Sarah Oppenheimer

Sarah Oppenheimer was on campus yesterday to talk about her work. She installed “610-3356” at the Mattress Factory. Her work is not just site specific, but sight specific as well. Referring to cinema, vision theory, fabrication techniques, projection (both perspectival and orthographic), and architecture, Sarah makes sublime installations that focus view and alter perception and, most importantly, use projection systems to alter space. 

The largest issue I have with the use of projections systems in architecture is the tendency to rely on projection methods to generate form; complex vectors in space make a skeleton to be skinned into architectural form. This makes bad architecture, mostly because it assumes that structure, skin, enclosure, and apertures all exist in the same plane. Architects narrow their design scope to making shells, or objects, instead of making space. 

But the richness of Sarah’s installations is the deployment of complex projection systems (fabrication forms, view corridors, anamorphosis, specular surfaces) to make space. You might compare her to Gordon Matta-Clark, or recent work from Richard Wilson, which is probably the easy comparison. Matta-Clark’s focus always seemed to be simultaneously a geometric space and a violent intervention. Wilson’s amazing construction, like Matta-Clark, highlights formal and architectural alignments in an almost impossible geometric rotation. They seem to be exercises in “comparative geometry”, where the concept derives strength from understanding the existing context as a datum against which the deformation or alteration occurs. Both favor form and space to be seen and observed, as opposed to space that is made for the specific observer alignment. 

Oppenheimer does insert in existing spaces, but it does not depend on the datum of existing structure to elucidate the new geometric insertion. There is no explicit formal or architectural alignment or misalignment to find context for the work. Her installations are not trying to contrast the existing space or violently interrupt, to form “understanding” of the geometric provenance. The richness is in the phenomenal qualities, the experiential manner in which the viewer engages not just her work, but the context her work creates. The viewing, the perspective, the anamorphic or specular distortions, are all rich experiments in the service of the things seen and altered through her work.

 

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