Whitehot Magazine

Interview with Maria Antelman

Maria Antelman: Soft Interface (installation view), 2020; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE; Photo: Colin Conces.

Maria Antelman: Soft Interface (part of Intimate Actions)

Bemis Center

December 10, 2020 through April 24, 2021

By JONATHAN OROZCO, January 2021

JONATHAN OROZCO: I want to ask you about your framing devices. You say it allows viewers to fill empty spaces in. They are structural, and oftentimes give a three dimensionality to the photographs. Could you talk about your frames and their purpose in your work?  

MARIA ANTELMAN: In my mind, the framing devices function as ideograms: each piece is a system composed by different symbols and images. They are like semiotic works: they bring different printed, visual information together which these structural frames support. The frames function as exoskeletons. Exoskeleton is a good description because some of the prints in these works show body parts. The idea of juxtaposing different images and concepts has always been in my video works. It is my artistic language, which in the framing devices materializes physically and structurally. This is a narrative, or perhaps a non-narrative technique that I developed in my videos over the years and now becomes clearer with these structural framed pieces. Like mental diagrams, these represent the way I process and put information together so that is interesting and mysterious and makes me excited about things.

JO: Why do you refer to stone in your work? It's a base element for technology, but is also grounded in history, especially in ancient Greece. 

MA: In Greece, the landscape is filled with ruins of stones. Not only ruins from antiquity, but also more recent ruins of abandoned villages and structures. I used to live in Northern California where people believe that the future is invented, and I made a lot of work there with the idea of the future. During the past few years, the idea of the future started to feel a bit old and then I began to see stones everywhere.  

I always loved antiquity. I grew up in Greece visiting these incredible archeological sites and locations. Slowly, I started incorporating stone in my work, connecting the past with the future, mythology and technology. My work has to be read through the lens of technology. For example, an image of a stone is an image of an inanimate object, an object that is not informational or intelligent. It does not transmit any data, instead it contains information about itself as an artifact or as a natural object. I think a lot about this distinction in this data economy: what is animate and inanimate, informational and non-informational. 

Maria Antelman: Soft Interface (installation view), 2020; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE; Photo: Colin Conces.

JO: I'm interested in the cultural inheritance you present in the work, like in Hypnos. There are also familial connections you make, where you merge images of yourself and family members together in one work. What sort of connections are in Soft Interface

MA: It’s all about connections and relationships: interpersonal, technological, archetypical or mythological. I am thinking of entanglements and systems and how we exist in a highly complex world. We have created very complicated systems that run our technologies, economies, social structures, and our lives at every level, both personal and political. The simpler a system feels, the more complicate it really is. A successful technology is an invisible technology; invisible because it hides its complexity. But our personal relations are equally complex. Digital communication networks have added another layer of complexity to our personal expression and in our understanding of reality. Complexity is our nature even though we seem to be seeking simplicity. I find this very strange.

JO: What about the eye and camera as devices, but also as metaphors? In another interview, you cite a quote by Socrates about eyes as mirrors, but there's also a connection to narcissism, like in the myth of Narcissus. 

MA: My point of interest lies where the organic becomes technical and informational. Narcissus, the handsome hunter who fell in love with his own reflection, represents the optical illusion that we all fall for. It’s our ego’s best devised trick. Before the invention or mirrors, Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water, the mirroring effect of the water surface absorbed him, and he drowned. Every optical device is a mirror which has a similar effect on us. The reflection of our image and the reproduction of our images is so powerful that it absolutely captivates and possesses us. As Narcissus dies, a flower emerges. Narcissus, the plant, in this panoptical landscape is an informational object that captures our image, our data, our attention, our gestures and creates a profile which is a valuable asset in this data economy. WM


Jonathan Orozco

Jonathan Orozco is an independent writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his art history BA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2020. Orozco runs an art blog called Art Discourses, which primarily covers Midwest artists and exhibitions.

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