the table another chair is placed. Marina Abramovic stares straight ahead. Visitors are invited to sit down, meat her gaze, stare back, for as long as they wish to. The artist herself sits on her chair staring for the whole three month of the exhibition, everyday, from opening to closing. The simple gesture of The Artist is Present, interpositions itself within the string of questions that have been raised on the sixth floor. The fact that the person that the piece’s idea is originating from, is in attendance and performing, seems to give the work the link back that was missing in the re-enactments, the body of the artist. Even though Abramovic seems to see her art as something that can be passed on, similar to traditional folk tales, it can’t be denied that The Artist is Present is the one piece with the biggest effect. When looking at the visitors standing around Abramovic and her respective counterpart, it can be observed that people are immersed by what is going on. Visitors stay, sometimes for hours, to also stare, reflect and even meditate. By inviting the visitors to sit with the artist, both Abramovic and the respective,


essential thing in Abramovic’s kind of performance art. Not the artist that is performing is what makes the piece the piece, but the act of performing the idea created by the artist. However, there are problems. At this point it can be said, that the re-enactments seem to appear less daring than some of the documental recordings, considering the life nudity and extreme physical endurance that is being performed and that is so captivating and emotionally tense in the original footage. This issue becomes especially apparent in the re-creation of the 1977 work Imponderabilia. First performed with Ulay, the MoMA version has two nude performers, one male one female, and standing, facing one another in a narrow opening. Visitors are invited to squeeze side-ways in between the two in order to access the next room. They have to make the choice to face the naked male or the female or to avoid the situation and take a different entrance. Flanked by a bully security guard, the piece seems to be too staged, too controlled. Yes, the idea of the piece is present. However, the aura of the original performance appears to be lost. The two naked people are not Ulay and Marina; they are two nameless performers, instructed by Abramovic to recreate, but not to create. Or do they create their own, new version of Imponderabilia? The relationship of the new performers is different. But do these personal facts matter? Is it important to the piece what kind of relationship the performers have? And what role does the location play? The core idea of the piece, two naked people facing one another, is still the same. But the intimacy is of a different kind. In the re-enactments it all comes down to the stripped down idea of the Abramovic’s performances. However, it becomes apparent, when looking at the part of the exhibition, which shows documentation of the original performances that there used to be this other quality of relationship between Ulay and Marina. Maybe this is all myth and romanticism added by time and nostalgia. No one today can faithfully recall what it was like to witness an Ulay/ Abramovic performance. Nevertheless something seems to be missing in the re-enactments. These thoughts about interpersonal relationships further raise questions about the location. The MoMA as an art institution is a venue for the western canon of modern and contemporary art. With the retrospective Abramovic has risen into the art Olympus, which she didn’t used to occupy when she first started performing. With recognition comes mainstream. And the mainstream is more often less adventurous than the underground. In the case of Imponderabilia obvious compromises had to be made. One of these compromises is choice. In the

see her art as something that can be passed on, similar to traditional folk tales, it can’t be denied that The Artist is Present is the one piece with the biggest effect. When looking at the visitors standing around Abramovic and her respective counterpart, it can be observed that people are immersed by what is going on. Visitors stay, sometimes for hours, to also stare, reflect and even meditate. By inviting the visitors to sit with the artist, both Abramovic and the respective, participating audience member are being perceived as the piece. This reestablishes the proximity of artist and visitor that was missing on the sixth floor. But there is also a new aspect. It is the apparent quality of being close to a superstar. Being in the presence of something, or someone significant. Abramovic’s sudden rise to art superstardom gives the title The Artist is Present meaning. The visitor is staring not just at another person; the visitor is staring at an artist; the artist, a sublime being, the creator of the idea. This is what makes the feeling of absence so strong in the reenactments on the sixth floor, the physical absence of the creator. Even though, Abramovic herself chooses and instructs the performers presenting her art, the aura stays in the artist’s body. Similar to buying a cheap knock-off purse, when the visitor looks at the reenactment, they don’t look at the new performers, more so they look at the performers as a stand-in for the original participators, and the piece’s creator. In order to elaborate on the point of the artist’s persona, a comparison with the other current big New York museum performance is advisable. Tino Sehgal’s Progress completely disregards the artist’s body as a vessel of the aura. Similar to Abramovic, Sehgal also trained his performers. However, the artist has never been the art’s subject. Sehgal simply stays the origin of the idea, but detached his face, body and persona from the work. Here the artist’s absence is not a loss, but the natural state. For Abramovic it is the other way around. The presence of the artist is the natural state. The title The Artist is Present pinpoints where the critique of the retrospective lies. Presence is what makes an Abramovic an Abramovic. And without the artist’s presence the idea starts to fade.


home work visual written Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Art? A Problem of Memory: The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Formal Analysis of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies

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A Problem of Memory: The Berlin Holocaust Memorial The following assumption is wrong. A sculpture is considered art when the end of the piece is to evoke a specific emotion in every single member of the audience. What is an emotion? An emotion is a recollection of previously apprehended events with the present moment. In other words an emotion is a clash of an individual’s (a single person apart from others) memory with a new moment. Memory in this context means the accumulation of manifested, previous experiences that a person has had and can remember. Experience means that a person has, in the past, lived through an event that is stored within the person’s memory and now belongs to the individual’s knowledge. An emotion is a feeling that is different in every person, because it is very unlikely that every individual will have the same memories. The individual cannot help but take in every new moment and combine it with his or her own memory. That makes the forthcoming of emotions involuntary. Ultimately the experience of emotions is not free. A new moment can never be taken in without the combination with a manifested memory. Only this blend makes an experience an experience. It can be said that an emotion is never just a product of the present moment, because it is always the combination of memory and new moment. Therefore an emotion is never isolated from the past. What does it mean to evoke something? The German word for evoke is wachrufen, which means to call something to wake up. That implies that when emotions are evoked, these emotions, like memories, previously rested within the individual. The emotions were raised to the surface from the inside of the individual through an outside influence, like a new experience or moment. When a group of people looks at one and the same sculpture, the combination of memory and new experience is being made in every individual of the group. As previously stated, emotions are different in every individual. Consequently it can be said that there are no collective emotions. In this context, collective is defined as something identical in every person of a

An example for a sculpture trying to evoke something in the experient is a memorial. The Berlin Holocaust memorial is an example for a memorial that is a sculpture. Its physical properties are put together out of 2,711 black, cement pillars, which are planted close together in undulating waves, representing the 6 million murdered Jews. Some of the pillars lie low to the ground, while others stand upright; the tallest is reaching a height of 4.7 meters. [1] The architect of the memorial, Peter Eisenman, was asked if there is “an emotion that [he] wanted to generate in the people who visit the monument.” Eisenman’s answer is that the memorial wanted “people to have a feeling of being in the present and an experience that they had never had before. And one that was different and slightly unsettling.” [2] Eisenman wants the experient to have a new kind of feeling that is stripped from all memory and previous experience. The quote defines experience as something that can be without a relation and combination to the experient’s individual memory. The experience of a visit to the Berlin Holocaust memorial is so to say isolated from all prior experience. It is to notice that Eisenman does not response to the posed question by answering what the emotion is that the memorial wants “people to have,” but what the feeling is. A feeing is a learned response that is tied to an individual’s upbringing and living context. An emotion, to the papers previous definition, is an involuntary response that is a combination of previous experience and a new experience and an emotion is therefore individual. This definition implies that the Eisenman memorial wants the experient to learn a new feeling. He further defines that this experience should be “slightly unsettling.” This is a vague end for this new feeling. Eisenman does not use buzzwords as grief, blame, responsibility or others that are often used in the discussion of the Holocaust. By calling the experience unsettling, Eisenman leaves any further and more specific contemplation open for the experient to define. However, the Eisenman design grants the memorial to want the experient to have a direction of a new feeling and experience, which is the opposite of being settled


experience or moment. When a group of people looks at one and the same sculpture, the combination of memory and new experience is being made in every individual of the group. As previously stated, emotions are different in every individual. Consequently it can be said that there are no collective emotions. In this context, collective is defined as something identical in every person of a group. When the audience is looking at the same piece, there are never any emotions that are exactly the same within the whole audience, as every member has a different memory. In order to fully understand the emotional effect that art has, it is important to further look into the definition of art. Art is a physical object that is made through the human’s ability to create. The end of art is to manifest beauty and/or significance in the created object. The findings propose that the emotional effect of a piece of art lies outside of its artistic properties. Emotions that occur when contemplating a piece of art are individual to every person and always a combination of personal memories and the present experience. These properties are material, manner and form. Therefore emotions have nothing to do with the actual properties of a piece of art. Emotions that are evoked though the observations of art are products that were formed inside the audience through the combination of preceding experiences and the viewing of the piece of art. Therefore emotions do not lie in the piece, nor do they have anything to do with the piece’s artistic properties, as they are a product of art contemplation and prior experience. The result that comes out of these observations lead me to the conclusion that a sculptural thing that has its function outside its own sculptural properties is not a piece of art and therefore not a sculpture. For that reason there is a problem when a sculpture is a memorial. A memorial deals with the premise that it will collectively evoke a specific emotion in every member of the audience. Memorial sculptures often have the function to educate the experient about a current issue or historic event. One might argue that a memorial sculpture is art even though it does and is supposed to evoke shared emotions. And therefore its function lies outside its sculptural properties, material, manner and form. He would argue, that a memorial is a sculpture, since the execution of the sculptural properties, are well finished or can even be considered as beautiful. The same person might say that the ability of the memorial sculpture to evoke emotion lies somewhere in the material, manner and/ or form. In the first case it has to be said that a memorial sculpture that is beautiful and who’s beauty lies within the execution of its sculptural properties is a sculpture. However this sculpture is not a memorial, because a memorial’s end is always a stage for emotions and not just to show the beauty of its sculptural qualities. The argument against the second case is that the emotion’s building blocks are not a physical property. Emotions are metaphysical; they cannot be touched, sculptured or seen. Given this case it is impossible for emotions to have the ability to be part of any physical, sculptural qualities. A sculptural memorial and a sculpture might both share the same material, might even be of a similar form and manner. Nevertheless, what makes them distinct and defines one as a sculpture and the other as a memorial with sculptural features is the function. The end of the first is concerned with the beauty of its sculptural features the second is concerned with evoking emotion.

Eisenman does not use buzzwords as grief, blame, responsibility or others that are often used in the discussion of the Holocaust. By calling the experience unsettling, Eisenman leaves any further and more specific contemplation open for the experient to define. However, the Eisenman design grants the memorial to want the experient to have a direction of a new feeling and experience, which is the opposite of being settled or calm. The memorial wants to motivate thoughts and reflection. Can the sculptural structure of the Berlin Holocaust memorial fulfill this? Can 2,711 black, cement pillars stir an “unsettling” experience? 2,711 black, cement pillars can also invite the experient to use the design as an object to sit on or to climb on top of, as its sculptural properties, form (geometrical pillar), manner and material (cement) point into this direction. Nothing in the sculptural properties implies that this sculpture is about the circa six million Jews that were murdered during World War Two. This suggests that the context that makes this sculpture a specifically Holocaust memorial lies outside of the sculptural properties, for example in the historically connoted location. Yes, the 2,711 black, cement pillars might be able to covey an “unsettling” feeling and experience, but the contemplation about the Holocaust is brought to the experient through aspects that lie outside of the sculpture. These thoughts lead to a question. Can a memorial’s function to evoke a specific emotion, experience or feeling ever succeed? A memorial can be a platform for personal remembrance, commemoration and/ or mourning. However the results of these activities will always be different in each person. A memorial can be beautiful, but it will never be only judged on its beauty. The beauty of a memorial always remains secondary. However the physical form of a memorial can be a distraction, when the physical gets into the way of the metaphysical. If the outward appearance judges a memorial its function can get lost. An ugly memorial will not allow the audience to even reach any emotions, as they are preoccupied with its failed execution of its sculptural properties. That suggests thinking about the question, if the medium of sculpture is appropriate for a memorial. I would propose a memorial that does not only rely on sculpture. A memorial is not art. A memorial is not just beautiful. A memorial needs more than just sculptural form, manner and material. My suggestion would be a memorial that thinks outside of sculptural properties. For example an information center might be appropriate. That would also support the fact that a memorial always deals with something, like a historical event or a social issue and not just with the beauty of a sculpture. As the word memorial suggests, it is a place for memory.


home work visual written Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Art? A Problem of Memory: The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Formal Analysis of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies

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Formal Analysis of Claude Monet, Water Lilies

The painting Water Lilies by Claude Monet is painted with unblended, visible brush stroke of mostly the same width. Only few of the many brushstrokes are thinner. In this painting the painter might have used only a limited variety of brush sizes. However the brushstrokes do have different length and directions of movement. Different elements in the painting are depicted with different kinds of strokes. The sky, which is reflected on the water , is depicted with larger, twirled brushstrokes. Trees, which are also reflected on the water, are painted with longer and straighter strokes. The last of the three elements, the water lilies have the most defined brushstrokes, which are of a bigger diversity. Here, large, round brushstrokes outline the multiple water flower shapes. Inside of these outlines, short, but still wide and circular strokes fill the lilies bodies. Even smaller and tighter brushstrokes create the buds. In the areas of the border of the reflected trees, the brushstrokes become especially spread out. When looking at all of the painting’s brush strokes it is noticeable that they are all painted in a way in which they stay individual. Every stroke of the brush is visible. They are separated from one another; don’t blend together but together they are all dependent on one another in order to make up a system that distinguishes each element from the other, which makes each aspect it’s own. All elements of the painting are painted with a similar size of brush. However, the elements in themselves, the reflected sky, reflected trees and the water lilies are all painted with a different brush direction and movement that separates them from another. The painting’s colors follow this system of separateness and dependency. Green and purple are both secondary colors. Here in the painting the mixture of pastel red and pastel blue, create a pastel red-purple, in which the reflected sky is painted. Pastel red-purple is a complimentary color of pastel yellow-green, a mix of blue and yellow with which Monet paints reflected trees. The colors of the strokes that the water lilies are painted with are mostly different pastel shades of primary colors. Pastel yellow is used to paint the body of the water lilies and pastel red to paint the buds. Various colors, red, dark green,

water lilies and also the reflection plane for sky and trees. Water is biologically absolutely necessary for water lilies to live. In the world of this painting the water plane makes it possible for the sky and the trees, which exist out side of the canvas’s restriction to be present in the painting as a reflection. The canvas is the plane that permits all the proper parts of painting (color, line, light and dark, volume, mass, plane and composition) to exist in the painting, like sky, trees and lilies depend on the water in order to be in the panting, Water Lilies. The hierarchical relationship of the painting’s composition is built on the principal of separateness and dependency. This refers to the hierarchical relationship, which is build through the color composition. The elements outside of the painting are secondary the elements inside are primary. Another thing the reflection of the sky does is separate the painting in a left and right half. Both of these sides show water lilies and reflections of trees. It is noticeable that the left side is lighter and the right darker. However, the water lilies of left side float over the reflection of the sky to the right side. The lilies bridge over from the light side to the darker side where the water lilies are more radiant in color. Light and dark set each other off. They are different but depend on another to be seen as light and dark. The two sides of the painting are slightly different in color value and are separated by the reflected sky, yet they depend on each other to be seen as two separate light and dark sides. What is actually happening is a transition. Passing of time is being portrayed through the use of light and dark.

The composition of the parts and elements in Water Lilies seems to describe things that exist or occur in the natural world. The four depicted elements (water, water lilies, sky and trees) exist in real life. They are tangiable. The phenomenon of reflection in water is also something that occurs in the natural world. All these things exist and occur in reality, but does this make the discussed painting a representation of nature? Historically, artists have always been trying to


create a pastel red-purple, in which the reflected sky is painted. Pastel red-purple is a complimentary color of pastel yellow-green, a mix of blue and yellow with which Monet paints reflected trees. The colors of the strokes that the water lilies are painted with are mostly different pastel shades of primary colors. Pastel yellow is used to paint the body of the water lilies and pastel red to paint the buds. Various colors, red, dark green, mint green are used to outline the water lilies. This mixing and categorizing of color works into the idea of separateness and dependency that was previously discussed. The brushstrokes are separated in the way the paint is applied by the brush. They are not blended into one another. Every brushstroke is visible. Yet, the combination and relation of one stroke to another brings them together into the system of a shape that describes an element. The combination of colors behaves in a similar way. The mixing of two separate colors with one another makes a new color. Yellow and red are respectively the colors that are mixed with blue to create to create green and purple. The chemical reaction that happens when two of the primary colors (blue, yellow and red) are mixed together indicates the separateness that is needed to create something new. Colors (primary colors) are dependent on one another in order to create a new order of colors (secondary colors). The use of primary and secondary colors in the painting sets up a hierarchy within the painting. Primary colors are mostly used to paint the water lilies, which float on top of the water plane. Secondary colors are used to portray the water on which the sky and trees are reflected. The colors in this painting separate the different parts from one another, but the colors also depend on each other as primary colors have to exist to be able to mix secondary colors. The hierarchy that is created trough the use of primary and secondary colors translates to the use of the canvas as a plane. The canvas is the plane on which the paint, colors, strokes lines and shapes of the painting exist. The plane is necessary in order to organize the space dimensionally. The painting depends on the canvas as its foundation. In the Water Lilies the canvas relates to the water plane on which the lilies float and the sky and trees are reflected on. The water is the culture medium for the water lilies and also the reflection plane for sky and trees. The water is the culture medium for the

Lilies seems to describe things that exist or occur in the natural world. The four depicted elements (water, water lilies, sky and trees) exist in real life. They are tangiable. The phenomenon of reflection in water is also something that occurs in the natural world. All these things exist and occur in reality, but does this make the discussed painting a representation of nature? Historically, artists have always been trying to copy nature. But a translation of nature into painting is not nature. It is a work of art that depicts nature, but it is not the thing. For example a blended and invisibly made brushstroke is an artistic means that attempts to disguise the artist’s hand. In Water Lilies the brushstrokes are not blended into another. They stay separate from each other. Every brushstroke is visible. They are thick and wide, circular, short and long. They are individuals. The artist decided not to hide the existence of his hand, every movement and every change in direction. The artist has chosen the colors as well. Colors are not rendered in order to copy nature but rather to capture the idea of passage of time. The pastel tint in contrast with dark passages and radiant colors emphasizes the changing qualities of light in a way that is does not happen in the natural world. The artist has made artistic decisions that separate his painting from nature. Monet has not disguised his presence as the maker of the painting. Yes, the picture shows elements and phenomena of nature, but they are painted in a way that includes the painter in them. The part of the natural world that was depicted in Water Lilies and its painter, separately exist in real life. However, in order to paint Water Lilies both have to depend on one another. Nature is the inspiration and fundament, but it is the artist’s impression of this specific nature that is represented in this painting. Monet and the water lilies, the water plane, the reflected sky and reflected trees have been painted through his inner lens, they have become one.


home work visual mother, mother, daughter.

ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

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A question was asked to both my mother and my grandmother. The question “What do you think when you hear the saying “A tightly knitted family”? This question was not only to be answered through writing, but foremost through knitting. Knitting’s parts as there are thickness and color of yarn, as well as size of loops, are taken as syntax in order to represent my mother’s and grandmother’s answers.

home work visual mother, mother, daughter.

ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

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home work visual mother, mother, daughter. ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

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Ephemeral is a mixed media piece that discusses the transience of media in contemporary society. The piece is separated in part one, video and part two, framed sculpture. Part one shows the physical act of cutting a book in half. A book is placed on a column. A pair of hands comes into the frame; they seize the book, try to rip it in two. Now the hands are holing a kitchen knife, they start a laborious cutting of the book until it is cut in two pieces. This is where part two of the piece begins. The book, cut in two pieces, is framed and hung on the wall. The book can be seen in two ways. First, as any book, which would be a representation for the state of the whole media. Media changes, its single parts are ephemeral, they change and sometimes disappear. The printing media once was the foremost source of information. Today, the digital form of media is where most people get their information. The book has changed. It is still a popular medium but the amount that is being read online changes the status of the book to a relict like thing. That is why I decided to put a frame around the cut in two (changed) book. This represents nostalgia, an effort to hold on to the past. The book’s content and the back-story of this particular copy of the book go into a similar direction of change and preservation. The book tells the story about a woman and her different relationships in her life, how they change and progress. A friend who has gotten the copy from an old girlfriend gave this particular copy of the book to me.


home work visual mother, mother, daughter.

ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

written about


home work visual mother, mother, daughter.

ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

written about A question was asked from me to someone else. The question was not be answered just in words, but in an expression that was created in fabric. How can fabric be communication, syntax?


visual gone

12/13/10 10:13 AM

home work visual mother, mother, daughter.

ephemeral birth gone solid/soft

written about

The project’s assignment was to think about surveillance and to generate a sound project with a narrative structure. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary surveillance is the “the act or state of being constantly attentive and responsive to signs of opportunity, activity, or danger.” I took this sound project as an opportunity to interview my grandmother, who spent her youth in East Germany. The investigation of her experience with surveillance and the fact that I have reordered her over Skype creates a multilayered view on the act of surveillance. As my grandmother talks about her own experiences as a young girl in a totalitarian state, which was held together by the one half of the country that spied on the other, I am, with the help of modern technology spying on her. She is my subject of examination and I am interpreting her story. In the sound piece I am narrating and paraphrasing her account. What I am telling the hearer is biased, by my voice and my emotion. My grandmother’s original account is the under-layer of what I am saying. I am paraphrasing her history and translating her German into English. My attentiveness and commitment to tell her story create a dynamic between her, the audience and me.

http://ninaschwarzprojects.com/ninaschwarz/visual_gone.html

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Nina Schwarz  

Fall 2010 Parsons Integrated Design BFA Portfolio

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