Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Luna, our second solo exhibition by New York artist Leslie Thornton. In Luna, Thornton continues her intricate and complex exploration of nature and technology, through the interplay of place, memory, and abstraction. The exhibition runs May 11 – June 22, 2013, with an opening reception Saturday, May 11, 6-8 PM.
A triptych of three vertical flat-screen monitors comprises the centerpiece of the exhibition. On each screen there is an image of the parachute-jump tower at Coney Island. Each image is captured and modified so that the reference to place and object is transformed, and subsumed, only to reappear as another form of spectacle. There are occasional figures, walking by, and there are a great many seagulls punctuating the shifting surfaces of the image.
Thornton’s project deals with the relationship between chronology, technology, mediation, and with the “historical” as an artifact of the cinematic/digital image. Luna is an invocation of loss, as well as a tacit critique of nostalgia. How do you address history with something as fragmentary and minute as cinema? What occurs and is at stake in today’s digital absorption of the “world”? By focusing on the presence of the technical image, Luna addresses the trace: an impression, a trace of a voice, a trace of the disappearance of voices, an unflinching engagement with the passing away of place. In Luna, the trace is almost subsumed, it saturates the auditory field, and in this diffusion, it (almost) disappears, leaving but a ghost, an audial echo, riding the repetitive circulation of increasing static/noise: memory’s future.
Classic theories of channels, infrastructure, and institutions are eerily convergent. Each is understood as a kind of bridge that delimits a landscape, facilitates a passage, and forestalls a loss. . . Facilitating passage, each allows displacement in space, through time, between persons, and across possible worlds. Delimiting landscape, each helps constitute the poles so related: speakers and addressees, producers and consumers, selves and others. Finally, forestalling loss, each ensures that some medium endures—that words won’t fade, that goods won’t spoil, that personas won’t wither.
Among the tacit references set into play in Luna one might find Claude Shannon’s ideas about the relation between message, image, translation and noise —of the necessity of noise, and its value in conveying sense and meaning. Shannon’s works are foundational for contemporary digital culture; one might also find traces of Michel Serres’ notion of the parasitical nature of technical reproducibility, and Roman Jakobson’s ideas about the recursive reflection on the materiality of the channel of communication itself. In Thornton’s hands these complex notions do not appear as dry, supplementary, footnotes but are actively embodied and celebrated, enfolding the audience in the sensual pleasures and sadness of other worlds. Leslie Thornton’s lyrical disfugurations of the apocalyptic—the end, or endings, that appear as a form of uncanny nostalgia, return us to a Coney Island of oneiric spectrality, of desire, dream, and delirium at its most ethereal and sublime, to a nostalgia for what never was, but that one might always have wanted, a technological sublime that we might still want.
Leslie Thornton is considered a pioneer of contemporary media aesthetics, working at the borders and limits of cinema, video, digital media, and installation. Such seminal works as Peggy and Fred in Hell operate in the interstices between various media-forms to address both the architectural spaces of media, and the imaginary spaces of the spectator’s involvement. Thornton uses the process of media production as an explorative and collective endeavor “position(ing) the viewer as an active reader, not a consumer.” She is among the most influential of contemporary artists in opening up new spaces for media, re-mapping its boundaries and possibilities within the projective spaces of the museum or gallery as well as within the public spaces of cinema, television and internet transmission.
Thornton’s career has been an unusual one: as one of the first artists to bridge the boundaries between cinema and video, to explore their affinities and opacities, she has embraced their differences as positive, complementary, attributes. Thornton’s complex articulations and stunning innovations in media form and content push the principles, presumptions and promises of time-based artworks, opening unexpected spaces for contemporary artistic practices. Her projects are ongoing and provisional; she has been unafraid to return to, rework, and rethink, issues, topics, and subjects, to strike out in entirely new directions. Leslie Thornton’s works continue to have a profound impact, and an enduring influence on, an entire generation of media artists, critics and theorists.
Leslie Thornton’s works have been exhibited worldwide, with screenings at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC; Harvard University, and installations/exhibitions at Museum53, Shanghai, China; Zürcher Gallery, New York/Paris; Tate Modern, UK, FluxSpace, Philadelphia, IFFR/Museum of Natural History, Rotterdam, and solo shows at Winkleman Gallery, NYC, and Elizabeth de Brabant Gallery, Shanghai, China. Thornton has won many awards: she is one of the youngest artists to have received the Maya Deren Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Film Institute/Anthology Film Archives; she has also received awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, The Alpert Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts; In 2013 she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Leslie Thornton is currently Professor in the Modern Culture and Media Department at Brown University, and Faculty in Media at the European Graduate School/ Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinare Studien (EGS/EUFIS).