by Mira Dayal
“It started when I woke up on a Sunday morning to this image of a stuffed, fake leather recliner chair from Macy’s facing me on my pillow, where it had fallen out of the Times magazine the night before. I was horrified because I hate the image and what it represents, and I thought, ‘How did this get into my most intimate space?’” So artist Joan Snitzer began a new process with her latest Compositions. The series focuses on a somewhat paradoxical aim–to make new compositions out of the bombardment of compositions that already enter her spaces of being.
“I realized that I have to deal with this all the time… Things are coming into my space, either mental space or physical home, that I really can’t control and don’t like, so I started to work with those kinds of situations,” Snizter continued. The urge to systematically control and cleanse her home of such images could be attributed to a domestic organizational desire that has historically been instilled in all women, as the artist suggested, but it could also be attributed to a larger cultural anxiety over the systemic overproduction of consumer goods, advertisements, and even (perhaps) art. This anxiety has already manifested itself in occasional consumer efforts to take tech vacations, to go offline and free oneself from insistent connectivity. In art, this anxiety perhaps most strongly manifests itself in so-called post-internet art, which challenges the infinite reproducibility, unrestricted access, and ahistorical nature of nature of online images. How can art reconcile the apparent loss of narrative thread, even of art historical lineage, that the internet seems to have caused?
Snitzer offers one solution: create a new window through which to see the world. As an alternative to “seeing” these millions of images through a screen, the artist uses grids, layers of transparent paint, and transfers of printouts to relearn their meaning. While the artist emphasizes that the compositions are time-based–so that once a file of pervasive images fills, it is used–the disembodied nature of images viewed online prevents real contextual rigidity. Googling anyone’s name, for example, reveals a breadth of images that are not arranged by the year they were taken but instead by their search relevance or frequency of views. Arranged in this quasi-temporal process, the images lose their representational value “to create not a [new] image but an abstract field… a material.” This material is a new cultural fabric that combats the unraveling historical narrative.
Yet can this new material truly escape the bombardment it seeks to control? Google “Joan Snitzer Compositions” from your bedroom and these paintings will appear in your own most intimate space. Perhaps it is important here to distinguish between escape and choice; through her process, Snitzer gains a sense of control that she could not otherwise have. Return to Google, find the artist’s website, and read Christian Morgenstern’s 1905 poem The Lattice Fencealongside the Compositions series: There was a fence with spaces you / Could see through if you wanted to…
Joan Snitzer’s work succeeds in offering a new such space through which the viewer can choose to see culture and, for now, that is enough of a respite.