Many years ago in the arctic regions of Scandinavia I initiated the making of subtle movement-based pieces for the video camera in which I inserted my naked body into remote boreal landscapes of moss, peat, tundra, forest and ice and snow. To the present I have continued to explore this in diverse rural and wild environments in the U.S. and abroad. Working in an intensely slow movement vocabulary, I place my body within ‘found’ landscapes as an embodiment of temporality and cyclical change in nature – its evolution often not perceptible at the moment in its infinitely gradual process, but as an after-image. The intentionally abstracted body may appear at once human, animal and vegetative with the imagery reflecting and mimicking patterns in the environment and contemplating the stirring and stilling of time.
While evocative of the slow pacing of Japanese Butoh dance and informed by visual arts investigations into the nude and abstraction as well as minimalist aesthetics, the video-performances have ultimately emerged as tactile, emotional and spiritual responses to the immediate environments in which they are made. The camera is turned on myself, not in self-reflexive portraiture, but rather as an archetypal body that is at once an integral part of nature and distinguishable from it in its finite humanness. Elements of my performance work in general may draw from classicism and its ties to cultural tradition – west and east - as widely varied as the ancient poetic traditions of Karelian Finland and classical dance forms of India.
Changes in technology have inevitably impacted the creation and presentation of the video works over time but I have adhered to little manipulation of timing in the works and very selective editing of imagery transiting with subtle dissolves. Recent works have utilized masking and mirroring in post-production as a means to explore the play of singularity and multiplicity, yet representation of the integrity of the performances in real time and the aesthetic of the environments in which they take place remain at the core of my video art. The primary thrust of my work is certainly not the defiance of trends, at the same time I am conscious of it as an alternative to the ubiquitous jump cut and incessantly moving images in mainstream as well as experimental visual culture. Rather than compressing immense time and distance into multitudinous and rapidly changing scenes, my images lie in a liminal place between the still and moving image, a vision of becoming and evanescence that requires quieting the mind enough to see the subtlety of a gray arctic sky turning blue-gray or the gradual torque of the body on a bed of moss…
Cherie Sampson 2015