Andrea Sunder-Plassman and Sigi Torinus, Browsing Beauty, 1997. Mixed-media installation.

Andrea Sunder-Plassman and Sigi Torinas

San Francisco

Gallery 16

Browsing Beauty, by artists Andrea Sunder-Plassman and Sigi Torinus, has the aura of cyberspace, a Web site expanded to the third dimension which engulfs the viewer in a barrage and complexity of images. A trio of gigantic balloons floats in the space of Gallery 16, each balloon receiving projections from multiple directions, thus creating a kaleidoscopic environment of fragmented and overlapping images. A slight wind or a touch of the finger animates the giant spheres into a soft slow motion, causing them to gently bob through the blue-tinted air. The sheer size of the ethereal spheres crowds the viewer into the interstitial space, insisting on close and personal contact. Crisscrossed by the light from the projectors, the translucent balloons exhibit images from both sides, simultaneously condensing the three-dimensional space of the gallery back into the two-dimensional computer screen from which the images seem to come. The word “browsing,” in the title Browsing Beauty, refers to the Internet and indeed, the Web site, <>, is the conceptual “engine” of the installation.

ln the installation, a woman’s face, a bit sad and distant, stretches across the surface of a sphere. Blueprint images of diagrams and calculations flash across the back wall as if from an experiment providing the scientific “truth” of beauty.

Quotations in many languages flash past to the mechanical rhythm of the slide projectors. A barely audible sound piece whispers bits and pieces from mathematical theories of art, music, and science in an authoritative male voice, as if the regnant dictums of the culture were being whispered to our subconscious. 0ne projected image stands alone, both in that it is a video projection (not a slide projection), and that it is not layered or interrupted by the others. ln it, images of gently floating jellyfish suspended in the blue of the sea provide a formal equivalence to the spheres within the room. The beauty of the jellyfish seems to confirm the sanctity of science in its inalienable right to unveil “the” truth about beauty. Suddenly the jellyfish appear to be clich6 in this setting where the viewer longs for an investigation into the complexity of “beauty” that is not here. The vast potential for cultural cross-referencing and multiple implications so deeply embedded in the concept of beauty have been left to the imagination. Much like a large-screen television, the enlargement of the images dilutes the viability of their content. Perhaps as a byproduct of the Web site “engine,” with technological influences like download time and pixel resolution, there was an overriding Andrea Sunder-Plassman and Sigi Torinus, Browsing Beauty, 1997. Mixed-media installation. simplicity to the images that, while perhaps fine on the Internet, were amiss in the installation.

A trip to the Web site is available through a computer terminal set up in the offices of the corporate sponsor, Urban Digital Color (home of Iris print processing) located directly across the hall from Gallery 16. The removal of the computer from the space of the installation separates the two translations physically as well as conceptually and thereby diminishes potential dialogue between the two. The Web site itself proves to be surprisingly unrelated. Few of the images from the installation are to be found. ln their place, a series of colorful portraits have a difficult time engaging this reviewer long enough to withstand another download time. The best aspect appeared on a page listing related material. Whether or not it is an actual part of <> is not easy to determine, but this page is a clue to the vast array of interpretations and tangents available.

The use of the spheres permitted a sculptural translation of a site on the Web into a physical reality which is spatially dynamic in a way which is impossible in cyber “space.” As such, the installation is a remarkable example of the sculptural potential of time-based media in installation.

The idea of presenting a dialogue between cyberspace and three-dimensional space is intriguing by itself and the concept of beauty is particularly well-suited to this vehicle. Browsing Beauty is rich with potential and the viewer can only hope that with subsequent installations and Web site additions it will expand to fill the space it aspires to.

Donna Schumacher