Memory Surfaces

[Imprint] Soft_Terrain (inverted), 2012 Sandra Crisp

[Imprint] Soft_Terrain (inverted), © 2012 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

Sandra’s art is some of the most visually complex work I have ever seen; every time I see her work I am amazed all over again. She works with both static and moving images, curiously the boundary between what is static and what is moving seems to fade away; bits of data are set in motion and bits of life are captured – one easily becomes the other in her hands. In this interview we talk about the barrage of media, memory, continuity and the archive. Is stream of consciousness a natural state equal in magnitude to outside media overload? I think so after talking with Sandra.

(NB: click on any of Sandra’s images to zoom into more detail).

Jane Boyer: You’ve mentioned that your process is slow and you engage this purposefully to counter the invasive speed of media information.  Is this engagement with slowness a kind of self-imposed isolation or is it an immersion?  Do either help counter the barrage of media?

Sandra Crisp: I think that my approach does form a kind of immersion really, it is key to my working process which evolves gradually over time. People have often commented that the work is very complex. It requests an action of slowing down from within to take in the density of detail. I am not sure that I can claim that this slows down the barrage out there, but the intention is definitely to provide a sense of contemplation or slowing down – a counter action.

Pancake Ice (cluster), 2012 Sandra Crisp

Pancake Ice (cluster), © 2012 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

When I began working digitally just over ten years ago, there seemed to be a general idea in the area of fine art that working within this medium was somehow faster or easier, that the results are impersonal or detached. In fact, most off-the-shelf software is marketed to perform industry image or film editing tasks ever faster and therefore more economically. Each new software update offers an almost obsessive increased speed factor as a main selling point; I still really enjoy the challenge of using out-of-date software versions to address this issue of built in obsolescence. The work is not really about using the latest technology more about using what is around me and readily available, continuing the idea of digital bricolage in my practice.

JB: It strikes me in looking at your Work-in-Progress posts, the notes you make are very intimate much like notes in a studio notebook intended for the artist’s eyes only, yet you choose to make them public.  What is behind the removal of this boundary between private and public and why have you chosen to do it with such a complex mode as stream of consciousness thinking about your working process?

SC: My practice largely revolves around process, so I have approached the blog as I would any other new process; testing it out, trying to explore its form from a fresh angle. From a practice point of view, I am really interested in whether doing these regular informal updates will take the work itself in new directions, becoming entwined with the creative process itself or remain as a diary or record. For me, a stream of consciousness is not a complex approach at all as this is exactly how I work, by holding on to different ideas and developing them through thought process and memory, aided by digital technology and the archive, until connections evolve between previously unrelated elements. The blog format does not have to follow a traditional written literary or academic structure with sentences, punctuation, line and paragraphs, and have any a definite start and end point; it can be open ended, more like an open dialogue and that suits my way of working really well.

Diagram (artificial tree), 2010 Sandra Crisp

Diagram (artificial tree), © 2010 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: Your own technique of collecting pieces of information presents a ‘compossible’ world, which you relate to personal memory, your own continuity. What is behind your work ‘The Bigger Picture’?

SC: ‘The Bigger Picture’ uses multiple thumbnail visuals found online and scanned media visuals  arranged within a grid formation and contact-sheet format; visuals are continually erased and reworked until the work hovers upon the boundary of disintegration and erasure: Information reduced to a near-abstract mosaic.  Similar to other works in the same series, the image addresses meaning, or loss of this; traces of figures and objects are just discernible but their exact origins or source has become blurred. A narrative seems to be present, but is totally fragmented. The title of the work – ‘The Bigger Picture’ is asking the viewer to stand back and look at the overall context- to see the bigger picture and question the continual everyday bombardment of information; that was the idea anyway.

The Bigger Picture, 2010 sandra Crisp

The Bigger Picture, © 2010 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: “Images with their origins in the mass media become ingrained in memory – attached to other bits of personal information, ideas and concepts:  A cyclical process of internalising information from ‘out there’, through my own thinking space and then releasing it outwards again…. Collecting, collating, making sense and discovering what is meaningful.” This is an interesting statement on influence from your portfolio website.  Do you think the influence of mass media is changing the way we perceive?  Do we perceive beyond our own senses; perception as amalgamation rather than perception as sensory?

SC: I think that this is undoubtedly true; we do not witness this entire media as passive bystanders by looking in from the outside. Popular culture, the media, and more recently the proliferation of communication media surround us, influencing how we navigate our world. Perception may be altered through both amalgamation over time and also via direct sensory input or experience, we know that we are operating within electronic networks but I don’t think anybody actually sits down and thinks about that directly!

Soft Terrain, © 2011 Sandra Crisp

Soft Terrain, © 2011 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: Do you feel this transience of information means we are beginning to construct our memories, in the sense of filling in the blanks, and does the archive present a structure to do this? Do you agree with many emerging artists that memory cannot be trusted?

SC: Maybe this is why Facebook as a form of vast public archive/database is so popular – by uploading personal photographs and information we are constructing memory, using it as a way of editing and ascertaining what is important; filling in the blanks. So yes, I think that the archive does offer a structure for this. I often think of my work, both still and moving images as memory surfaces particularly when I am working with pixels on screen. There, transient and borrowed information is anchored and reconfigured until new meanings are formed; a process of filtering the digital until it fuses with my own memory and associations.  Recollection and memory is affected by so many different inputs and stimuli, therefore, in this data driven age where the information we absorbs is transient and in continual flux it would seems that memory can be trusted ever less.


I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Sandra’s suggested reading:

Ai Weiwei Speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Ai WeiWei
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit by Sherry Turkle
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable living by Fritjof Capra
O.M. Ungers: Morphologies, City Metaphors by O.M. Ungers
Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art) Whitechapel Art Gallery edited by Margaret Iverson
Digital Art (World of Art) by Christiane Paul
Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty edited by Lynne Cooke
Atlas of Cyberspace by Martin Dodge & Rob Kitchin

Jane’s Additions:

Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory: from Auschwitz to Hiroshima to September 11 and Beyond by Gene Ray
New Media in Late 20th Century Art by Michael Rush

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2 thoughts on “Memory Surfaces

  1. […] my interview with Sandra Crisp, Memory Surfaces, I asked her about the implications of Deleuze’s […]

  2. […] my interview with Sandra Crisp, Memory Surfaces, I asked her about the implications of Deleuze’s […]

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