Sounding Lines: Recent Work by Kim Schoenstadt
Jonathan C. Furmanski, 2002
Where is the edge of drawing? More specifically, when is a drawing no longer a drawing? and if so why? These are the questions LA based artist Kim Schoenstadt preoccupies herself with.
For her latest series simply entitled Sound Drawings Schoenstadt executed a number of works on paper, and, with the aid of a sound engineer, isolated and recorded the noise created in the process. Each drawing was then played back through a unidirectional, parabolic speaker which is designed to create a narrow column of sound at a specific spot in a room with minimal acoustic spillage. When several of these speakers are arranged in a room there is a generalized ambient commingling of recordings, but there are also focal points of isolated sound. There exist points where one is ‘in line’ with a specific drawing and the recording is more ‘sharp,’ and areas where the individual lines overlap and get ‘smeared’ or ‘blended.’ Are these still drawings? The language of drawing still seems to apply. Moreover, if drawing is often employed as an outline of an idea, can such a recording be an outline of a drawing?
Even though this work utilizes the documentation of its own process, it seems unfair to think of the work solely in terms of the history of ‘process art’ or ‘process drawing.’ Works such as Robert Morris’ Blind Time drawings or Gordon Matta-Clark’s Cut Drawings, although a clear influence for Schoenstadt, are more often than not presented as a by-product of an activity. Less linked to performance art, Sound Drawings seek to create an active experiential environment which avoids the more conventional roles drawing holds as either preparatory sketch or fossilized remnant. It seems more fruitful to think of this work alongside of an artist such as Jessica Stockholder, who, through the abandonment of the easel, engaged in a practice which continued to explore the limits of the language of painting.
Schoenstadt would never describe herself as a “sound artist.” This is because she remains committed to drawing as her chosen medium. This becomes evident with the inclusion of works from her Car Crash Series. With this work, Schoenstadt chose crime scene photographs of car wrecks as raw material for an actual graphite on paper series. On the surface these works seem quite different from the sound drawings. These more conventional drawings, however, serve as an appropriate counterpart to the disembodied scratches of lead on paper.
Just as the sound of the drawings, once freed from a visual referent, are allowed to assume a more abstracted volumetric space, the Car Crash drawings, once removed from their photographic documentation become another kind of ghost. Both clumsy and articulate, these works focus on the details of an aftermath rather than the trauma of the event, the contours of a dent over the weight of the steel. Schoenstadt asks us to see the wreck as an abstract of form and line: another disembodied phantom.
It seems that the limits of any technology only becomes truly evident when that technology breaks down. Such breakdowns are productive in that they lead to adaptation and thus expansion of those limits. Drawing is arguably one of the oldest of technologies and Schoenstadt steers it into any obstacle she can find, eagerly awaiting to sift through the wreckage.