JESSICA SARTOR-D'AVIGDOR ARTIST'S STATEMENT
… as hidden to myself
The goal of this section is reflecting upon my art and this fact alone raises a whole bundle of rather complex questions and doubts. I simply do not like the idea of thoughtfully and consciously ruminating the sources, formal principles and impetus of my creative work. My art is highly and totally intuitive and that’s where it shall remain, a hidden core which prefers to be untouched and unspoken. Thus, I have no choice here but going with the mathematical term of reflection which according to Wikipedia is ‘a map that transforms an object into its mirror image’ and, by doing so, I will also try my best to circumvent my own resistance. The image in the mirror, right there in front of my virtual eye which might exist or not, is a boundless empty space with no beginning and no end, totally dissociated from all limitations of time and space, a bodiless expanse beyond. Complete nothing, total emptiness. I cannot only see it in my virtual mirror although it is invisible; I feel it with every cell of my existence although it knows no manifestation at all. Alluding to Everett's (1957) many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, this space is split into two separate universes once entered, a virtual and an actual one. However, it is impossible to know who the Avatar is and who a human being made of flesh and blood. My art comes from there, from the total uncertainty of existence culminating in events of inscrutable separations of the whole. This uncertainty is unendurable, yet indispensable for my work. It is what I believe is the human condition which has educed what, in accordance with the French philosopher Pierre Lévy’s (1998) definition, I tend to call virtualisation.
Virtualisation is most certainly one of the most misunderstood and misused mega-metaphors that came across the discursive landscape and I will make no major effort here to clear this mess up. Lévy, who draws upon philosophical concepts from Aristotle to Deleuze, says that the process of virtualisation is actualisation in reverse, a movement from the actual to the virtual, and represents one of the most fundamental paradigm shifts in the history of mankind which for times unknown has stretched actualisation. For example, virtualisation of a tree means that you relate it to the knot of tendencies and forces that surrounded the seed from which it originates. I not only find this definition highly sexy, I also tend to give it credit for some advanced degree of insight that my art reflects in a way that my conscious mind is neither able nor willing to live up to. It’s a secret and this is where it belongs.
Virtualisation relates the material world to the ideas it emanates from and this is basically what artists did during all times. In fact, art is the only field in which virtualisation was pre-dominant since ever. Today, the artist enters a huge wave of virtualisation instead of opposing actualisation. This is why I think that digital art for the first time in the history of mankind has a tendency to make the artist a mainstreamer. By using digital technology, I virtualise what is already virtualised by definition. This is a paradox and a chance and a risk. It is this problematic field in which my art and my self are embedded.
Virtualisation has redefined and expanded the boundaries of mankind into what Michel Foucault (1971: p37) called ‘l’espace d’une exteriorité sauvage’ – the space of a wild exterior which is placed outside of the city walls as an act of both protection (of the majority) and utmost brutality (against the lepers which are not allowed to enter the walls). The process of virtualisation however has not battered down these walls, it has just digitalised them, thus creating one of the greatest illusions ever. Out there, in the seemingly endless ramifications of virtualised computers and networks where time and space are insignificant and bodies are reminiscences of a perishing age of dirtiness and mud, the uncontrollable wilderness of our very nature and what it does to us struggles for becoming endurable. Reaching the end of the last century which some people think will turn out to be the beginning of the end of time, there was only one last resort to our overwhelming fears and dark expectations caused by the fact that we are neither immortal nor gifted with divine power, no matter how hard we try: the bodiless empire of virtuality. I will not prove any of these arguments here. However, I will relate them to my work which nurtures and simultaneously battles virtualisation - thus is paradoxical by definition.
My work is kind of a dynamic meditation on the virtualised universe into which I feel displaced forever – no centre of gravity, no beginning, no exit, always on the run like the Flying Dutchman. Life has become a rhizome which according to Jung (1961) ‘withers away—an ephemeral apparition’.
Now back to this sphere of emptiness where life is abstract and cold while accelerating and expanding. It is impossible to grasp it because it has no shape. However, my art is a desperate attempt to wrest a brief lapse of movement, a standstill moment, from the raging power of virtualisation which in the end will make man himself dispensable. I try to grasp it by allowing creatures that occur there without having an invitation to populate it. My job is to make them visible. By doing so, my work is related to all artists who ever showed what lies behind the mask of everything that pretends to be nothing but beautiful and pure, the decay, the emptiness, the solitude, dangerous naivety, fear, anger, and pain. Thus, I could be influenced by Caravaggio’s fruit basket as much as by Bjørn Melhus’ videos. However, my main influence is right there in front of me, my virtual mirror which spits it all out. It was Bob Dylan (1981) who once wrote ‘Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me’. That’s how my art works although this might not be very satisfying for those who need more.
Dylan, B. (1981), Shot of Love: Every Grain of Sand, Columbia Records
Everett, H. (1957), ‘Relative state' formulation of quantum mechanics, Rev. Mod. Phys. 29: 454-462, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Foucault, M. (1971), Les Mots et les Choses, Paris: Editions Gallimard
Jung, C. G. (1961), Memories, Dreams, Reflections, New York: Vintage
Lévy, P. (1998), Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age, New York: