Interview: RETINAL DISPLACEMENT by Naomi Campbell (Collect, Autumn 2012)

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NAOMI CAMPBELL | Retinal Displacement

Canadian born Naomi Campbell grew up in Montréal, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is an interdisciplinary artist and instructor of the contemporary figure at the Art Students League of New York whose paintings, graphics and sculpture installations explore the cross section between art, science and social consciousness. She has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally in galleries and museums.

Prior to 2008, a significant part of her work has been site-specific public art projects. Recently her practice investigates the human presence questioning the boundaries of identity and individual memory. Following that her attention was drawn to investigate the effects of technology through the context of speed and the passage of time.

Can you share with us the concept and inspiration behind RETINAL DISPLACEMENT?

This series explores the perceptions of reality derived through definition of changeable ideas of space and the paradigms of identity inspired by events in the world. The title references the complex organ of sight in man that connects the brain within the central nervous system to the visual world, as it addresses its ability to interpret or sometimes reinterpret the visual world.

Retinal Displacement evolved out of an earlier exhibition based on the then recent centennial of Futurism. Reflecting on the exponential growth of technology following the introduction of the age of mechanical reproduction and watching its effect on the global social, political and economic order today as it continues to accelerate, precipitated me to consider addressing this issue as a series. Every individual and every generation increasingly feels the pull of the virtual world. It has had such a powerful mass effect sweeping the globe with much ease, that the implications of its progress seemed compelling.

Retinal Displacement alludes to man as a machine, capable of similar abilities, albeit a somewhat slower rate of change. The organ of sight used in perception, a highly complex form of communication with the world.

The function of the retina has been compared to the film component of the camera forming a bridge between the brain to the world. The ability of the brain to recognize or reconstruct images into permanent information is an interesting adjustment exercised by the brain. We have found that the perceived information stored as memory is sometimes an adulterated translation of what is actually observed and viewed on the retina resulting in a displacement of reality.

As our virtual and real worlds experience an accelerated integration of information created by the increasingly dependent role of man’s existence on technology, the degree of separation between the two continues to diminish on every imaginable level.

What is the role of technology, social networking, and gaming culture in the exhibition?

Retinal Displacement explores the cross-platforming occurring between the virtual and the real where boundaries between the two begin to blur. It presents views of worlds from within looking out over vast landscapes imagined and unseen.These works investigate modernity through social networking, gaming culture and technology while disseminating a distancing through a series of alternate utopias that create new conditions of existence.

Exploring boundaries of identity, individuality and the collective, man the protagonist exerts his new found virtual freedom within self-imposed worlds that collide with blurred boundaries in an unsettled perfection. These enigmatic virtualscapes explore questions of origins, and desires, abstraction and transformations. As magical worlds they are devised to exist as a timelessness of never ending journeys elsewhere. Each is carefully kept within the bounds of its own reality through the veils of layered systems of binary pixilation.

The artwork on display at Yellow Peril uses a variety of medium and methods, from drawings to paintings and digital printing. Why did you decide to go with this approach?

I wanted the exhibition to reflect an underlying evolution through its different combinations and uses of materials. There is a progressive displacement of material from the act of the ancient art of drawing to the technology-based processes.

Through scratching, rubbing or smudging the ancient art of drawing, and the traditions of paint leave a time-based organic blueprint. Computer-generated works reverse the traditions of time-based works through mechanical reproduction. By feeding them back into the computer, it reinvents the medium. The use of Plexiglas as a substrate further alters the graphite, translating it into transparent shadows of itself, overlapping washes of watercolors experience a heightened transparent state while light and shadows reflect zoetrope-like multiple images so real that the reflected works become indistinguishable from the real.

What are you working on next? Share with us your upcoming projects.

I am continuing to work on this series along with my work with analogue X-rays. My connection between art and science is an ongoing conversation that derives itself from my background and interest in the sciences. At this point in the global condition this has become quite a relevant subject.

The work I started in 2004 examining the use of weapons, as a by-product of social progress is another ongoing series. One of the pieces is being considered for publication in an upcoming book on the subject.

I am working on a project that will be part of a curated exhibition by Dr. Jeff Koan Baysa and am in discussion regarding an upcoming exhibition the details of which are not available at this time.

RETINAL DISPLACEMENT, featuring new works by Naomi Campbell exploring the alternate realities stemming from the merging worlds of the virtual and actual states, is currently on display at Yellow Peril Gallery from September 13 – October 14, 2012. This interview originally appeared in the Autumn 2012 issue of COLLECT. Read COLLECT magazine online »


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