Sophie Kahn Fragmented Bodies
Sophie Kahn's work addresses the resonances of death in the still image. It owes its fragmented aesthetic to the interaction of new and old media, and the collision of the body with imaging technology.
I combine cutting-edge means of reproduction, like 3d laser scanning and 3d printing, with ancient bronze casting techniques. Using damaged 3d data, I create sculptures and video works that resemble de-constructed monuments or memorials.
The precise 3d scanning technology I use was never designed to capture the body, which is always in motion. When confronted with a moving body, it receives conflicting spatial coordinates, generating a 3d ‘motion blur’. From these scans, I create videos or life-sized 3d printed mold sculptures. The resulting sculptures bear the artifacts of all the digital processes they have been though. The scanning and 3d printing process strips color and movement from the body, leaving behind only traces of its form – a scan of the face resembles nothing more than a digital death mask.
Like a photograph, a 3d scan is made from life, and from a limited perspective. When materialized as sculpture, it reveals losses and blind spots, frayed edges, and voids in the solid object that stand for all the things that the scanner could not see.
I come from a photography background, and I strive to capture in my work something that photographers have always known: we use technology to stop time, but we end up with a still image instead — which is something else entirely.
Tom McCarthy, citing Freud, has argued that all technology is haunted by the desire to freeze time and hedge against death, but that paradoxically, in assembling vast digital archives, we are really building our own tombs. New modes of technological reproduction only heighten the eeriness of duplication: witness the ‘uncanny valley’ of simulated humanness in 3d cinema and video games. I scan my own body frequently, but what I end up with is a series of digital doppelgangers with a (n after-) life of their own. These scans, realized as life-size 3d printed statues and installed in darkened rooms as a damaged ancient artifact might be, serve as a incomplete memorials to the body as it moves through time and space.
I work with this deathly imagery not because I want to be morbid, but because I am interested in the ways that technology can fail to capture life – and what the poetics of that failure might look like.
All the works featured here are large, life-sized 3d prints.
Sophie Kahn studied at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited her artwork in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Osaka and Seoul. Her video work has been screened in festivals including Transmediale, Zero1 San Jose Biennial, Dance Camera West, Trampoline, Frequency and the Japan Media Arts Festival. She taught in the Department of Digital Arts at Pratt Institute as a Visiting Associate Professor and completed an Open Studio residency at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. Her work has been supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic, and other private funding bodies. She is a 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts Digital and Electronic Arts Fellow.