Video Installation, 2 X 2 X 2 m sugar cube, 2 video projections
Animation by Josh Shaffner
"...In Nataša Prosenc Stearns’ recent video installation, the process of perception and understanding is initiated by its title – White Gold. A projection onto white grainy surfaces refers to sugar that was once called "white gold." Although sugar has been disparaged in recent times due to its links to health issues, it had a very important role in history. In the past, the price of sugarcane determined the global geopolitics and economics; it was equally as important a commodity as oil is today. The British Sugar Act of 1764 marked the beginning of the independence of the American colonies. Sugar was very expensive and its production shaped the sad fate of "black gold," the African slaves, who enabled the enrichment of their traffickers.
Today, the masses are united in their addiction to sugar. In video installation White Gold, the crowds are swarming over sugar-coded planes. Large groups of people have been attracting filmmakers from the very beginning of moving images. A film from 1895, which is believed to be the first one in history, was created when Louis Lumière set his camera in front of the exit of a family factory in Lyon and recorded the workers pouring through the doors. The most of the early cinematic masterpieces are all but competing in the numbers of extras walking, marching and running. Philosopher Gilles Deleuze highlights King Vidor’s films, especially The Crowd of 1928. These films correspond to Deleuze’s concept of "movement-image." On one side, they show the unified community, where everybody feels and thinks the same. On the other side is the individual, either lost in the crowd or leading the masses with power of integrity or, sadly more often, with manipulation.
Sweet words attract people the same way sugar captivates ants. In fact, from a distance the swarming masses in White Gold do look like ants. Ants are organized in a way that is similar to humans: They are familiar with the division of labor, they communicate through sound, smell and touch, and, just like us, they are solving complex problems together. When they discover food, ants pave their way to it, marking it with pheromones, which also dictate, subconsciously, human relationships.
If an ant leader loses its trail, it begins to walk in a circle called an ant mill. Soon the other ants follow, forming a revolving procession, eventually dying off from exhaustion. Just like humans, who fall for various “sweet talkers” and follow them blindly. In the Middle Ages they were called “melliflux;” the word refers to honey, the sweetener of the time, which is figuratively flowing from their mouths.
But there is an essential difference between the crowds composed by stylized people in video White Gold and ants. Whenever an ant encounters another ant, the two touch with their jaws and their tentacles. It seems as if they are greeting each other and hugging, perhaps engaging in a brief chat; they are in fact exchanging information. But the figures in White Gold rush past each other, estranged and alienated, like soulless particles on an invisible treadmill, without any interaction. Hopefully they at least text each other."
Excerpts from the text by Jure Mikuž. Entire text at