Vol.5, Number 2, July 2009
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SARAH TRIGG WAS BORN IN 1973 IN APPLETON, WISCONSIN. HER WORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED IN NEW YORK AND ACROSS THE US, INCLUDING AT THE NEUBERGER MUSEUM OF ART (PURCHASE, NY), THE BRONX MUSEUM OF THE ARTS (NY), AND THE WEATHERSPOON ART MUSEUM (GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA). SHE LIVES AND WORKS IN BROOKLYN, NY.
More info: http://sarahtrigg.com
> DAILY MARKINGS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH
The original spark for my most recent series of paintings was a piece I made back in 2003 titled Three Views of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a semiabstract triptych based on three satellite photographs of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This painting signaled a shift away from my previous work, the moment in which I began to track politically influenced, man-made marks etched on the surface of the earth.
At the time, I was reading Manuel De Landa’s A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (1997), which compares the development of history to a dynamic living tissue in a constant state of destruction and renewal. Organ-like agencies and circulatory-like systems, according to De Landa, develop and deteriorate in line with geopolitical shifts in power. While examining the satellite images of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it struck me that marks left by trucks and buses as they drove back and forth between bunkers might be read aesthetically, like a drawing, while at the same time they seemed to provide a diagnostic tool for interpreting the gravity of the world’s political situations.
Such marks or drawings recall bodily and psychic functions: bomb smoke evokes the image of cellular respiration, while mining excavations resemble so much scarring. Terrorist explosions bring to mind the misfiring of synapses, and the strengthening of borders makes manifest our most paranoid impulses. In this vein, the Cuban Missile Crisis was an indication of global illness much like a tumor, the result of climaxing or “malignant” political tensions. From this painting forwards, I viewed the earth as so many tissues and organs belonging to an integrated global body. The sites of collective markings on the surface of the earth became symptoms of its overall state of health.
I continued to approach the visible traces of global events as a medical examiner might an X-ray or biopsy. I began to use the term collective markings to designate marks that visibly map the culminations of human sociopolitical and economic activity. A stain, a blot, a plume of smoke indicated everything from the strengthening of national borders to industrial explosions and unexplained algal blooms – that is to say, any man-made event or human-influenced process that leaves behind an unintended artifact.
By 2007, I had produced my most complex series to date, Daily Markings on the Face of the Earth. The landscapes in this suite capture a paranoiac’s perspective – a fractured platform coupled with an aestheticization of destruction that ameliorates the flow of disturbing imagery. They depict scenes that are US-centric in a timeframe that is post–Cold War. Whether leading up to or taking place during the war on terror, Daily Markings reflects a world in the age of Google Earth and instant satellite news. In terms of the rapid distribution and consumption of information, we live in a very different world from the one in which satellite photos of the Cuban Missile Crisis were released.
To each painting I assign a date at random falling between 1995 and the current calendar year. With the arbitrary measurement of a 24-hour period, each painting is rendered as a “biopsy” of a moment in time. This sampling is taken no earlier than 1995 – the year the internet began to develop as an image source. I choose arbitrary dates to counterbalance the obsessive American focus on September 11, and to show the multitude of events leading up to and following the bombing of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
I base each painting on about five to eight occurrences, conducting individual photo research for each one. The images I collect are not necessarily literal recordings of the actual events; rather, I use the internet as a way to sample associative material. From the gathered source images, I generate sketches and finally a painted composition of a landscape. The final mineralization is a fantastical world based on real, yet unconnected events that might have entered the “global consciousness” on that particular day.
Typing a phrase into Google Image Search instantly results in pages of visuals that share connotations with that phrase – results not generated by one individual or entity, but by millions of associations with each search term. The search engine itself makes no distinction as to where the images originate. Any given enquiry may pull images from a personal blog, a government website, or a right-wing anti-immigration website, all of which may appear together in the results. Hence, original contexts are rendered unclear or less obvious. It’s as though by engaging the images retinally with the absence of context, we absorb them without any conventionally designated hierarchies. With this in mind, I deliberately print out 100 to 200 images, even though ultimately I may only focus on 10–15 images for the composition. By aggregating such a vast number of images, I further disassociate them from their origins, rendering them “orphaned,” so to speak. Further, by bombarding myself with a vast array of images associated in varying degrees with specific events, I allow a landscape to coalesce in the process. In this way, the internet allows me to tap into accumulations of our collective word/image associations.
I have always wondered where source images “go” after they enter the body. In a sense, the Daily Markings series is an attempt to resolve and remake something coherent from an amalgam of otherwise disparate, disconnected imagery. The paintings reenact our continuous assimilation of the near-instantaneous visual information we receive of our current landscape, which is at once local and global at any given moment.
De Landa, M. 1997. A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books.