Abecedarium Transmedium:
Traces and Trajectories

Thomas Zummer (USA)

interface: traces

nathalie hunter |

the mirror of the other

Painting, as we have come to practice it is nominally a solitary activity, and even if we cede to others large parts of invention and responsibility, as is not uncommon, the resulting work is organized according to the heirarchies of proper nomenclature. Proper names establish or confirm the ‘identity’ of such artifacts, as situated within a specific oeuvre, as a supplementary, known quantity, an exchangeable commodity. With just such a logic of entailment the stability of the artwork is secured and marked by, a series of paratexts—signatures, titles, receipts – which inscribes it into the discursive field, or space of ‘painting.’ But what if one were to tamper with these protocols? What might happen if such habitual categories as intention, or subject, or even perception were systematically—or randomly—displaced? What might happen to the space of painting? It is, of course, a question of framing, of determining limit and extent, interior and exterior, sequence and succession, one and another. It involves the inevitable questions of reference, of consistency of style, of the ostensible signs and protocols of manufacture and consent, of the politics of interpretation. Nathalie Hunter consistently and relentlessly tampers with the place of painting in a most unusual manner. She designs and deploys a heterogenous register of digital and interactive technologies to induce an implicative structuring of the place of painting. These processes are reflective of everyday life, and of the tacit interactions therein. Utilizing various digital communications systems to engage and interact with individuals and communities, Hunter asks questions, or invites actions, which fold back into the arena of painting something of the trace of life. Such traces, of course, are already mediations, and Hunter is not unwilling to commit herself in this process, to participate in a complex form of technical reproducibility which captures the trace of human interactivity--a conversation, a memory, a gift-- secured by the interaction of hand and eye, self and other, inert matter and active judgement. Nathalie Hunter’s works begin within the act of drawing, a cognitive reflection between self and other(s) folded into itself as an act of making. More concretely, her works begin in life, drawing life, drawing from life, often in a continuous and disciplined linear description of form, where the pen or pencil rarely, if ever, leaves the surface of the paper. An elementary exercise which Hunter has transformed into a subtle and sublime process. Anything can be drawn; the boundaries between objects, the occlusion of one object in space by another, the limit or extent of a body, the interactivity of relation, are all drawn together. At the same time the absent spaces, of what is between and what is left out, are equally important. Hunter’s works begin in a form of mimesis, making something which recalls something else. It is a method which renders recognition and mimicry coextensive, patterns which in their appearance resemble other things (things one might harbor some recuperable trace of memory towards: bodies, limbs, trees, furniture). But what sort of space is circumscribed by memory? Whose memory? Whose space? By using extant technical systems, like the internet which operates de facto as a short-term prosthetic memory, to construct meetings, conversations, interactions, Hunter is ‘enframing’ the process of painting as a collective, communicative event, and her ‘trace’ of the event becomes ‘painting.’ Nathalie Hunter opens a new space for painting, one where the ostensible topic of her labors is not the traditional posture of abstraction or realism, gesture or impression, nor a mere evacuation, completion, or simple circumscription of the boundaries, edges, or limits of painting, but a suspension of the determinations of interior and exterior, self and other, a suspension of the singularity of painting. There is a deferral, a play of identity and difference, source and consequence set in motion between her works, which brings about an abnegation of the artifact as complete, referential, or self-sufficient. Painting, in a most interesting manner, contaminates both life and technology, which in turn drive painting.