One Painting that Moves

The Arts Science and Tech Video


I'd like to re-introduce Erik Sanner, a truly innovative, forward-thinking artist. There is much to be said about Sanner and his work, about how, for example, he once asked me, "How can you paint after Rothko?" Here's a man who thinks painting is effectively dead as an artistic medium, who was deeply influenced by Ray Kurtzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines, and who thinks the traffic cone is the nearest form of art that is not actually art (what Sanner calls "traffic cone aesthetics").  


My friend and I recently visited Sanner's Harlem studio where he showcased the work in the video below (you can hear us chatting about his obsession with traffic cones in the background. My apologies; feel free to mute the volume.). I set up my Flip cam on the table and let it record for just over five minutes; in this time, you can get a sense of what it means to look at, and appreciate, a work of art for an extended period of time; for Sanner's work demands your attention for an extended period of time to fully appreciate what's happening.


Describing Sanner's work is difficult; you really don't feel the impact (on your psyche) or sense its drama until you see it in person. Photographs of his art are insufficient in conveying their uniqueness; indeed, still images are borderline dismissive. I'm going to attempt to explain a little bit about what is happening in this particular piece (full title and information below).


First, there are two videos (from two cameras) in use (projected): one is stationary, set off to the side of the path; the second is in Sanner's hands (you can see him walking around with the second camera in the footage captured by the stationary camera). The billboard-shaped video in the top-right corner also shows Sanner's hand-held camera view (both videos, by the way, are synced). Got that? Two cameras: one stationary, one hand-held.


Second, if you were to turn off the video projection, you would see a painting that acts as a background. That painting is from the vantage of the stationary camera.


Third, the entire work is made up of 28 square canvasses, each of which Sanner painted invidually. He also recorded himself painting each of the squares. That's 28 more videos, each of which is playing on the respective canvas, simultaneously with the two videos (from the two cameras) mentioned above.


Which means ... by my count ... 30 videos looping in this piece: 1 hand-held camera + 1 stationary camera + 28 canvas-sized videos. 29 of these videos, by the way, loop on their own individual timelines; the 30th video (the hand-held camera) is synchronized to Sanner's movements as he walks in and out of the frame of the stationary camera.


And this is what I mean by Sanner being totally unique and forward-thinking with his artwork.


Here, then, is an extended snapshot (5:39) of an artwork that takes much longer to fully appreciate, but gives you an idea of Sanner's inspired work.


"Videoing and Painting a Landscape Containing an Inverted Orange Traffic Cone which is Impaling an Asphalt Pedestrian/Bike Path Materials" is to be shown as as part of the East Wing X exhibit at the Courtauld Institute in London, opening January 2012.


Oil on canvas (40" X 70"; 28 canvasses hung in a 4 X 7 grid) with original software and video projection.



Follow Shaun on Twitter @shaunrandol



Erik Sanner