John Sturgeon ©1993-94
Two Channel, Video Installation, with Poetic Text (English & German)
NARKOSE was a two-channel video installation created at a moment when two nearly simultaneous events seemed to punctuate the conundrum and mutability of global strife and armed conflict. First being the sudden fall of the Berlin Wall, seemingly the lasting monument of a paranoid and divided political world and second, the harrowing descent into the first Iraq War, with it’s naïve assumptions of quick and secure solutions applied onto a culture little understood.
The two primary video settings were from performances recorded in a moor in North Germany and inside an old brewery vat in the former Duquesne Brewery on Pittsburgh's South Side. Both video channels integrated appropriated broadcast images from the Gulf War and the Berlin Wall. One channel was projected onto a floating wall-like screen; while the second was seen through a lens-monitor viewing device, inside a conical lead sheathed nose cone like sculpture.
On the floating wall, the dominant sequence was of a body buried in a cavity excavated from an exposed cut in the moor created while on location in an ancient archeological site, the Witte Moor, Germany. Buried along with the body, just above the head, was a small color monitor playing documentary images from the recent Gulf War and the removal of the Berlin Wall. These images seen through a circular, optical magnifying glass, appear like thought forms or dreams.
A lens mounted in the tip of the lead cone formed a large optical viewing devise, through which the viewer could see extreme close-ups of a hammer ceaselessly banging the vat wall, creating a booming echo. Repeatedly, as the hammer strikes the wall, the surface seemed to give up flashes of images from these Gulf War or Berlin Wall sagas.
In both channels, these images served as symbols/examples of collective psychic projections upon the culture, inherently carrying within themselves the seeds of both positive and negative, success and failure. This convoluted twist or Mobius strip of consciousness as it projects the created environment served as the installation’s intriguing content. Sturgeon's poetic text for Narkose recited in English and the German rendition by Edda Akkermann, evoked an eerie play of extremes – “that which is and that which is not.”
In Narkose... “everything is there: the proximity of death and the syncopated destructible forces of a pointless war. The multi-dimensionality of this art is reinforced with the symbolism of a type of Yin and Yang pull between the context and suffering of “Operation Desert Storm” with the quiet setting of man’s ultimate metaphysical home -- the grave.”
Elaine A. King, director and curator CAC
Narkose, Horizons; Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, 1994
Narkose - is German for the English word – Narcosis
The installation form of Narkose was originally created as a simulation for Art in the Age of Information exhibition at Wood Street Galleries of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust with its completed version executed for The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1993 Art in the Age of Information, Wood Street Galleries,
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA
1994 Solo Exhibition, (April 18 -June 10, 1994)
The Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
"In Narkose (1994), Sturgeon divides his viewing field into two parts—a large floating screen and a conic structure through which the viewer may look. The former has an image of a man lying at peace in the earth, which has been freshly excavated to provide a cut-away view of the profile of the individual (performed by Sturgeon). By looking into the cone from its tapered end, the viewer can witness scenes from the Gulf War and the installation, maintenance, and fall of the Berlin Wall. The sound environment consists of a long list of fundamental, western cultural binaries (good and evil, for example) read by Sturgeon. The image of the ego at peace is stuffed with allegorical meaning. Archaeology is turned on its head as Sturgeon suggests that this form of exploration is not to uncover and preserve a lost and unfortunately dead past, but a means to investigate territory for the hidden qualities of that which is living. The disentombed body shows no sign of death, decay, or discomfort; rather, and in spite of its seeming entrapment in the earth, it reveals a living organic unity from which beautiful things may grow. In many ways this single image is a summation of the positive elements in his past work. In stark contrast, both in presentation and in content, is the limited vision of the cone. There is no free-floating open field here, just a fast barrage of images of the horrific excesses of culture, which are reduced to a singular, totalizing micro-point of vision. Sturgeon’s acknowledgment of the empirical, though extreme in the manner that the binary overstates itself, represents a turning point in his work as the binary begins to take concrete form, and both the real life and mass media simulacra become a prominent part of his aesthetic investigations." - Steven Kurtz