Modus Operandi: Statements on APPARATUS

Modus Operandi: Statements on APPARATUS
APPARATUS is an exhibition of video and performance, and its related ephemera. An “apparatus” is defined as the technical equipment or machinery needed for a particular activity or purpose. Each artist in this exhibition has chosen an apparatus as the basic framework for their process. These tools, devices and instruments define their work.

In Laura Bernstein’s speculative lecture, Super-Species Hazmat (S-s H) RA87, the framework is the surrealism of the medieval mind. Pageantry and masks are employed to create hybrid species capable of adapting to severe ecological change. These beasts are reminiscent of the fevered creations found on the edge of illuminated manuscripts and early maps. The mask is employed as well in Jeffrey Johnson’s performances as Ghost in Salad through the combination of colorful disguise intermixed with a dreamy dissonance of muffled noise. Similar to his costumes, Johnson’s ink illustrations depict exaggerated characters in surreal worlds of the artist’s own making. Blake Marques Carrington’s The Year We Make Contact is the translation of sound into image, the result of “digital alchemy,” wherein the artist created software to transform audio recordings of his therapy sessions into swirling pixelated abstractions. Frank McCauley’s video welter/wallow distorts the physical body into a silvery blob gliding across empty rooms of a still domestic space. Jessica Posner’s feature-length video plays on the words “body” and “butter” as a metaphor for the body politic, offering alternative modes for being with ourselves and each other in times of political precarity and creating an intimacy that borders the absurd. Amalia Wilson invigorates mundane objects with a sense of humor and melancholy, employing props to interact with on a self-made stage. In her new performance Cooler and Scarier, Wilson will publicly consider “how hard it is to gather all your objects in one armload while moving around in a pile of special or boring stuff.” Using a suitcase filled with gadgets, wires and other objects as his instruments, Unguent constructs soundscapes layered with found elements, repetitive electronic beeps, and digitally distorted interference. Whether in absurd gestures, or abstract imagery, or the distortion and manipulation of the body, language, or sound, each artist relies on their different apparatuses, to implement their modus operandi.

Bernstein_Panotti_cropLaura Bernstein, Panotti Mirror Stage, 2017, Still from 4:15 HD video (color, sound)

Laura Bernstein
I construct scenarios and vignettes through immersive installation, drawing, sculpture, performance, and video. Within my work, fictional characters and creatures engage with their environment, exploring the relationship between human and animal, exemplary and freakish, public ritual and private behavior.

I work with others to activate my sculptures, objects and installations. Obscuring bodies through husks, hides, shells and masks–made from papier-mâché, wax, felt and raw wool—those who are intimate become otherworldly. No longer familiar, the body becomes creaturely. It has metamorphosed. Sentient but unknown to itself, the body has no recourse to self-expression. It must discover its own nature through ad hoc ritual and disoriented movement. I investigate the body as an unknown species, subject to scientific observation. I become a fictional scientist, and use my camera as a magnified lens to capture and preserve information. Video observations provide raw material for dissection, speculation and analysis. Inspired by illustrations and descriptions found within Medieval Bestiaries, I am currently working on a multidisciplinary project that explores these humanoid species, and their biological functions and ecological relationship to the natural world.

Blake CarringtonBlake Marques Carrington, The Year We Make Contact, video installation, 2014-2016

Blake Marques Carrington
I operate in the spheres of the sound, visual, and performing arts, producing a range of work that includes audiovisual composition and performance, album releases, inkjet paintings, single-channel videos, and installations. Uniting these forms is a practice of writing custom software systems that treats data, architecture, image and sound as objects of transformation and translation. Working within a mode of digital alchemy, my goal is to create systems that allow different, meaningful mappings to emerge from the materials I input. An architectural plan, the God’s-eye rendering of a slice of built structure, becomes a polyrhythmic musical phrase. An audio recording of a psychoanalysis session becomes a visual waveform, its pixels scattered in all directions, decayed into geologic strata. An angelic yet melancholic sound becomes a spectral ink pattern, its liminal edges bleeding away into silence. In each of these acts of transcoding, I seek some emergent subjective truth at the point where 1×1=1.01.

Jeffrey JohnsonJeffrey Johnson is an artist living in Philadelphia, PA.

Jeffrey Johnson
He explores the depths of his imagination through performance using movement, costumes, sculptures, video and sound under the name Ghost in Salad and in the duo Hunnie Bunnies. He also illustrates the two dimensional world with ink and screen printing. Jeff has performed at various spaces in the Philadelphia over the years and has been on several tours throughout North America.

Frank McCauley, welter:wallow, 2016, Video, 3-47Frank McCauley, welter/wallow, 2016, Video, 3:47

Frank McCauley
Whether through printmaking, painting, video or performance, my work extends from an internal investigation of childhood role models, popular icons and cultural stereotypes and questions commonly held assumptions of how we construct our own individual identities. “welter/wallow” investigates distortion and looks at ways in which technology can influence perception. Taking the figure as subject, even though hidden, it is put through a process in which its features are distorted, suppressed, or intensified in the service of expressing something beneath or behind the observable surface. That is, something that is best implied in the slippage between the recognizable and what is unexplained or mysterious.

Posner_bbp_hug_webJessica Posner, BUTTER BODY POLITIC, Video Still, 2017

Jessica Posner
BUTTER BODY POLITIC (2017) is a 40-minute experimental performance film that culminates four years of Jessica Posner’s performance-based research into butter as a metaphor for a delicious, slippery, fat, feminist, queer, resilient body politic. Carl Mellor of the Syracuse New Times describes the work as “absurd, comic and poignant. The film communicates emotional vulnerability and offers possibilities for dealing with pain and trauma.”

BUTTER BODY POLITIC features Posner, David Geer, Sayeh Echo, a herd of pregnant cows, and butter sculptures. It is shot by Director of Photography Stefanie Noble, with sound, score, and additional camera by Joanna Spitzner. The film was shot on location in Western and Central New York.

Amalia WilsonAmalia Wilson, Two Coffee Pots, 2015, two coffee pots, paint, water, dimensions variable

Amalia Wilson: My art is about trying not to have a bad time and whether not having a bad time is possible or good. Either way I’m sure it’s a decision. I am interested in choice and a practice of decision making or aesthetic intentionality as meditation. As a performer I’d like to create a scenario where we are in the same space but I’m alone. I like the word object and the clarity and truth it implies. All my work should be considered as objects regardless of media.


Unguent at Savage Weekend V, 2015, Video Still, Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC


To download a PDF version of this essay please click HERE

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NAPOLEON is a collectively-run project space that strives to provide a platform for new work and new ideas.

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