An Artist’s Hypnotic Photographs Use Cutting-Edge Science from NASA and the Louvre
Blood, seaweed, the sounds of outer space—these are among the materials out of which Susan Kleinberg makes art. Scientific inquiry and methods inform many of her works, and questions about our relationship to each other, to society, and to the greater universe underpin her approach to everything she makes. She thinks about such relationships in terms of balance and harmony. In her words: “What do we all run from? What do we run to? Those questions [are] certainly always in a relationship with disequilibrium-equilibrium. It’s a kind of concern that runs through all of my work, in a...usually rather complicated narrative that’s not so absolutely distinct.”
Among Kleinberg’s latest project is her evocative “Kairos” series (2013-14). In keeping with her interest in collaborating with others, for this series she worked closely with the scientists on the research and restoration team at the Musée du Louvre. With them, she peered through the museum’s powerful Hirox microscope at a sumptuous and enigmatic Mesopotamian statue of the goddess Ishtar, and captured photographs and videos of its surface. The resulting images, in tones of blue, black, and yellow-green, look like views of the crust of foreign planets or outer space vistas. It seems almost impossible to imagine that such abstract, glowing images are, in fact, simply vastly magnified details of the sculpture’s alabaster surface. Pushing such visual dissonance further, the artist harnessed the sounds of the universe, recorded by NASA’s Deep Space Antennae, to build a soundtrack for her video offering views ranging across the sculpture’s form. Of this project she writes, “The unraveling images are an excavation through borders, an essential comment on location of perspective.” Here, as she suggests, two ostensibly different perspectives—the micro and the macro—ultimately lead to a similar vision, place, or point-of-view.