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Stephanie Brunia, Artistic Manifesto, 3/21/2012

In describing a mug, I am far more compelled to describe the mug when it is not before me than when it is a tangible object subject to the vision of my own eyes. Does that make me nostalgic at heart? I don't know. I think what I'm more interested in is what sticks with me-the reasons I fell for the mug in the first place. The mug is mundane, yet delicate in form-it exists in the space between the fragility of a teacup and the sturdiness of a mug. The magic of this particular mug is in its handle-it is not uniform in width, but rather flows from

it hovers in my vision-both coming into being and receding from my view-it is subject to my own interpretation-my own baggage and assumptions. I cannot share this vision with you the viewer, but I can attempt to make an image that hovers. So why do I not just go around making a bunch of images of 'hovering' everyday objects? Why must they be faces? And not just any face, but my own.

I do not possess the skill to render the face as it exists in my mind-the face that is appearing while also dissipating

this interior reality is what I seek to display in tangible form-it's not about a surreal landscape, or a psychological phenomenon-rather the interior reality of the self-what we maintain, how we recall, how we lose and rewrite our experiences-it is more than memory-it is the space of memories, but it is about all of the experiences at the same time-the layers of understanding that can pull forth an amorphous vision-it's about the fragility of that vision and the need to share it-to have it understood-to have that vision connect me to another-because ultimately I am interested in connecting this self-the self contained within this flesh-I want to connect that self with another-but physical connections can never achieve this-it is about the attempt to rebel against my flesh shell-to push and prod and erase the surface of the shell in an attempt to find that which is beyond reach-that which a camera can never capture, but I want to make these photographs-the photographs of the interior-is this simply surrealism? I don't want to reinvent my reality-I don't want to escape in a barren landscape and allow my mind to tangentially connect disparate objects-no, I want to show you what has captured me-what remains from my experiences-because that is all I can offer-I can only maintain this version of myself-as mundane as it is.

in photography, the face is the landscape of the self-photography centers on this assumption-that the exterior becomes indicative of the interior. When allowed to grow, this thought leads to destructive notions-phreneology? Physiognomy? As though our outer shell is determined by our inner self-our moral self.

I want a reality that goes beyond this-a reality in which I can express

When I first arrived, I had spent my energies creating work that centered on the desire to stage my own 'myths of the self', so to speak-to restage these narratives in heroic fashion-to make them juicy and tangible with the weight of desire and intrigue. They are seductive-but they're also mainly about gesture and theatricality-I

I should preface this with the fact that all too often there is a general disconnect between the work created by an artist and the way he/she speaks about the work. I will probably feel differently about my work a few months from now, a year from now-ultimately as an artist, my work is an exploration of the self-and as I am continually transforming, so too is my understanding of my motivations and intents-I don't really buy into the idea that art is more than the artist-I think art is what it is and we as artists struggle to understand our own desires and interests through the objects we wish to create. I think that academia becomes a weird realm for fine arts-there is a struggle for the artist to explain his/her reasons for creating something-we have many ways of justifying the object or the quest-the reason we so selfishly pursue the intangible-we justify it through rhetoric, history, skill, quality of thought-but the ranking is subjective-somewhere along the way an internal structure began to form-one that relies on performance and adhering to a strict rhetoric-it is completely subjective, yet there is a snobbery beneath academic approach to art-I have bought into it by pursuing my education to this level-it will take me awhile to distill after this-to relearn my own personal motivations and not those that I have become trained to seek and mold myself to--

is it the object? the experience? a new way of expressing something? an innovative use of craft? a rediscovery of a lost craft? a name? an association? simplicity of execution? simplicity of thought? complex reasoning?

Can there be a universal definition of art? At this point we have such a 'anything goes' mentality that it becomes difficult to decide-I no longer know what my definition is-if I find it, do I even want that to be other people's definition? I don't want to impose my views-they're already in the art that I make-hence a manifesto, something to describe my intentions and carve out my own space-yet this is still amorphous and difficult.

Ok, what are my fears? My fears are that I have no original take on this-that I have no solid reason for making what I make-that it is just BS and that's that. My fear is that my thoughts will appear pitiful in the comparison to the greats-to the true innovators. Who would I even place in that category? Duchamp-he pushed the definition of art-he rebelled against the craft and the realm of the gallery. Bruce Naumann-although I'm not always a fan of his work aesthetically, he made attempts to push the definition of art as well-his work is about what acts he undertook in his studio-the limits of his physical self-maybe he's just picking up the thread that Duchamp dropped-maybe this idea of challenging what art can be is actually old-we've been doing that for so long...shocking our audiences, speaking over them, speaking through them-to the point that truly innovative art isn't really about the function of the thing. But what would be innovative? Do I want this challenge? This is the open-ended challenge of my generation-we don't have a leader. I can't really wrap my brain around this-do we need a cohesive voice? I feel that when I look back at moments in art history that seem more innovative-they are moments when a group came together to challenge something-I think we're too disparate at this point to ever unify with one voice. we're spread thin-our brain activity is completely self-serving. Is this the new direction? Should I be satisfied with this? I can't really figure it out. I keep going back to David Pagel's intro...

so a manifesto at least becomes more or less a set of guidelines that I can continue to modify-my own principles, or at least 'rules'.

#1.-I attempt to depict the temporal.

#2.-I am interested in making art for the domestic sphere-not mass produced muckery, but something that can live in a space where it will be in conversation with someone's daily life-not in a sterile gallery where it is compared to the generations of artistic thought that came before it.

#3-I want to make art that embodies an idea of a universal human condition (I understand that problematic nature of that statement) by seeking to create imagery from my own personal experiences.

#4-I do not need to be an artist that challenges what art is.

#5-My purpose will be creation.

holding my breath
learning to let go
an attempt to repair
an attempt to maintain
an attempt to be seen
an attempt to withdraw
an attempt to connect
an embrace
an attempt to see
an attempt to reconstruct/remember
an attempt to erase
an attempt to reconnect
an attempt at balance
an attempt to mold myself to you
an attempt at fitting
an attempt at vulnerability
an attempt at openness

The thing about describing a mug...a mug can exist in a useful way-it serves a clear purpose that people understand-fancy or mundane, a mug is a mug. Art of the other hand is malleable-it serves different functions for each individual. I fully understand that attempting to make work with mass appeal is fundamentally unachievable. Instead I want to make work that might offer a different perspective-something a bit disconcerting-possibly jarring-that makes the viewer pause. I attempt to make work that pinpoints the temporaility of the human condition-that exists in a fairly emotional space-one that is fueled by the loneliness of modern existence-the isolation of the person-isolation within a flesh shell-isolation from a true connection, yet the need to seek an emotional connection and the seeming impossibility of such a task. I think that's why I find Fred Muram's work so beautiful-the work is about the simplicity of an action-yet it's an unexpected action-one that forces the subject to balance and contort in order to achieve it. The work is beautiful because of its simplicity and its impossibility. There is a faith that exists between the photographer and the subject-a trusting...as though this request to kiss a ceiling is normal.

How would you disappear in a certain space? Thinking of the Buddhist idea that we own the ground beneath us...what would you claim? How do I task someone in a way that causes them to contort and use their body in an unexpected manner? How do I do it so that their body is forced into contact with another (or with myself?)-can there be beauty in the clash? In the acrobatic attempt to achieve an improbable task?! I love that idea-is that not love? I'm not meaning merely romantic love, but this idea that loving another is a clashing act-one that forces two separate flesh vessels to try to make a connection? Yet, the connection in these images would be physical...that's seems to go against what I am trying to say....hmmm...Can two bodies come in contact without it seeming like a sexual act?

What's the least amount that you can hold someone else while maintaining the

What if it is the moment before someone catches another? If I were to run and throw myself at someone-what is the moment before they catch me? Is it a look of readiness? Fear? Stoicism? I like the idea that it is the moment before an action

If I were to describe a mug, it would merely be a description of form and function. Yes, there are specific reasons I am drawn to particular items and I do not mean to invalidate those reasons. However, ultimately, I want to describe beyond the mug and cannot help but think of Giacometti's description of a glass:

"It might be supposed that realism consists in copying a glass as it is on the table. In fact, one never copies anything but the vision that remains of it at each moment, the image that becomes conscious. You never copy the glass on the table you copy the residue of a vision...Each time I look at the glass, it has an air of remaking itself, that's to say, its reality becomes uncertain, because its projection in my head is uncertain, or partial. One sees it as if it were disappearing, coming into view again, disappearing, coming into view again-that's to say, it really always is between being and not being. And it's this that one wants to copy."

This is the crux of my artistic practice. Yes, I see the object/image I am creating, but I am far less interested in the thing than the disappearance of it. Existence is a constant negotiation of impermanence. It can be disconcerting at times, lovely at others. But ultimately I am interested in the residue of our negotiations and experiences within the physical world.-the beauty of a fleeting moment, the agony of letting go, the inability to preserve, . I once heard someone ask if preservation or decay was more beautiful. I believe that both are beautiful, especially when in chorus with one another. Both acts are needed in order to fully understand their destruction-because both are destructive-rather than identifying which is more beautiful, the bigger issue is impermanence. We either desire to witness impermanence in action or to intervene. The camera becomes a form of intervention-a false sense of fixing a moment. The beauty of many photographs becomes the space between the creation of the image and the moment that the photograph is witnessed. In many ways the beauty of the image is beyond the physicality of the image-the image itself is invisible. I am not interested in Barthes' studium or punctum-no, I am interested in his inevitable inability to describe a personal photograph-a photograph that becomes both invisible to Barthes and his audience. He found his mother when she was no longer there. I am no longer here-to photograph me is to erase me-I am not here. Is that not beautiful?

The camera becomes a silent weapon-it is a tool of harm. Its harm comes from its implicitly false promises-the promise of permanence, of truth, of cheating death. There is a long tradition of comparing photography to death-perhaps I cannot expound on an untrodden metaphoric space. But I keep going back to that space-the space of the artificial-the implicit

The photograph becomes the physical residue, but rarely do we see the photograph-instead we approach it through the lens of nostalgia-a lens that erases, or at least fails to see

The issue with my current work is that it fails to serve some form of intervention. Perhaps it's the MFA student in me, but I can't help but view descriptive work from the point of prescription-I want more, need more. How to break through? There is a fine line between descriptive work and didactic work-perhaps they are the same-

I can give you the mug, but you will wonder why. I cannot make you care for the mug-it is simply a white mug. You will not care for the mug for the reasons that I care for it. You may even judge me for my attachment to something so seemingly immaterial. Do I need you to see the mug as I do? You will see the mug as you wish to-that I cannot change. However, I will continually be the person attempting to have you see it-placing it before you in hopes that you will look-see here....here it is...see this.

How do you use photographs? What purpose do they serve? When you view work, what do you bring to the table-how does it feel to be forced to look at work? Panic? Fear? Interest? Are you more interested in the image or the artist? Do you consider one more than the other? Do you immediately look at the formal aspects of something-how long do you allow yourself to look? Do you need information from me to view this? If it were hanging in a gallery, you wouldn't have much to go by-maybe some cryptic wall text...Am I asking the right questions? They'll suffice for now...they have to.

I understand the need for the realm of the gallery-I too am seduced by the white box-the formal 'set asideness' of this type of space. But it has become stale. I want my art to live in someone's personal space-to make someone remember the joy of looking, of beauty, of being human. This doesn't mean that I am looking to make art that merely fades into the background-nor do I want to make art that shocks they system. I want to make art that unfolds with familiarity. This is a hard note to hit continually. Maybe it is a note that can never be struck. How do I even know when I've hit this note? I don't yet have that answer. I think our main goal as humans is to connect with one another-to try and find common ground-I hope my work can hit this note-this vulnerability-the need to push against ourselves and each other-a constant search and struggle-I don't mean this in a self-defeatist way....I think there can be peace even in struggle-it's a zen thing-maybe that's just BS...who knows. I cannot make you try-I cannot force a specific thought from you-but I will do my best to make something that connects-make something that you can relate to. Perhaps you won't relate.