What happens to the human body when it is digitized and transmitted into other spaces? That is the question digital artist Sophie Kahn asks. Ms. Kahn, a native Australian, has a long engagement with scanning bodies and creating 3D printed sculptures from fragmented body scan data. In her art practice she often deals with the ideas of death and technology, and is intrigued by the ways that the 3D scanner fails to capture the human form. She also is keenly aware of the history of how the female body has been captured and recreated across time. Past bodies of work have explored medical and psychiatric histories, and the sometimes violent ways that imaging technologies were used to capture patients’ bodies.
For Divers VI , Ms. Kahn worked with Butoh dancers at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. She instructed the dancers simply to fall as she scanned them, then inverted and sculpted the results to erase the effects of gravity. The resulting semi-weightless bodies spin and float in an empty void. Their bodies have been dematerialized, altered, transmitted, and re-imaged. This falling is part of a particular type of Butoh training for the dancers. Ms. Kahn noted that often in these ”practice falls” the dancers were bruised or scraped up. Thus she became interested in how a 3D scanned printer could capture these acts, and how the resulting figures existed in digital space. As the artist says,” My somber palette, tombstone-style bas relief and monumental scale of the virtual bodies recall cemetery sculpture; the figures I create exist in a digital purgatory, their avatars dematerialized and floating in a strange new space.”
Kahn’s work exists within a new context defined by artist Claudia Hart as “post-photography”, in which artists work in a critical manner with new 3D imaging technologies that were designed to make perfect virtual copies of the body. Kahn embraces technology’s failures to reproduce the flawed, unstable human body, and teases out the unintended emotional resonances of the resulting forms.
For this exhibition, Ms. Khan presents two of the dance sculptures from the series intertwined on a monumental scale. It is hard to tell if they are falling or how they are being supported in this virtual representation. While under them, the forms become abstracted, while at a distance their bodies crystallize into something at once larger than life and yet drawn from it.