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The Compression of Time and Space (2014)

By: Stephanie Cohen 


          For centuries, painters have been interested in creating two-dimensional compressions of reality across their stretched canvas sheets. Those who can master the subtle tonal variations in fabrics, metals, and skin to create tromp-l'oeil renderings are hailed for their ability to trick the viewer into believing in one specific interpretation of reality, whether or not it is baised. In a three-dimensional world, the artist chooses one perspective to exploit, and, in essence, the artist dictates the viewer's perception. Yet, to artists such as Marcel Duchamp, the art object does not matter at all because interpretation is everything.
           The following images demonstrate my innate fascination with creating an artificial sense of reality. The post-modernists reacted against the stringent, form-follows-function mentality of the Bauhaus inspired international style to reintroduce individuality and visual diversity into architecture. The MIT campus is home to many different architectural spectacles that, at first glance, seem to be antipathetic to the serious climate of a technical research university. However, the whimsical and audacious style is analogous to the research process. Spontaneity and creativity are critical in any scientific or artistic investigation. Regardless, most are not familiar with buildings faceted with curved glass skeletons, corrugated aluminum, and brightly colored plaster. Experiencing these places makes one question what the "reality" of architecture should be. In two-dimensional photos, they don't even look like buildings, but instead, like fantastical buildings from children's stories.  However, even scientists aim to convince the public of their findings and influence the perspectives of their audience. 
          For my investigation, I first photographed buildings in an attempt to compress reality even further to highlight the importance of shape, color, and form ot this post-modernist architectural style. Then, during the second half of my study, I photographed antique toys from the mid 20th century. Context and temporality is lost by juxtaposing recent architecture with vintage toys. And, by carefully treating the depth of field in the following images, it becomes even more unclear what is "real" and what is not in the image; interpretation becomes even more convoluted. Beginning with anthropomorphic plastic forms and ending with bowling pins, this series progresses from imitating reality to an increased level of abstraction.
          There are obvious limitations of this digital representation of my portfolio. In fact, I printed these photos in a 3-cover book that makes the viewer  flip over and turn the pages upside down to get from the two different types of images. For each location/setup photographed, I offered two different image compositions. This permits  the viewer to decide whether or not meaning is derived from the technical choices that I made with my camera or the way that I presented my images, or if the viewer is free to determine their own sense of reality.
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