Mark Dorf is a New York based artist and recent graduate of Photography and Sculpture of the Savannah College of Art and Design. His most recent works examine humanity’s relationship with our fabricated digital realities and the physical landscape in which we reside through the use of both photography and sculpture. With the understanding that all art is based upon comparison and relationships, he re-contextualizes moment and symbol to create new meaning through the surrounding environment. Mark seeks to understand humanity as an observer in his surroundings, using photography as a tool to explore the curious habitation of the world around us.
AXIOM & SIMULATION examines the ways in which humans quantify and explore our surroundings by comparing artistic, scientific, and digital realism.
As a developed global culture, we are constantly transforming physical space and objects into abstract non-physical thought to gain a greater understanding of composition and the inner workings of our surroundings. These transformations often take the form of mathematical or scientific interpretation.
As a result of these changes, we can misinterpret or even lose all reference to the source: when the calculated representation is compared to its real counterpart, an arbitrary and disconnected relationship is created in which there is very little or no physical or visual connection resulting in questions of definition.
Take for example a three-dimensional rendering of a mountainside. While observing the rendering, it holds a similar form to what we see in nature but has no physical connection to reality– it is merely a file on a computer that has no mass and only holds likeness to a memory. When translating the rendering into binary code, we see just 1’s and 0’s – a file creating the representation from a language composed of only two elements that have no grounding in the natural world.
After all of these transformations, a new reality is created – one without an original referent, a copy with no absolute source. When observing these simulations and interpretations of our landscape within a single context or picture plane, ideas of accuracy, futility, and original experience arise.
Your most recent series AXIOM & SIMULATION, “examines the ways in which humans quantify and explore our surroundings by comparing artistic, scientific, and digital realism.” What first inspired this series and the idea of digital realism?
I have always been interested in the space where science and art meet, so I’ve known for a while that I wanted to try and mix the two realms in an abstract way and create a room where they can both interact. I became most interested in digital and scientific representation when I began to observe the ways in which we read our physical reality. The human species is constantly dissecting everything that surrounds us in order to gain a better understanding of what makes up our world. Through these studies the calculated observations and results often become skewed from what we see physically to the point of complete loss of reference: when looking at the two elements side by side, the real and the calculated, at first glance without in depth analysis they can appear as totally independent ideas with no connection whatsoever even though they are in fact the same things just described with two completely different languages. It is these parallel planes of existence that I became so interested in that inspired AXIOM & SIMULATION — the ways in which we absorb information and transform that information back to describe the space or object that it originally came from — the issue is that this description is never absolutely accurate.
You recently traveled to Skagaströnd, Iceland, for the Nes Artist Residency tell us about your trip and how you came about receiving the residency?
My time in Skagaströnd at the Nes Artist Residency was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Being able to work with a small group of artists in a remote village of 450 or so people in Iceland was really a unique opportunity. For the most part, I wanted to work in Iceland because of the landscape. When I started AXIOM & SIMULATION I was very much interested in the forest systems of the Catskill Mountain range which allowed me to make sharp concise and focused images that examined minutia and detail — to balance this out I wanted to find an opposite sort of landscape, thus Iceland came to my mind. The vast open valleys and fjords of Iceland ended up being the perfect compliment of grandeur to the precise and complex nature of the deciduous forests of the Catskills. With that being said, after living and working in upstate New York, I was forced to re-examine my process of image making when presented with this sharp contrast of landscape. The work surprisingly did not come easy. I was making plenty of beautiful photographs — its hard not to in Iceland — but the nature of the drawings and overlays became a great challenge for me to overcome. All of a sudden I was presented with the most vast open spaces I had ever seen — by working in such a drastically different environment I forced myself and my work to evolve, to figure out how this new space worked within the visual language that I had already begun to develop in the United States.
Who is your favorite living artist / photographer to date?
My favorite living photographer right now is Alison Davies. The way she renders the earths landscape as such an alien land ripe for exploration is truly inspiring. Not only for creating art and the mystery that is involved with the photographic document, but also the way in which we reflect upon our planet and our landscape. In a time where we think we know everything, we need a reminder that we know so little.
What is new or upcoming in your life? What are you currently reading?
Life has been a bit crazy lately. Directly after spending the month of August in Skagaströnd, I moved to Brooklyn, NY… talk about a severe difference. in addition to the move I am currently preparing for my second solo exhibition of my body of work Environmental Occupations, which is to be shown at Phoenix Gallery in the Chelsea gallery district of New York City. Overall though I am just trying to enjoy the people around me, relax, and make work. Currently I am reading There Is No Year by Blake Butler — a fantastic non-linear narrative that II highly recommend if you are ready to take on a great puzzle.
Mark currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where he creates his images and continues to study the fields of photography and contemporary art.
If you are in NYC during the coming weeks be sure to visit his solo exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery : 210 Eleventh Avenue Suite 902, Chelsea, New York, NY 10001.
Opening reception Oct 4th from 6PM – 8PM
Show runs from Oct 3 – Oct 27, 2012
To see more of his work, visit his website.
Interview by Taylor Curry