Encounter (Resonances) by Hayley Hung and Christian Jacquemin

ABSTRACT
This work is about the remediation of one of Mark Rothko’s Seagram murals through the composition of several online sources and additional digital rendering. Based on reproductions of Rothko’s “Red on Maroon” found on the Internet, and using computer graphics compositing associated with moir´e and specular lighting effects, “Encounter (Resonances)” offers a new approach to the presentation of a piece of work that allows a viewer to perceive some of its very subtle nuances. The work echoes Rothko’s mixed media layered painting technique by using reproductions of various color palettes and resolutions as metaphors for the layers of paint in his original works. While each of these copies may instantly remind us of the original work, the graphical rendering of “Encounter (Resonances)” combines them at three levels of representation (global shape, micro and macro structure), in an effort to encourage a level of prolonged engagement and gradual discovery in the artwork.

Full paper

Posted with permission of the authors.

5 Comments

  1. Roger, thanks for letting me know about this fascinating project.

    Reading the paper brought to mind a recent article in the WSJ about another Rothko remediation project, one that uses a digital projector as a light source to augment the now missing colors on some large-scale murals painted by Rothko in the early ’60s. Did you happen to see the article? Perhaps you know the project? The WSJ article was referencing a project by a team of conservators at Harvard’s Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art and Straus Center for Conservation & Technical Studies, with help from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and Switzerland’s University of Basel Imaging & Media Lab. They were working with murals originally installed in the top-floor dining room of the Harvard University health clinic that deteriorated over time. [For the article, see http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704852004575258872253215814.html.%5D

    Hung and Jacquemin have done something totally different, in effect making a new (and interactive) artwork through their remediation. They also make an intriguing connection with your father’s work when they talk about using digital tools to allow viewers to perceive moire effects that evoke the subtle transparencies of Rothko’s paintings.

    Amy

  2. Thank you very much for the pointer to this work on Rothko hands-off restoring that is very innovative and interesting. We were not aware of it when we wrote the article. There are two main interests: the fact that the original remains untouched, but also the fact that hte restored artwork is considered as a living object for which restoring can evolve over time. Combined with our interest for the instantaneous life of the work (through subtle moiré effects) such an approach to remediate an artwork could unfold along two timelines: a long-term timeline for its long term changes, and a short-term one for rendering the delicate changes of the painting due to its complex structure that cannot be restored properly through a single videoprojection.

  3. Hi Amy
    Thanks for this link – actually the link didn’t work but I searched for ‘Rothko’ and ‘Harvard’ on the wsj website and this took me to the ‘Fixing without Touching’ article.

    It’s a really interesting that Rothko himself liked the idea of decay in his own works. I wonder whether the colours that his works take on when you look at copies of his paintings found on the internet, may actually be colours that the original painting has actually been at some point in its life, or even will be in the future. This idea of decay also brings an elusive quality to the painting, as if you never really see the same painting twice, even if it is the original.

    What I wonder, however, about this retouching technique, is whether it can really bring back the colours of all the layers. Given that the paintings were created with different media, I wonder whether firstly the colours in the various paints would have changed all at the same rate. Given the transparency of his paint layers, I also wonder how the different paints would have changed relative to each other if the bottom layers were less exposed to light.

    Having said all that, I would still be intrigued to see how this ‘restorative’ light might change the appearance of his paintings.

    Hayley

  4. Christian,

    Thanks for your comment. I am fascinated with the subtle moiré effects approach and with how artworks evolve over time, even those well before Rothko. It is too bad we will never know how Rothko would feel about this in regards to his work. Although he liked the idea that he was working with paints that were likely to deteriorate, it is also possible that he would get a kick out of the way the remediates continue “his” process.

    Let me know if you write more on this subject. Amy

  5. Hi Hayley,

    Glad you were able to find the article despite my “bad” link. What an interesting idea: that the colors on the web may actually match his original ideas! One of the qualities that fascinates me about Rothko’s work (and some others) is the way they stimulate our imaginations because we know that much of the original resonate quality is no longer “visible.” Coupled with the legend surrounding the artist, perhaps each of us adds something to what we see in reproductions and on the internet.

    That said, I do think that the “light” quality of what we see on the web probably enhances the work more than a reproduction would. I find the idea of a restorative light fascinating and think it would be fun to visit the Harvard work. I wonder if it is accessible to the public.

    Its elusiveness reminded me of the two beams of light that were put up in NYC to represent the World Trade Center after the planes knocked the buildings down. The beams were like a place mark for structures that were no longer there.

    I’m really fascinated by the work you and Christian are doing. Amy

Leave a Reply