The New Social Environment#34

Raha Raissnia with Andrew Lampert


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Artists Raha Raissnia and Andrew Lampert discuss creative life in the context of our new social reality.

This is a pencil drawn portrait of Artist Raha Raissnia with an off-white background, drawn by the Rail’s publisher Phong Bui.

“I have to tell you, I learned filmmaking more from painters and musicians than from filmmakers," director Béla Tarr has confessed. Reversing his cue, Raha Raissnia learned to paint from filmmakers and musicians rather than painters. Years spent at Anthology Film Archives left her well-versed in the cinematic avant-garde, and her projection performances often involve collaborations with experimental musicians Aki Onda and Charles Curtis. Above all, Raissnia’s work aspires to the temporal and experiential condition of music—suggestive, ambiguous, abstract.

Over the past decade, the artist’s paintings, drawings, and films have unfolded within a permutational, self- reflexive structure. In her earlier work, the artist presented dense, architectonic black and white drawings and paintings that appeared to echo a certain postwar European abstraction. Rather than deferring to gesture, however, Raissnia orchestrated these scapes by steadily tracing a configuration of intersecting and overlapping vectors in space. In her self-titled exhibition at the gallery in 2009, a hybrid 16mm film and 35mm slide projection occupying one wall provided a glimpse into the expanded cinema practice that informs the artist’s two-dimensional work. The artist’s films, drawings, and paintings are closely imbricated: paintings are contrapuntal compositions catalyzed by film stills, transferred faintly onto the surface of the panel and elaborated upon with oil and gesso. Her films echo this archaeological process, constructed from fragments of earlier work and structured as overlapping pairs of 35mm slide and 16mm film projections. Raissnia’s drawings and collages, likewise comprised of image transfers, with Sumi ink and compressed charcoal, examine this relationship of mutual influence. All are guided by the materiality of their media.

Raissnia’s densely textured work draws in equal measure on the gestural and photographic, the figurative and abstract. As her films render these boundaries ambiguous through layers of manipulation and reference, so too does her two-dimensional work present a world that contains aspects of both but belongs properly to neither. It features passageways to indeterminate locations and irrational architectures. “My paintings brought abstraction to the vision I captured from the world on film and now the films are bringing elements of reality into my paintings," Raissnia says. Her viewer is left with the (impossible) task of excavating the two. Raissnia’s work is structured permutationally, permitting levels of signification and interpretation to coexist in, to quote Roland Barthes, a “multi-layering of meanings which always lets the previous meaning continue, as in a geological formation, saying the opposite without giving up the contrary.” In his text, The Third Meaning, Barthes suggests that neither still nor film exceeds, precedes, nor fully contains the other. The same can be said of the still and moving image in Raissnia’s multifarious body of work—the two are placed in perpetual counterpoint. Read more

In the Rail:

Born in St. Louis and based in Brooklyn, Andrew Lampert has produced an eclectic and extensive body of films, videos, performances and photographs since the late 1990s. He regularly exhibits in international contexts with past shows including: The Whitney Museum of American Art (2006 Whitney Biennial), The Getty Museum, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, PS1/MoMA (Greater New York 2010), The New York Film Festival, The Toronto Film Festival, The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and The Art Gallery of Ontario among many other venues. In 2019, Lampert was the inaugural artist-in-residence in the New York City residency program of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. He is currently preparing a new performance titled MY GREATEST SNEEZE for premiere in 2020. Lampert frequently writes on art and cinema, edited THE GEORGE KUCHAR READER (Primary Information, 2014), co-edited two volumes of HARRY SMITH COLLECTIONS CATALOGUE RAISONNE (J&L Books, 2015), co-edited MANUEL DELANDA: ISM ISM (J&L Books, 2018), and with Howie Chen is co-author of the column HARD TRUTHS which can be read monthly in Art In America. From 2002-2015, Lampert served as Archivist and Curator of Collections at Anthology Film Archives, where he was responsible for managing the archive, preserving films and videos, and programming public screenings. He has restored over 300 classic and obscure moving image works by iconoclastic artists like Vito Acconci, Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Bruce Conner, Tony Conrad, Maya Deren, Hollis Frampton, Robert Frank, Ken Jacobs, Danny Lyon, Marie Menken, Carolee Schneemann, Paul Sharits, and Stuart Sherman to name a few. Lampert currently teaches at CUNY City College and has previously taught at Purchase College, The New School for Social Research and Cooper Union. He is one half of the creative firm Chen & Lampert, and his videos are distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix. Read more

Andrew Lampert is also a contributor of the Rail. To see a full list of his contributions, visit this page.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.