One way to approach Amie Siegel’s (1974, Chicago, Illinois, USA) work – be it a film, video, photograph, installation or painting – is to consider each piece as a case study. Siegel often focuses on the way things work, seeing through their appearances and taking in consideration layers of circulation, economical influxes, patterns of gaze and processes of constructing value. Such commonly ungraspable aspects of the world are made visible through a long research and investigation process that allows Siegel to discover and highlight threads and connections between apparently disconnected elements, and then through the artist’s deployment of materials and media that follow, record, inscribe and/or even mirror their movement. Montage and the remake are also constant resources in Siegel’s universe, not only when directly creating films or engaging cinematic tropes, but also as underlying relations between different pieces that together form constellations or genealogies (to cite the title of a 2016 work) at once subtle and extremely precise, introducing further entanglements and complexities to her broader narratives of contemporary society.
In Asterisms (2021), a video installation co-commissioned for the 34th Bienal, Siegel explores geological and social displacement processes on a planetary scale, in this case focusing on the specific context of the United Arab Emirates. Within it, Siegel leads us through migrant labor camps that supply manual work for gold factories and oil recovery; through the surreal landscape of a royal palace where Arabian horses are bred and trained for show; through the process of constructing artificial islands in Dubai; through an abandoned village almost completely submerged by the desert sand… Each of these segments unfolds in a different cinematic aspect ratio and is projected onto a shape that floats between being a wall and a sculpture. Derived from the superposition of the various projection formats, the shape resembles a stylized star, or asterism – an informal group of stars and the lines used to mentally connect them, whose form we can identify in the night sky, if we look hard enough.
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).