Author Archives: Hillary Bernhardt

Conference Project: Getting Off, Signing Off

My Piece: Like most white girls, I love smoothies. And like most people raised in modern Western culture, I have no idea where most of my food is sourced from. In this project, I sought to combine my passion for smoothies with my passion for knowledge as to where my food comes from. My map was inspired by the “signing off” broadcast video from the 1950s that Angela showed us in class. Although I’m sure the video wasn’t intended to be visually appealing when it was first produced, I thought it was beautiful. I loved the glitchiness and the overt patriotism. I found it hilarious that the national anthem was played every single night. I felt that this was a really amazing portrait of American culture and nationalistic propaganda at the time. My map was also inspired by American Reflexxx, a short film by Alli Coates and performance artist, Signe Pierce. In the film, Signe obscures her face and sexualizes her body (much like I did) in an attempt to see public reaction to this. For my project, I decided to do a sort of modern twist on this. We don’t have “sign offs” from cable television anymore, now, we have porn. I feel like this is also a great depiction of American culture at this time. So I decided to do a performance in which I would become a caricature of the modern day porn star. I purposely obscured my face so that the piece was not about me, but any woman. Also due to the fact that in modern mainstream pornography, female faces are frequently obscured to contribute to their objectification.  I was quite honestly very inspired by Miley Cyrus and her usage of the grotesque combined with the sexual. The blender itself is a fascinating object. It has it’s links to domesticity and the kitchen, however it is very masculine- both in it’s phallic shape and in it’s overt power. Throughout the piece, the character seems to be getting some sort of erotic feedback from the blender. It’s relationship to a vibrator is uncanny. While sexualized depictions of women fascinating and visually exciting and people start media fires over this, it isn’t the most important thing. How many mainstream news channels covered Miley Cyrus’ VMAs performance? Meanwhile, how many mainstream news channels are covering the fact that many tomato farmers in Florida only receive 45 cents for every 32 pound bucket of tomatoes they produce? Or that they are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer due to the pesticides they’re exposed to? Yeah, thought so. What’s important is understanding where our food is sourced from and effects our food system has on our planet and human rights. Scene Breakdown:  In the first scene, I am trying to situate the performance by stating the latitude and longitude of where I live and where the performance was filmed- Bronxville, NY (40.9400° N, 73.8261° W). The second scene, I am looking at bananas. It was difficult to get to the bottom of where exactly my banana came from, but Chiquita’s website vaguely told me it was from Guatemala, so I used the longitude and latitude of Guatemala, 14.6333° N, 90.5000° W. I wanted to explore the political tragedy that occurred there. I used a background with Samuel Zemurray, the president of United Fruit- the American corporation that was responsible for pressuring the US government to overthrow the democratically leader, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz in 1953 and replace him with a military dictator, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas. This is a stark history that most people don’t think about or want to acknowledge when they look at The third scene, I am looking at tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes we receive off season, come from Immakolee, Florida- 26.4211° N, 81.4228° W. They are predominantly picked by immigrant laborers whom are subjected to unfair wages, horrible living conditions, and even violence from supervisors if they fail to meet daily quotas. They are also subjected to an obscene amount of pesticides. The fourth scene, I am looking at cacao powder. The cacao powder that I eat comes from Peru. Again it was difficult to find where in Peru, so I said the coordinates of Peru -12.0433° S, 77.0283° W – Although the package claims that it is “sustainably sourced,” deeper research showed me that a great deal of the cacao that I eat contributes to the clearing of Peruvian rain forests for agricultural land. The growing demand for chocolate only contributes to this. Throughout the piece I thought it was important to combine a preset map of the place I was looking at, as well as create a map of the place through imagery that isn’t frequently circulated- therefore making rainforest destruction, horrendous labor conditions and neocolonialism visible. The fifth scene, the character is blending all of these coordinates together and essentially orgasming. The overt recognition of how far our food is combined with the power of the blender, causes great female pleasure- however, the character hasn’t broken out of the confines of femaleness so she is continuously oscillating between the “kitchen” and the dildo. Her pleasure throughout the experience is indicative of everything finally coming together And finally, this scene is deemed to inappropriate for the American public, so the broadcasters cut to her in a subordinate position- essentially giving the blender fellatio. The voiceover of the coordinates is completely drowned out by the national anthem. This is deemed far more patriotic than showing any kind of pleasure or truth. At the end the character is fed up and the broadcast signs off, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Inspiration: American Reflexxx by: Signe Pierce and Alli Coates (2015) Semiotics of the Kitchen by: Martha Rosler (1975)   WNEW- TV New York Sign Off  (1984)    

Site Specific: Flaneur

We are imagining our psychogeographic figure in this way The concept of the flaneur centers around walking and looking. The flaneur is an observer of the crowd, whilst simultaneously being a part of the crowd. We are using this figure in order to… subvert perceptions of isolation in relation to the notion of the crowd. We are hoping that those looking at the sculpture can gain a new understanding of what it means to observe a familiar zone, but perceive it in an alternative consciousness. We are responding to our site in these particular ways… There is a lot going on at and around our site. There is a slanted piece of land, multiple rocks, trees, and a student gathering zone lovingly entitled “the hot rock.” We are hoping to work with this varied landscape and reflect it from multiple perspectives that will allow our participants to observe it in different ways than they are accustomed to. By utilizing predominantly shiny, reflective materials, we are hoping to create the illusion of the crowd and melt away the observer’s false notions of isolation. Since this is a social gathering zone, we want our sculpture to be large enough to engaged with by a large crowd of people. We are also hoping that it could be a conversation point for numerous people. We’re hoping to build our noodle-like structure into the slant of the land, working with the natural curve of the Earth, rather than in direct opposition to it. We are working with these materials… mylar, plaster, and chicken wire  
Mylar for life.

Mylar for life.

sketch of our sculpture in the site

Self Portrait Draft #2

Self Portrait #2

Self Portrait #2

This is a picture of the current state of my self portrait. I took the critiques I received last review in and decided to make it more personalized. I took digital pictures of my immediate surroundings and used those photographs as opposed to the images from the internet. I used the same sign system- the chakras, however I have been considering digitally creating my own chakras out of images that are important to me. I chose to use the same connection system, energy flows- but in the next draft I will have them re-drawn in a smoother more cohesive manner. My surface is the human body and the photographs that I have chosen to mask the human body with. I am in the process of decided what would be the best background. I am thinking about designing something that heavily relies on energy flow.

Self Portrait #1


Self Portrait: A Map of My Origins

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 1.58.40 PM For my self portrait I was heavily inspired by Eastern traditional methods of understanding the self and the human body. I feel that our highest selves our defined more so by our energy systems and the natural elements that form our mind, body and soul. Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.54.32 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.55.40 PMeso1119a_174224 My surface is my human body (left) and the elements that my up the body that my my soul currently possesses. I chose to separate each of my portraits by doshas, a great visual representation of the doshas (center) and their cohesion of their elements. It was important for me to depict myself in the nude because I find the body to be beautiful and something that we should all embrace, rather than be ashamed of. This body is our own, so we should treat it with respect for our time with it. I used a picture of the cosmos(right) as my background because that’s what we all were before we were inhabitants of this Earth and these elemental beings.  All living things on Earth are made up of pieces of stardust. Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.42.19 PM My sign surface is definitely composed of the different chakras along my center in each of the portraits. Chakras are the points on the psychic body where the nadis energy channels meet. According to hindu tradition, there are seven main chakras in the human body- the root chakra, the solar plexus, the heart chakra, the throat chakra, the third eye chakra, and the crown chakra. Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.46.35 PM My connection system are the black lines depicting my energy flow.  The energy flow that exists within all of us is crucial to our well-being and a deeper understanding of our highest self. One of the concepts that really struck me about the reading was Dennis Wood’s assertion that the power of the map lies in our ability to be told what is “really” there. I really liked his idea that “such affirmations constitute powerful existence claims.” This kind of power has been used for good and bad. Maps have aided in the colonization of lands and the depiction as certain lands nations as smaller and therefore of lesser importance. I understood that in constructing this map, I would be giving myself a certain degree of power and I knew I had to use that power in a positive manner. My image is a map because it grants the viewer a deeper understanding of what is going on within our own personal bodies rather than attempting attempting to tell our bodies where to go. My image proposes that we are made up of more than just our income level or our race or our gender. My image proposes that we are made up of a unified energy field much larger than ourselves. My map makes visible the things that we sometimes choose to forget. The energy fields that can’t be seen by human eyes, but are still incredibly real and prove that we aren’t as separate from each other as our egos would like to propose. Photo on 2-19-15 at 2.05 PM These the first sketches that I did when the art piece was still in it’s conceptualizing phase. The sketch on the left utilized mixed media, including kyanite crystals for my irises, fiery embroidery floss for my hair,  a face jewel for my third eye chakra, stardust glitter glue for my skin, and white sage for my lips. The second sketch, is more similar to the concept I decided to go with instead. I loved the notion of collaging methods to depict my body as the elements. If possible, I would like to still incorporate a 3D  element to my final draft with the addition of objects from the non-human natural world. Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.13.40 PM This is screenshot of my original digitalization. I was hoping that I could incorporate all of the elements on a singular portrait of my body with a simple blank background. However, it looked to barren and I didn’t feel that I could actually include them all in one being so I chose to go the route of having each portrait represent the aryuvedic doshas. The portrait on the left represents  kappa, which is a combination of the earth and water elements. The portrait in the center is indicative of vatta, which is a combination of air and ether. The portrait on the right is representative of pitta, which is a combination of fire and water. I am predominantly a vatta- kappa, but in truth, all of these elements lie within us and all influence each other.   limitedink-handmap Alex_Grey-Psychic_Energy_Sy Two of the biggest artistic inspirations for this piece are Monica de Miranda’s “In the Back of Our Hands” (left) that was depicted in the book, The Map as Art. I liked the idea of using the literal subjects’ bodies as canvases. Our bodies are genetic works of beautiful artwork! Why shouldn’t they be canvases? However, while I think her work is interesting, I don’t think that the self is entirely made up of our literal geographic location. In terms of using the chakras and energy systems to create my art piece, I  was heavily inspired by visionary artist, Alex Grey’s “Psychic Energy System,” which I discussed in depth with Una Chung in conference.