PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist

Core Samples: Installation view
Hole Bodies: Kari Altmann's Core Samples
Posted: 6/10/11

Let’s play 20 Questions.

Q: Is it an animal? A: No.
Q: Vegetable? A: No.
Q: Mineral? A: No. 
Q: Does it fit inside a breadbox? A: No. 
Q: Inside an apartment?  A: Sure.
Q: Does it feel? A: No.
Q: Is it green?  A: No.
Q: Can you touch it?  A: No.
Q: Can you see it?  A: Yes.
Q: Is it hard?  A: No.
Q: Is it sexy?  A: Depends on the person.
Q: Was it made by a person? A: It can be.
Q: Does it make you sad?  A: Good question.
Q: This is stupid.  You are cheating.  Tell me the answer assuming that you are not a lying jerk.

A: A hole in the ground.

PHOTO:Courtsey of the artist

"Core Sample"

This word game illustrates the difficulty in attempting to classify and categorize the immaterial.  In this game and in our lives we are asked: Can the immaterial be physical? This idea of absence as presence is at the heart (or perhaps sphincter is the more appropriate bodily association) of Kari Altmann's Core Samples on view now at Extra Extra. 

An eccentric laboratory of found objects, sculptures, photos, and videos (both projected large and on small monitors) this show brings a classic conundrum to the digital plane.  Traditionally, an assessment of the body involved matters of the physical, for example, your feet, your hair, your body odor.  Fundamentally segregated from this account was the World Wide Web’s binary landscape of information.  But increasingly a digital presence must be taken into consideration.  Our “digital body” has grown to occupy a very tangible component of our physical composition: your feet, your hair, your body odor, and now your Gmail account, your Facebook profile, etc.  It is within this understanding that Core Samples achieves full potency.  A solitary yoga ball and a video of mud-wallowing swamp people work in tandem to evoke the flesh and blood not in the room.  This show asks its viewers to evaluate not only the digital body’s newfound “presentness” but more importantly its previous state of immateriality, specifically when absence as presence—the void—pierces through and connects both our digital and physical bodies.

Unfortunately, the voids conjured in this exhibition are not as entrancing as they could be.  Instead, a showroom of found and constructed elements usurps their energy. The play of objects brings to mind what appears to be a translational struggle between “art on the Internet” and “art in a room.” The mounting of literal “core samples,” glossy photo-totem pole-glacier-logs (objects as awkward as that description), seem to handcuff the conversation to a scientific theatricality: the laboratory as stage set, the specimen prop, the display for dramatic examination.  While some of the found object pieces worked quite well for me (a travel headrest cushion that draws your attention to the warm jugular that isn’t there), the overall integration of digital, sculptural, and installation platforms seems uncomfortable.

In the end, Ms. Altmann’s practiced Web-based sensibility comes to bear as she offers up a wonderfully frantic cross-section of Internet dredge, positioning Alien facehuggers and Aboriginals on the same objective view slab.   If you put aside the implied scientist costume offered to you, I think you will see that the images and videos on display are endowed with a haunting longevity.  Both there and not there, they posses a spectral corporeal presence that is simultaneously detached from the body and denied by a digital gloss.  What is really spooky, however, is how this exhibition feeds an understanding of our body(ies) in a past yet to come.    

Kari Altmann: Core Samples
Extra Extra
1524 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
On view through June 25th, 2011



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