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Figure 3

Paul Sietsema (American, b. 1968)

2008

Medium 16mm film; black and white and color, silent; 16 min. Measurements No Measurements Credit Purchase: Gift of the Friends of the 2008 Carnegie International in honor of Richard Armstrong and The Henry L. Hillman Fund Accession Number 2009.2 Location Not on View

Narrative

Paul Sietsema is a sculptor of space whose "objects" are meditations on the ambiguity of vision and perception. He works primarily in film and sculpture—though he also makes collages, drawings, photographs, and books—and his oeuvre fluctuates between three-dimensional objects and flat, moving images, and between history and the present. Sietsema's techniques and processes vary from one project to the next. On more than one occasion he has meticulously reconstructed specific objects or environments—such as an 18th-century rococo salon or the 1960s apartment of a famous art critic—and then documented and investigated these handmade assemblages (and the spaces they occupy) using 16mm film. Influenced by the formal concerns of 1960s structuralist filmmaking, the artist consistently engages with cinematic and sculptural conventions, exploring various combinations of form, texture, color, space, and movement. His subject matter spans a geographic and temporal range, referencing modernist visual, filmic, and decorative art history, the production and consumption of images in contemporary society, and the cultural construction of perception. Yet in his work, historical content becomes recontextualized and flattened, presenting a kaleidoscope of fragmentary images in a "collapsed space." Figure 3, 2008, which debuted at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before appearing in Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International, features faux archeological artifacts hand-made by the artist. Wishing to maintain control over each aspect of the project, Sietsema autonomously filmed and edited Figure 3. According to the artist, this approach "allows the degree and range of aesthetic manipulation and construction to be complex and all-encompassing." Figure 3, 2008, examines the intersection of photography and sculpture within the media of film. It takes as its subject rare images of indigenous ethnographic objects found in various locations, including the South Pacific region of Oceania prior to European colonization, and organizes them loosely around the notion of a burial site. Evoking the custom in ancient Egypt of placing mummified bodies in their tombs with accoutrements for the afterlife, Sietsema describes the conception of the grouping of objects in the film as having belonged to a metaphorical "individual" who has been "clothed in parts of history" that have been timelessly decontextualized and can be experienced in a purely phenomenological manner. Here, Sietsema has reimagined the objects as "sites," where "various formalized ideas intersect ... at the hand of material processes," manipulating the materials to explore their aesthetic and conceptual possibilities and subsequently filming them. For the artist, building these sculptural replicas of these objects has less to do with artifice than with his desire to immerse himself, through the act of making, in the very ideas of cultural production and consumption that his work interrogates, as well as to sever the objects from their historical obligations. —From acquisition narrative, 2009, by Douglas Fogle and Karin Campbell

Artist Bio

Commensurate with contemporary art's increasingly polyvalent practices, Paul Sietsema is a sculptor of space whose "objects" are meditations on the ambiguity of vision and perception. He works primarily in film and sculpture-though he also makes collages, drawings, photographs, and books-and his oeuvre fluctuates between three-dimensional objects and flat, moving images, and between history and the present.

Sietsema graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992 with a BA and the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1999 with an MFA. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at venues such as De Appel, Amsterdam, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (both in 2008); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2003); Regen Projects, Los Angeles (2002); and Brent Petersen Gallery, Los Angeles (1998). Sietsema has recently been featured in group exhibitions at venues including Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2008, cat.); Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International; Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (cat.), Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art (cat.), and Live/Work: Performance into Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York (all in 2007); Le Mouvement des Images, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2006, cat.); Ecstasy: In and About Altered States, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2005, cat.); Uncertain States of America: American Art in the Third Millennium, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005-8, cat., traveled to Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, Serpentine Gallery, London, Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland, Herning Kunstmuseum, Denmark, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Musée de Sérignan, France, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, and Songzhuan Art Centre, Beijing); and Sonsbeek 9: Locus/Focus, Arnhem (2001, cats.).

—From acquisition narrative, 2009, by Douglas Fogle and Karin Campbell